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Purple power or plague? What the people of Geraldton make of the safety debate surrounding e-scooters

Anna CoxGeraldton Guardian
Marianne and Peter Currey riding their E-Scooters.
Camera IconMarianne and Peter Currey riding their E-Scooters. Credit: Anna Cox

A fun and convenient mode of transport or a recipe for disaster that needs to more strictly controlled?

That is the question on many lips across WA as the debate rages around the safety of e-scooters amid a series of serious incidents and injuries, even deaths.

After becoming popular internationally and in metropolitan areas, the reach of e-scooters is spreading exponentially, including regional cities like Geraldton which is trialling a public hire service.

Geraldton is about half-way through its 15-month trial with Beam’s purple e-scooters.

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On paper, Beam scooters tick the boxes as affordable, environmentally friendly and accessible public transport options.

Despite the support, it hasn’t been an entirely smooth ride for the alternative form of public transport, as the company works with local police to iron out the creases.

In late March, a Beam e-scooter rider crashed with a car at the Fitzgerald Street and Lester Avenue roundabout and had to be flown to hospital in Perth with head injuries. Police said at the time the rider appeared drunk and was not wearing a helmet. No charges have been laid as of yet, but the incident served as a timely reminder of the dangers e-scooters can pose.

This week, Australia’s prestigious surgical college called for “immediate steps” to stronger regulate commercial e-scooter operators following a “concerning” surge in serious injuries, particularly in WA.

Studies conducted by The Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety (CARRs) indicated that e-scooter riders were twice as likely to be injured than cyclists. Of those injured, 3 per cent obtained major head injuries.

The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons called for authorities to introduce “stricter measures” to protect the community, including “curbs on commercial operators to prevent harm to users and the general public”.

Last month, Royal Perth Hospital head of trauma services Dr Dieter Weber likened e-scooter injuries to a “new disease”, with more than two incidents a week ending up in Perth emergency departments.

A Beam spokesperson said the company was pleased with how the trial was operating with 280,000km ridden in Geraldton by March 29.

It was also added that the three strike policy is active, and 132 riders have received permanent bans from the Beam platform for contravening riding rules.

When asked whether or not the scooters would be a permanent addition to the City, Mayor Shane Van Styn said: “The council remains committed to seeing out the trial, and will not make any decisions until it has been completed and we have seen all of the data”.

In 2021, the McGowan Government introduced new legislation around “eRideables”, which included a 25km/h speed limit on shared paths and local roads, and a 10km/h speed limit on footpaths and pedestrian areas.

Given the divisive debate, the Geraldton Guardian has taken to the streets to ask people in Geraldton how they feel about the increasing presence of e-scooters in their city.

The answers were mixed, but a common theme was that regulations needed to be improved in order to make riding safer for the community.

E-Scooters at the Geraldton Foreshore
Camera IconE-Scooters at the Geraldton Foreshore Credit: Anna Cox

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT E-SCOOTERS?

“Wherever we travel, wherever they’re available, they’re so much fun. There’s good separation between cars and us here, but I wouldn’t use them in Melbourne.” Marianne Currey

“Our son lives in Canberra and when we go to visit we don’t even hire a car anymore. We just use scooters.” Peter Currey

“I quite like them. They’re huge in other cities, and they work — there will always be some legislative intervention needed, but they work well in parallel with public transport.” Phillip Parsons

“We’ve used them once, and it took $200 off my card. I think they’re awesome for people who need them, but they need to check out the payment issues.” Anonymous

“I think they work — but how far you let them go out of the CBD is another question.” Anonymous

escooters at Geraldton Foreshore
Camera Iconescooters at Geraldton Foreshore Credit: Anna Cox

“People need to be smarter about the way they use them, they need to wear helmets. The company needs to improve their technology so that you can’t use them without the helmet.” Joshua Gadley

“The money we invest into this is better spent on bringing more taxis or Ubers to Geraldton.” Anonymous

“We live in The Netherlands, and they work fantastically there. We were surprised to see them here — if people use them correctly, they work very well.” Anonymous

“I’d like to see them banned, I’m confined to 10km/h on my mobility scooter. The Beam scooters can go any speed, and when you come off, you don’t look pretty.” Rob Mann

“If they’re used properly, it’s a good idea, it’s great for tourists — it’s just the idiots, and unfortunately we will always have those in society.” Bob Morris

“They aren’t something we use, or are interested in using — we’d rather have Ubers. They’d be cheaper and safer.” Anonymous

Escooters at geraldton foreshore
Camera IconEscooters at geraldton foreshore Credit: Anna Cox

“I’ve used them after a night out, when the walk is long but it’s the young ones that are a worry — the 16 year-olds. And one of the guys I work with actually pointed out, you don’t know what’s been in those helmets, he’d never wear the helmets because you don’t know who has been wearing them.” Leigh

“It is hard to get a taxi here, so for the safety of getting home they’re good in that regard.” Deb

“I’d rather walk. The government needs to pump money into other things.” Tim

“I don’t like them. They’re so unsafe. Especially with the teenagers that get on them. They don’t have helmets, they don’t have lights, they get on the road, they’re wearing dark clothing at night. There needs to be more regulations — plus they get dumped in all sorts of silly places.” Catrina

“I like the colour, but the teenagers that get on them — they go way too fast, there are kids walking. You don’t hear them, it’s unsafe.” Anita

“It’s easy, it’s cheap and also you can’t get a taxi in this town to save your life. It’s very convenient, and it’s great for staff that don’t have licences or can’t afford a car so they can get to and from their jobs when they couldn’t get to work before. I do think they need to be policing it a bit better and making sure that people are wearing helmets, especially kids.” Leanne

“I don’t use them. I’m a nurse so I’ve seen some things. ” Erin

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