They work in the dead of night, fishing e-scooters out of lakes, picking them up off the kerb, swapping out dead batteries, sanitising and safety checking the fleet that Canberrans have come to love (or loathe).
More than 100 people work as part of the ground crews for Beam and Neuron e-scooters, servicing the purple or orange scooters now gracing our streets.
Some Canberrans complain the scooters have been abandoned all over the city, are unsightly, dumped in random places and are an eyesore.
What they may not know is that there are teams of ground-crews working tirelessly to keep the scooters sanitised, upright, charged and ‘redistributed’ to more central locations.
The point of this mode of micro transport is that the e-scooters can be parked wherever, with some restrictions, of course. The rider, therefore, can simply finish their journey, park safely, and then the same scooter can be picked up by another user, and it continues on its merry way.
This, of course, doesn’t always work in real life – and this is where the magic of the ground crew comes in.
Oscar, a member of Beam’s scooter crew calls it “rebalancing”.
What this entails, he says, is moving the scooters towards more central locations so they are more likely to be used. They are picked up from more suburban locations, usually overnight. His shifts generally go from midnight to 8:00 am, so this is probably why you haven’t spotted the team yet.
Oscar has been in the job for a couple of months and says the scooters do tend to turn up in some pretty weird locations. One of these, somewhat unsurprisingly, is Lake Burley Griffin.
Khoa Pham, General Manager for Australia and New Zealand of Beam Mobility, says Beam is particularly keen to “fish” the scooters out of the lake because every scooter in the lake means not only pollution and an eyesore for the city and its residents, but a scooter that cannot be ridden.
Another place e-scooters often end up is inside ANU residences. But, the ground crew say they have a sneaky system to rectify such situations. They simply set the alarm off (loudly) at 6:00 am and wait for the scooter to appear outside – which it usually does, with surprising speed!
Oscar and his team have also discovered scooters as far south as Tuggeranong, which he suspects is due to them being taken there by car.
Mr Pham says these are the kind of “teething problems” experienced with the introduction of the scooters into any new city.
He says that sometimes people are worried they need to keep their “own” scooter to ensure they can always make whatever trip required. But, this is not necessary, and he urges riders to leave them in locations where others can then pick them up.
According to Neuron’s Canberra Regional Manager, Richard Hannah, the ground crew work 24 hours a day, prioritising reports of bad parking, and their topple detection technology alerts the ground team if they are on their side, so they will head straight over to rectify the issue.
Beam also runs safety courses to teach riders how to stay safe, get the most out of the e-scooters and, for everyone’s benefit, park safely.