Melbourne’s streets have been awash with electric scooters since late January, when hundreds of the brightly coloured vehicles suddenly popped up on the city’s footpaths.
It didn’t take long for the horror stories to follow, accompanied by the endless pictures of riders dodging pedestrians on crowded footpaths.
Melbourne is reported to have had the fastest uptake of scooters of any city in the world.Credit:Eddie Jim
There have been accidents, several people have been knocked over by underage and careless riders, and there have been many close calls.
Don’t even consider walking outside Crown’s eateries in Southbank on a Friday or Saturday night unless you’re dressed in suit of armour.
I’ve been an e-scooter rider for many years. Now, I’m somewhat embarrassed to ride mine because of the behaviour of some foolish people.
I’ve seen riders copping verbal abuse and I have also been subject to it simply because I ride an e-scooter, sometimes my own, sometimes one I hire.
Much of the criticism is unfair. For every cowboy scooter rider – the ones who refuse to wear helmets, the ones who carry a second passenger, and those who charge through the crowded footpaths with callous disregard for anyone’s wellbeing – there are a dozen who are doing the right thing.
There are many positive aspects to having this easy, environmentally friendly form of transport. E-scooters are a convenient way of moving through the city and suburbs, particularly during peak hour and better than a crowded tram.
At 45¢ a minute, a trip from my home to the local takeaway can be achieved for the price of a latte. That’s as long as you don’t stray outside the trial zone, which causes your hired scooter to shut down. You’ll find yourself walking it back into the regulated area, while the meter keeps ticking. It’s happened to me, and it can be costly.
More e-scooters means fewer cars on the road, and that means reduced emissions. That’s a significant upside. Riding them is also fun.
That said, I can also relate to the angst that’s out there. I, too, have been nearly bowled over twice by reckless riders and often wonder whether the positives really do outweigh the negatives.
But it’s simply too early in the trial phase of the scooters to raise the white flag, purely because of a few yahoos.
The reckless behaviour of a few doesn’t mean scooters should be banned or relegated to the great e-bike graveyard, often referred to as the Yarra River.
Better enforcement of the rules will be necessary, perhaps involving protective services officers around major train stations, but I’m not sure it will be possible to police reckless riders effectively.
The electric scooter companies have reported that Melbourne has had the fastest uptake of any city in the world so far, which proves there is enthusiasm for their use.
Whether they survive the one-year trial will come down to people proving they’re responsible enough to manage something new that could really improve our cities. I hope the hoons don’t ruin it for us all.
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