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‘Being used anyway’: NSW backflips on popular item

A year after a senior minister declared he “wasn’t in the mood” to embrace one popular item, NSW has performed a major backflip.

Leader's Kiel Egging tests out Neuron's orange e-Scooters ahead of their launch around Melbourne on February 1.

NSW will consider allowing e-scooters despite a senior minister previously warning such a move would be a “disaster”.

Transport Minister Rob Stokes told the Sydney Summit on Monday that he would be open to a trial of the electrical vehicles.

“Yes, we’ll be looking at how we can appropriately regulate these modes of transport,” Mr Stokes said.

“They're being used anyway.”

The comments came a year after his predecessor Andrew Constance – who was transport minister at the time – said he “wasn't in the mood” to allow e-scooters.

NSW will consider allowing e-scooters. Picture: Liam Kidston
The comments came a year after the government ruled out a trial. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Josh Woning

“I'm not in the mood for running e-scooter trials in a time like this. And I’m certainly not in the mood for seeing e-scooters littering the streets, people doing silly things (with them),” Mr Constance said last February.

“If you go and look at the rest of the world and what's going on around e-scooters, it’s a disaster. People getting killed, e-scooters getting left on streets, e-scooters littering parks and footpaths, people falling over them.”

In European and US cities where e-scooters are popular, the vehicles can frequently be seen abandoned on sidewalks, left in parks or glimmering at the bottom of urban waterways.

Fans of the motorised rides say they're convenient and fast for use for urban travel. Several other Australian cities have run trials, including Brisbane and Adelaide.

E-scooter supporters say they’re a convenient way to get around cities. Photo by Steve Pohlner

The Victorian government, along with four Melbourne councils, have recently begun trialling a public e-scooter share scheme.

Melbourne’s Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the program had potential to be a big tourism drawcard for the city if managed correctly.

“We are working really hard to see if this scheme can be a success but also take the learnings from that and see how they might apply across private use,” she said.

But a Brisbane emergency department specialist told the Melbourne radio station 3AW he saw a rise in hospital admissions rose after a similar trial was introduced in the Queensland capital in 2018.

“It’s really concerning,” Dr Gary Mitchell said.

“We saw a spike in scooter-related injuries to the emergency department … injuries have been increasing over the past few years.

“Common patterns we’ve been worried about are two people on scooters, not wearing helmets, riding with alcohol on-board, speed, things like that.”

NSW Active Transport Minister Rob Stokes said the government would consider an e-scooter trial. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Christian Gilles

US data shows e-scooters have been involved in a number of deadly accidents.

Between 2017 and 2019, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission logged 133,000 emergency room visits and 41 deaths associated with “micromobility products”, including e-scooters, hoverboards, and e-bikes.

A 2020 report by an “electric scooter advisory” working group assembled by Transport for NSW said e-scooters ”may have the potential to transform personal mobility, facilitating first and last mile journeys and freeing up capacity from our congested roads”.

But their use would also necessitate “significant legislative change” and would possibly need to involve a ”complex and costly enforcement regime”, the report found.

Mr Stokes said on Monday the department was already doing “a lot of work” to figure out how to regulate e-scooters.

He said he would rather people used e-scooters that they owned themselves rather than allowing rental vehicles.

“Instinctively, I get a little bit concerned about some of the hire schemes I’ve seen operating in different cities – the last thing we want to do is see scooters and skateboard in trees,” he said.

“When people own this infrastructure, the lived experience is they tend to look after them better.”

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