How riding an e-scooter can net you over $3000 in fines! Where they are legal and illegal

With fuel prices at an all-time high, you'd think the idea of "green" efficient personal transport wouldn't be so controversial.

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You have undoubtably encountered plenty of electric scooters buzzing around the city, along with so called ‘hoverboards’ primarily ridden by kids in parks. Over the past five years or so, in nearly every country around the world, a multitude of Silicon Valley scooter rental start-ups rolled out various systems that appear to be both popular and polarise public opinion at the same time.

Having seen my first Lime scooter on a trip to Los Angeles back in around 2018, I recall wondering why these didn’t exist in Australia, then literally upon my return to Brisbane a few months later, to my surprise Lime scooters had quite literally launched in my absence, sometime in November 2018.

Ever since then, there have been numerous trials, with various companies trying their hand at entering the market to be Australia’s main supplier.

Much like Uber back when it started, e-scooter share schemes first started to roll out without regulatory approval. Eventually most cities and councils have embraced the concept, as long as certain safety concerns and regulations are adhered to.

In Australia, Queensland was the first state to legislate the legal use of scooters in public.

Not all states have been as ‘progressive’ as Queensland though, with the use of the e-scooter still being banned in New South Wales, with the fine for being busted using one exceeding $2,000, depending on the mood of the police on the day. You may receive one or more of the following penalties.

Although I have seen my fair share of near misses and foolish behaviour at the hands of said scooters, I have also often found them to be handy and quite useful and cost effective when needing to go short distances, quite often quicker than bumper to bumper traffic would allow.

At a time where fuel prices are at record highs, and public pressure on the government to actively address environmental concerns, it is quite surprising to find out that NSW, Australia’s most populous state has continued to defer scooter trials.

Since the laws vary so wildly from state to state, here’s a short run down of where and what is and is not legal.

New South Wales:

“Powered foot scooters and skateboards cannot be registered and can only be used on private land.”

The NSW Road Rule 240(2)(c) specifically prohibits a person from travelling in or on a motorised wheeled recreational device on a road or public place. These include any device apart from approved e-bikes that are wholly or partly assisted by means other than human power.

E-scooters are fine for private property. If caught outside that there are huge fines including vehicle forfeit. Penalties are cumulative for several offences.

  • Using an unregistered vehicle ranges from $686-$2,200
  • As it is uninsurable, the fines are $686-$5,500
  • Not paying registration (and you can’t register them anyway) from $686-$1,100
  • Not wearing an Australian standard approved helmet from $344-$2,200
  • Use while unlicensed from $572-$2,200
  • Use on a suspended licence from $3,000, 3-6 months disqualification and up to 6 months prison.
  • If disqualified from driving – same as above.

Queensland:

Current legislation allows the use of electric scooters in public so long as they are designed for use by a single person only and fit within the prescribed dimensions (set out below).

Must not carry passengers.

Must not have a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of 0.05.

Must not use a mobile phone whilst riding.

ACT:

ACT, much like QLD have safety protocols in place for safely riding your e-scooter.

  • You must wear an approved safety helmet while riding an e-scooter.
  • Abide by the speed limit – The speed limit for e-scooters while riding on a shared path or bike path is 25km/h, 15km/h for footpaths and you must slow down to 10km/h when using a crossing. Please ride more slowly around others.
  • Don’t drive under the influence – Riding under the influence of drugs or alcohol is dangerous and illegal. Catch public transport, call a lift or walk home.
  • One person per scooter – Only one person is allowed on an e-scooter at any time. No doubling up, and no taking passengers.
  • Supervise children – Children under the age of 12 must not ride an e-scooter without adult supervision (check the operator’s terms and conditions for age limits for shared e-scooters).
  • Use the path – You must not ride on the road unless there is no path, or it is not practical to use the path.

Victoria:

Victoria currently has a very cautious trial underway, which is set to continue until February 2023.

The trial will allow people to hire e-scooters and ride them on bicycle lanes, shared paths and lower speed roads (up to 50km/h).

  • E-scooters will be geofenced by each commercial operator and are not to be ridden on footpaths as part of the trial.
    Private e-scooters will continue to be prohibited on public roads and road related areas.
  • The minimum age to ride an e-scooter in the trial is 18 years. You don’t need a licence, but if you do have one, including a learner’s permit, it can be cancelled or suspended if drink or drug driving restrictions are breached and heavy fines can be imposed.
  • All riders of trial e-scooters must be under 0.05 BAC (irrespective of the type of motor vehicle licence you may hold or whether you hold a licence at all) and to zero presence for prescribed drugs.
  • The trial will be bound by the regulations set out by the Victorian Government which will be enforced by Victoria Police. The trial complements the National Transport Commission’s review into the safe use of personal mobility devices, including subsequent amendments to the Australian Road Rules.
  • Significant data will be gathered during the 12-month trial to understand how the vehicles could be safely incorporated into the transport network longer term.

Western Australia:

  • On the 16th December 2021, Western Australia updated their laws surrounding the use of e-scooters.
    Recreational riders will need to abide by:

    Compliant e-scooters can only be legally ridden on low speed WA public roads and paths if their maximum power output is no more than 200 watts and they cannot travel more than 10 km/h on level ground. Many e-scooters on the market are non-compliant and have motors that exceed 200 watts and can travel at speeds much faster than 10 km/h.
  • Riders are permitted on footpaths and shared paths, so long as the rider keeps left and gives way to pedestrians also using the paths;
  • Riders must wear a helmet;
  • Riders cannot ride on roads with a speed limit exceeding 50km/h;
  • Riders cannot ride on roads with a dividing line or median strip;
  • Riders cannot ride on one-way roads with more than one marked lane; and
  • Riders cannot ride during the hours of darkness.

South Australia:

Can I ride a motorised wheeled recreational device on a road, footpath or bike track?

No. These devices cannot be used on roads or road related areas such as foot paths, bike/pedestrian tracks, or vehicle parking areas. Under South Australian legislation, these devices are considered to be motor vehicles. Operating a motor vehicle requires a driver’s licence, registration and compulsory third party insurance. As these devices do not meet the safety standards under the Australian Design Rules they are not eligible for registration.

Where can I ride a motorised wheeled recreational device?

These devices can only be used on private property. Failure to comply could result in fines for driving unregistered and uninsured and in some instances for not holding the appropriate driver’s licence.

However in saying the above, it seems SA are starting to change their tune much like NSW mentioned above. They have “invited e-scooters and share bikes back to the city”
The City of Adelaide has provided two e-scooter operators with a trial permit and one bike share operator a permit to operate within defined areas of the City and North Adelaide.

The e-scooters, operated in Adelaide by Beam and Neuron, are unlocked using a smartphone app and are fitted with GPS tracking so that users and the operator can easily find them.
The only e-scooters allowed to be used in the trial areas are those operating subject to a business permit issued by the relevant local city council. For more information about each trial, please refer to above detail.

Riders must comply with the following:

  • Must be at least 18 years old
  • Must wear an approved bike helmet that is securely fitted
  • May ride on footpaths and shared paths unless otherwise prohibited
  • May ride on a road only when crossing or to avoid an obstruction for up to 50m. If road travel is required, riders:
  • Must travel less than 50m along the road to avoid the obstruction;
  • Must keep as far to the left as possible; and
  • Must obey any traffic signals.
  • Must NOT ride on a road: with a dividing line or median strip, or where the speed limit is greater than 50 km/h
  • Must not ride in a bike lane or bus lane.
  • Must use a warning (e.g. bell, horn or verbal) to avert danger.
  • Must have proper control at all times and ride with due care and reasonable consideration for other persons.
  • Must use a flashing or steady white light at the front and a flashing red light and reflector at the back of the device when riding at night or in hazardous conditions.
  • Must not exceed 15km/h or a lesser speed if required in the circumstances to stop safely to avert danger.
  • Must not ride abreast.
  • Must not carry passengers.
  • Must not have a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of 0.05 or more.
  • Must not use a mobile phone whilst riding.
  • Must not carry scooters on public transport.

Tasmania:

Electric scooter legislation passes Parliament unanimously: Michael Ferguson, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport.

New rules for personal mobility devices (PMDs) commenced on 1 December 2021 to allow PMDs on footpaths, shared paths, bicycle paths and some roads in Tasmania.

By Tasmania’s description a compliant PMD is a small electrically powered device designed to transport one person over short to medium distances.

A device is a PMD if it is electrically powered and:

  • Has at least one wheel
  • Is less than 125cm long, 70cm wide and 135cm high
  • Is less than 45kg
  • Is not capable of travelling faster than 25km/h
  • Is designed for use by one person.

    Wear a helmet

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Mark Trueno

Mark Trueno is a CarExpert Contributor.

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