Electric scooters are a more and more familiar sight on streets and footpaths in Sydney and across New South Wales. They are being sold at stores like JB Hi‑Fi and even at the local Big W, which sells one for just $169. The global electric scooter market was worth a whopping $25 billion in 2019. Cities across the world are rushing to regulate e‑scooters and incorporate them into their transport mix. But what are we doing here? Nothing, because apparently the transport Minister is not in the mood to do anything about them. People are rushing to buy electric scooters for a number of reasons. They are a cheap, quick and effortless ride around our city and suburbs, taking much less effort than cycling, which riders do not even need a shower at the beginning of the work day.
E‑scooters are cost effective and good for the environment, with one retailer arguing that the cost of fuelling an electric scooter is a little more than 1 per cent of the cost of fuelling an energy‑efficient car. That is creating less emissions. E‑scooters are a game changer in solving what is called "the first and last mile problem". Members know that if it is a bit too far to walk to the train station or bus stop, or too far at the other end, people are likely to get in their car. By helping people get to their local public transport stop, e‑scooters help reduce congestion on our already choked streets. The cost of congestion in our city is going to hit $15.9 billion by 2031, so getting people out of their cars is critical to the future of our city.
E‑scooters are great at reducing pressure on parking, as well. In fact, the technology used to power and manage e‑scooters is rapidly evolving so that scooter companies can geofence scooters from neighbourhoods where they are not wanted and retrieve discarded or illegally parked scooters. Most importantly, though, they are fun. One resident wrote to me recently and said:
E‑scooters are a fun, funky and fresh way of getting around – they can be quite zippy too!
The significant question left to answer is whether they are safe and how to regulate them properly. Of course, the best way to do that is via a trial. Under current rules, e‑scooters cannot be registered as a vehicle and can only be ridden on private property. They can be sold under the Federal Motor Vehicle Standards (Road Vehicles) Determination 2017, in which they are classified as "not road vehicles".
Because there are no safety standards for e‑scooters at the Federal level, it is up to the States to regulate them. The roads Minister in New South Wales would have to offer an exemption to the rule, similar to the exemptions offered for motorised wheelchairs, ride‑on lawn mowers, golf carts and electric bikes. Regulation of e‑scooters is complex and involves nutting out safety, insurance and licensing issues. To the Government's credit, at one stage it looked like it was on course to solve some of those problems. A trial of electric scooters was due to commence on the northern beaches in January 2019, but just before the election then roads Minister Melinda Pavey decided it was not a good idea. Under pressure from some within his own Government, new roads Minister Andrew Constance decided to create the Electric Scooter Advisory Working Group.
The working group included hand‑picked representatives from emergency services, the State Insurance Regulatory Authority, the NRMA, the Office of Local Government and other key stakeholders—a worthy group. It worked through the issues and late last year released a set of parameters for a trial of electric scooters. It proposed that riders have a driver licence. It also proposed geofencing; a 20‑kilometre maximum speed limit, except for when on shared paths; exclusion from footpaths and riding at night; and a trial of only commercially owned scooters, not privately owned scooters. Recently in budget estimates the Minister declared that he is not in the mood for a trial. Again he junked the idea, despite the fact that there was an agreed set of parameters from his hand‑picked working group. Frankly, that is a lazy, irresponsible decision. He is putting the lives of countless people who are riding electric scooters at risk by failing to trial and regulate them properly.
I am not the only one who is voicing this view. There is broad support for a trial, including from local councils, business groups and residents. The Productivity Commission's own green paper recommends regulating personal mobility devices, including e-scooters. Even that modern Liberal Dave Sharma says that the Government's resistance to e-scooters is unfathomable. Many States across our country, including Victoria and Queensland, and the Territories have worked out how to regulate e-scooters. With electric scooters becoming more popular every day, a trial to find the safest way to add them to our transport mix is critical. Without becoming too alarmist about it, I ask the Minister whether he is prepared to face the family of someone killed on one of these devices and say that he just was not in the mood to work out how to make them safe. We need a trial to find the safest way to regulate electric scooters before the worst happens. It is time the Minister got on with it.