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Moves to tame Brisbane's unregulated 100km/h 'wild west' scooters

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The Palaszczuk Government is moving to review safety laws covering e-scooters and e-bikes after the exploding popularity of the devices in Brisbane has exposed flaws in how they are regulated.

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Privately-owned e-scooters, described as the “Wild West” of the e-mobility market by Brisbane City Council’s transport chair Ryan Murphy, are a particular concern given the lack of regulation governing their size and power.

The move came as the council opted to lock hire e-scooters from midnight in the city’s party precincts as another safety measure.

Cr Murphy said the lock on Beam and Neuron’s e-scooter fleets will run for five hours from midnight throughout the Brisbane CBD and Fortitude Valley Safe Night Precincts on Friday and Saturday nights for six months from December 1.

Some e-scooters offered for sale in Brisbane can reach speeds of up to 100 km an hour.

However, they are currently illegal to ride on roads or bike lanes, a major anomaly that Murphy says compromises safety.

Now, the government has scheduled talks on Wednesday (Nov 24) as part of plans to revisit laws covering the e-mobility market, which has grown in leaps and bounds since the vehicles were welcomed into the city around three years ago.

“Since the State Government road rules changed in 2018 to allow these devices, Brisbane’s shareable e-scooter scheme has continued to evolve and improve with a number of world-leading reforms introduced to increase safety, including helmet locks, better e-scooter models and technology that prevents the devices being ridden in certain areas,” Murphy said.

“However, the same cannot be said for the plethora of private e-scooters now hitting Brisbane’s streets.

“These e-scooters are big, fast and largely unregulated. Unfortunately, private e-scooters have become the wild west of the e-mobility market and the state regulations need to keep up.”

A study of e-scooter use in Brisbane by QUT’s Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety and published in the latest issue of scientific journal Accident Analysis and Prevention, found that over time the use of private e-scooters had risen while illegal behaviour on shared e-scooters fell.

The report’s authors found that overall e-scooter safety was likely to have improved since the share schemes were introduced in 2018 and compliance by owner riders was high.

“The prevalence of any of these illegal behaviours among shared e-scooter riders fell significantly for shared e-scooter riders from 49.6% to 39.1% while the prevalence of illegal behaviours by other riders remained lower and did not change,” the report said.

The decision to lock hire e-scooters follows several recent accidents involving the devices, which have proven so popular with residents and visitors that trips have topped five million.

“Unfortunately, a very small minority of people are using these devices inappropriately, putting themselves and others at risk, so we are going to trial locking people out after midnight in the areas where this behaviour is most common,” Murphy said.

“This trial can only apply to hire e-scooters and we need now is the state government road rules applied to private e-scooters.”

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