Over the Summernats weekend in January this year, 72 riders were banned from riding Canberra’s purple Beam Mobility e-scooters.
Breaches of the rules included street racing, using beer kegs as seats, tandem riding (when two riders board an e-scooter only designed for one), shredding tyres and laying skidmarks all over Civic and Braddon, including on the ‘rainbow roundabout’ on Lonsdale Street.
Not this time.
Summernats 36 rolls into Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC) from Thursday, 4 January 2024, and Braddon on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights for an expanded ‘Fringe Festival’, but don’t expect the same level of e-scooter hooliganism.
Beam will introduce a new “cognitive-based drink riding deterrence test” across Canberra’s fleet over the four days.
Between certain hours on Friday and Saturday nights, the “rider-check” test requires users to tap either the left or right side of two images on the app to determine if they are sober enough to ride.
The provider has a “three strikes and you’re out” policy for “bad riding or parking offences”, and it’s the same here.
“Those who fail the test after three attempts will have their access to starting Beam trips temporarily paused for several hours and be directed to an alternative method of transportation such as a taxi or rideshare,” Beam spokesperson Michelle Leong said.
The technology was first introduced to select cities in Western Australia last year, at targeted areas and times, and then rolled out across Darwin from 30 November 2023 as part of a two-year contract with the city council.
“Our Rider Check technology will be employed during targeted events, in targeted areas where dangerous riding may take place,” Michelle said.
Neuron, provider of the orange e-scooters, uses a similar in-app “Cognitive Reaction Gametest” that promotes “self-reflection” and helps riders assess whether they’re capable of riding.
Over one minute, a rider is presented with a series of traffic signs and given a certain amount of time to react. Too slow and a “Are you alright?” message will appear, while a fast reaction earns a rider a $1 credit.
New anti-burnout technology has also been installed on all the e-scooters to prevent rear-wheel spin-ups and a repeat of January’s tyre marks.
Susan Davidson from The Braddon Collective says both Beam and Neuron have previously employed the scooters’ inbuilt geofencing technology to block off Lonsdale Street during the second Fringe Festival.
“I recall the first festival, when the owners of the cars were getting very nervous with people riding up and down the street, sometimes against the traffic, while the cars were doing slow circuits.”
She personally hasn’t noticed an increase in e-scooter misuse over the two-night event.
“I think people just notice it more because the street’s closed … We haven’t really had too many complaints.”
Over the past 12 months, 106 bans and nine suspensions have been imposed on riders by the two “shared mobility” platforms in Canberra. Over the same period, 308 riders have received strikes on their record.
There are also fines of up to $3200 for “dangerous behaviour” while on an e-scooter after the ACT Government passed new laws in April last year. Over the Summernats weekend this year, $13,000 worth of fines were handed out.