Melbourne could ban e-scooter companies if footpath use not curbed

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The City of Melbourne council could ban e-scooter hire companies if they cannot stop customers riding the devices on footpaths and leaving them parked haphazardly around the inner-city, Lord Mayor Sally Capp says.

Hire companies Lime and Neuron have deployed 2500 e-scooters across the Melbourne, Yarra, Port Phillip and Ballarat council areas since February 2022 as part of a state government trial of the new technology.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp supports e-scooter use in Melbourne but says stronger rules and enforcement is needed.Credit: Carla Gottgens/Bloomberg

By March, customers had taken 3.7 million trips on the scooters – which can be picked up and left anywhere in the participating areas – but have been criticised as a safety hazard.

Capp said she remained a strong supporter of e-scooters, but could not ignore the “resounding chorus” of pedestrians, residents and traders concerned about the devices being ridden illegally on footpaths or left blocking walkways.

Complaints from people with disabilities saying their own ability to move about the city was being restricted by e-scooters blocking the footpath were among her top-five most common correspondence, she said.

“Scooters are really an important and valuable part of our transport network but we need to address safety issues on our pavements,” Capp said.

Cities around the world have grappled with how to regulate hire scooter companies, with Parisians voting in April to ban them altogether.

Capp said she hoped it would not come to a point where hire scooters had to be banned entirely, and believed that could be avoided if Melbourne put stronger rules and enforcement in place now.

“This really has enormous benefits but its absolutely imperative at this time as we’re coming to the end of the trial that we’ve got the best controls,” she said.

The four local councils involved in the state government trial all have agreements Lime and Neuron. Capp said Lime and Neuron had been proactive in addressing safety issues, but she was concerned it would be open slather when the trial finished in August.

“I’ve recently been to Rome, where I think I counted up to eight operators, and there are scooters all around the streets. It did send a bit of a chill down my spine,” she said.

Capp said the council would look at setting up dedicated parking areas to stop them being left strewn across footpaths. Operators already had the GPS technology to use “geofencing” to stop riding and parking on footpaths, she said, and the council would seek to ban operators that did not use it.

The lord mayor will put forward a motion at a council meeting next Tuesday pushing for better enforcement of e-scooter rules. The motion also calls for the council to investigate whether council officers can be given the power to enforce scooter rules, rather than just police.

Victoria lifted a ban on privately owned e-scooters in March, at which point the government estimated there were already close to 100,000 of them in the state.

A spokesman for Lime said the company was testing a range of technology solutions to reduce bad behaviour as well as an education campaign.

“The trial has proved successful, with the majority of riders adhering to the trial rules, riding green and incorporating e-scooters into their daily commute,” he said.

The Department of Transport and Planning and Neuron have been approached for comment.

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