Keeping up with the Limes - The new e-scooters on the block

Lime scooters set the scene, but Adelaide City Council have given rival companies, Ride and Beam, their chance to shine. 

The Future Directions Committee have compiled a cheat sheet of key facts of the scooters to allow you to partake in the common office debate – should they stay or should they go? You decide.

BEFORE YOU SCOOT OFF:

  1. GETTING STARTED - The e-scooters are unlocked using a smartphone app and are fitted with GPS tracking so that users and the operator can find them;
  2. COSTS - It costs $1 to unlock both brands of e-scooters, and 25 - 30 cents per minute to use.
  3. SPEED - Scooter speeds are limited to 15kms per hour
  4. RULES - You don’t need a driver’s license to ride, but you must, amongst other things,  be over 18, wear a helmet, stay on the footpath and have a blood alcohol limit of less than 0.05 (the full list of road rules for the e-scooters can be found at http://www.mylicence.sa.gov.au/road-rules/e-scooter-trial);
  5. FINES - If you do the wrong thing, fines of between $117 and $439 apply. Oh, and If you are caught riding an e-scooter not approved for this trial you may be fined for driving an unregistered and uninsured motor vehicle - $1186.
  6. LOCATION BOUNDARIES - the scooters are limited to the area south of the Torrens River, bound by North Terrace, South Terrace, East Terrace, Bartells Road, Dequettiville Terrace, and Botanic Road – excluding Rundle Mall and the City West Declared Public Precinct (Hindley Street) between 6pm and 6am on Fridays and Saturdays;
  7. LOCATION CONTROLS - if you try to ride or park in the area’s outside of these boundaries, the e-scooter will slow to a stop or not let you “release” the e-scooter – i.e. it will keep charging you until you put it back where it belongs!
  8. APPEARANCE CONTROLS - To avoid the e-scooters presenting a nuisance, clutter or congestion, they are required to be parked in an upright position at all times. If the scooters are dangerously parked, the company has 30 minutes to re-position them;
  9. TRIP GENERATION - More than 140,000 trips were recorded by Lime during their trial; and 
  10. PERMIT PERIOD - At this stage, they will be around until 13 October 2019, after which point their Council permits will be reviewed.  
  11. EMPLOYMENT – anyone can earn money from Beam by becoming a “Charger”, which involves taking the scooters to your home, plugging them into the wall, and returning them to the street the next day for the enjoyment of others .

SHOULD THEY STAY:

There are a range of benefits associated to this mode of transport including the fact that it is a low cost travel option which is portable and environmentally friendly. With more than 140,000 e-scooter users during a recent trial period in Adelaide, it goes to show the degree to which people have found travelling short distances with e-scooters enjoyable and convenient given all you need is an app to rent the vehicle. You can park it anywhere within the city bounds and they’re a fun way of getting around town.

From the regulatory perspective, e-scooter providers can offer local councils and state governments with analysis enabling tailored future planning of cities all for the purposes of saving resources, becoming cleaner, reducing traffic and improving urban life (https://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/smart-cities-contend-with-benefits-and-headaches-of-e-bikes-and-e-scooters/). Namely, data collected through tracking of e-scooters can show where they are as well as where they’re collected and parked which helps better plan and build cities (https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/318486), with the particular focus being the reduction of traffic congestions in urban areas. On top of that, the reduced pollution and greenhouse gas emissions increases the appeal.

From an individual standpoint, users can collect and then charge e-scooters at home during the night making them financially attractive as well. (https://www.news.com.au/technology/innovation/motoring/on-the-road/everything-you-need-to-know-about-lime-bikes-and-scooters-popping-up-in-our-cities/news-story/d74e7921b19fba4d90335774817b6d68). 

Clear guidelines surrounding the use of e-scooters need to be implemented to ensure there is a regulatory framework managing the industry. And although some might think this mode of transport is disruptive, recent trials taken place locally and nationally go to show the degree to which this mode of transport has been positively received by the public. Advantages such as their ease of use, a reduction in the environmental footprint, a fun way of commuting and being an affordable travel option are all benefits of e-scooters.

SHOULD THEY GO:

Putting aside the (minor) novelty factor of 'something different' (which has arguably already worn through), e-scooters (by any name) are a ride in the direction towards physically unfit and obese humans who require e-scooters to get around (as depicted in the Disney film, Wall-E).  

The geographical boundaries of the e-scooters, coupled with their lack of practicality to use if needing to carry anything and their inability to be used (legally) as an alternative to driving after consuming alcohol, makes you wonder why you wouldn't simply walk, taxi, Uber or try a new service like Maven.  

Now some may say that e-scooters as a mode of transport is a step in the right direction from an environmental perspective by comparison to petrol fuelled vehicles.  On face value, you can see the case.  The reality, however, is that the e-scooters themselves require 'chargers' (the people formerly known as 'juicers') to travel around in petrol fuelled vehicles to charge, fix and, or re-position the e-scooters.  In addition, the e-scooters add to Australia's lithium-ion battery waste (which exceeds 3,000 tonnes per annum) of which only 2 per cent is recycled.  At the current rate of growth for this type of waste (20% per annum), there will be over 100,000 tonnes of waste per annum by the mid 2030's.  

Finally, as a result of the requirement for e-scooters to be ridden on footpaths only, they present serious injury risk to users and pedestrians alike, a fact which is evidenced by the increase in hospital admissions as result of using e-scooters (relating to upper limb injuries and head injuries).      

Just as the Lime e-scooters have been squeezed out, perhaps it's time for new comers to Ride off into the sunset and Beam up to where they came from.