Recently, electric Lime scooters were rolled out in Brisbane. For some, this marked a new era of ride sharing convenience, while others were less enthused, citing potential hazards and safety concerns. Nevertheless, the e-scooters proved to be extremely popular, acquiring 20,000 unique riders in the first two weeks. As such, it appears that e-scooters are here to stay, as they were officially legalised in Queensland shortly after their trial launch, albeit with a few amended safety regulations.
However, a new survey conducted by Budget Direct shows that not everyone is on board with this decision. The survey collected responses from 1,000 Queenslanders to gauge locals’ attitudes towards the new e-scooters. Interestingly, the results show that many people disagree with current e-scooter laws, citing pedestrian safety as a major concern, while others are uncertain about what the laws actually are, and aren’t confident they will be properly enforced, anyway.
Respondents reject e-scooter laws
Only 30.3% of respondents agreed that e-scooters should primarily be ridden on footpaths, while just 15.8% thought their maximum speed limit should be 20-30km/h. These results differ significantly from current e-scooter laws in Queensland. At the moment, e-scooters are allowed to travel at a maximum speed of 25km/h, while they can only be ridden on footpaths - not on roads or in cycle lanes. Evidently, most surveyed Queenslanders disagree with these current laws.
Instead, most respondents (35.2%) thought that e-scooters should primarily be ridden in cycle lanes, while 31.4% thought 10-20km/h should be the maximum speed at which e-scooters are allowed to travel, making this the most common response. An additional 23.7% of respondents thought 0-10km/h should be the maximum speed at which e-scooters are allowed to travel, meaning the majority (55.1%) of respondents thought e-scooters should have to travel at less than 20km/h.
It seems likely that this desire for a decreased speed limit is closely linked to safety concerns. In fact, a massive 70% of respondents said that, as a pedestrian, they wouldn’t feel safe sharing a footpath with an e-scooter travelling at 25km/h. To put this in context, the average pedestrian walking speed is approximately 5km/h, meaning pedestrians will have to share the footpath with e-scooters travelling up to 500% faster than they are.
Still, respondents did agree with one current law: whether e-scooter riders should have to wear a helmet or not. An overwhelming 80% of respondents agreed that riders should have to wear a helmet, with women being more likely than surveyed men to think so, 86.9% vs 73.9%.
Closer analysis of these results reveals some interesting trends. While respondents were quite evenly split over where e-scooters should primarily be ridden, it is apparent that people don’t want them to be ridden on main roads. Only 11.6% of respondents thought that e-scooters should be ridden ‘on the road’, with a further 20.6% saying they should be ridden ‘on some roads, but not on main roads’. Notably, nearly one quarter (22.9%) of respondents answered ‘none of the above’, implying they don’t want e-scooters to be ridden anywhere.
Likewise, while most respondents wanted the maximum speed limit for e-scooters to be decreased, some thought that they should be allowed to go even faster. 12.6% of respondents thought e-scooters should be able to travel at 30-40km/h, while 16.5% said ‘there should be no speed limit’.
Additionally, a clear divide emerged between younger and older respondents. Younger respondents (18-34 years old) were more likely to want e-scooters to go faster, with 56.4% either saying the maximum speed should be above 20km/h, or that there should be no speed limit. On the other hand, older respondents (55+ years old) generally wanted e-scooters to go slower, with 66.8% saying they should have to travel at below 20km/h. Similarly, younger respondents were almost twice as likely as older respondents to feel safe sharing the footpath with an e-scooter travelling at 25km/h, 37.8% vs 19.5%.
Most respondents don’t know the rules
As these results demonstrate, most respondents disagree with current e-scooter laws - whether they know it or not. Scarily, ‘or not’ seems to be the more likely option, with only 29.5% of respondents saying they were either ‘confident’ or ‘extremely confident’ they understood all of the rules they had to follow if they were to ride an e-scooter today. Rather, 50.1% said they were ‘not confident’, with a further 20.4% saying they were only ‘slightly confident’.
This might be even more concerning than it initially appears, as most respondents also thought that the laws and regulations for e-scooters would not be properly enforced. 52.5% were ‘not confident’ that the laws and regulations would be properly enforced, with a further 26% only ‘slightly confident’. This left just 21.9% who were either confident or extremely confident that the laws and regulations for e-scooters would be properly enforced.
Again, an age divide was evident within these responses. 60.2% of respondents aged 65+ were not confident they understood all of the rules they had to follow if they were to ride an e-scooter today, compared to 48.6% of younger respondents (18-34 years old). Similarly, 60.1% of older respondents (55+ years old) were not confident the laws and regulations for e-scooters would be properly enforced, compared to 42% of younger respondents (18-34 years old).
Pedestrians most at risk
Since most respondents don’t know all of the rules - and aren’t confident these rules will be enforced - e-scooter safety is a major concern. In particular, respondents were concerned about pedestrians’ safety, with 52.1% saying e-scooters posed the greatest safety threat to pedestrians. Of course, pedestrian safety is already a hot topic, with the pedestrian death toll rising in Queensland, Victoria, and New South Wales - Australia’s three most populous states - in 2018.
Other ‘at-risk’ groups included motorists/road users, who 12.3% of respondents said e-scooters posed the greatest danger to, as well as cyclists (2.3%), and themselves/other e-scooter riders (21.4%). Further, only 11.9% of people responded ‘I don’t think the scooters are dangerous’. The fact that only 11.9% of people don’t think e-scooters are dangerous implies a highly negative public perception of e-scooters’ safety. Interestingly, men were almost twice as likely as surveyed women to think e-scooters aren’t dangerous, 15.5% vs 8.2%.
These findings closely mirror what has occurred in America, where e-scooters have been available since mid-2018. Recently, a lawsuit was filed against the major e-scooter companies in America, claiming the companies “deployed [the scooters] in a way that was certain to cause injuries”. Reported e-scooter injuries in America have ranged from gravel rash to broken teeth to detached biceps, while, sadly, at least 3 people have died while riding e-scooters in America.
Actually, doctors in America estimate that e-scooters have been responsible for upwards of 100 injuries already. An Israeli study supports this, finding 795 people were hospitalised due to e-bike or motorised scooter accidents from 2013-2015. Pedestrians accounted for 8% of these injuries, with the risk of injury increasing markedly for children and seniors.
Unfortunately, this trend has already spread to Australia, with two people in Brisbane suffering broken bones, including a broken pelvis, shattered ankle, and cracked tibia, due to a recent e-scooter accident.
Who should be liable?
With these statistics in mind, the question arises: who should be liable if an e-scooter damages property or causes injury? Well, respondents overwhelmingly believed that the e-scooter rider should be liable. 75.8% said the rider should be liable, compared to 5.9% who thought the scooter company should be liable, 9.3% who thought the accident should be covered under public liability, and 9% who were unsure. As mentioned, this is in stark contrast to what is occurring in America, where e-scooter companies - not riders - are facing a lawsuit over safety concerns.
For those worried about the potential damage that e-scooters could cause, it might be reassuring to learn that, in terms of insurance, e-scooters will most likely be covered in a similar way to bicycles and scooters. For example, if a car was to hit an e-scooter, this would probably be covered by your Comprehensive Car Insurance policy. Likewise, if an e-scooter caused damage to your vehicle, this might also be covered by your Comprehensive Car Insurance. As always, be sure to confirm the specifics of what is and isn’t covered in the event of an e-scooter accident with your policy provider.
While it is still early days for e-scooters in Australia, these results show that integrating e-scooters into Australian communities won’t necessarily be smooth sailing. Between safety concerns, a lack of education and awareness, and other teething problems, e-scooters have proved to be controversial among surveyed Queenslanders, with an age divide clearly emerging. Even so, e-scooters seem to be here to stay, meaning rules and regulations will have to quickly catch up to address the public’s concerns.
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