23 December 2020

Night-time 'fishing' all part of the job for Canberra's scooter crew

| Lottie Twyford
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Running repairs

Running repairs to an e-scooter Photos: Lottie Twyford.

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.

Replacing a battery

Replacing a scooter battery.

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.

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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.

Relocating

Scooters are relocated to locations where they will be used most.

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.

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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.

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Capital Retro6:41 am 07 Dec 20

People falling off these death traps are presenting to ED at TCH by the dozen and we mug ratepayers are not only funding the treatment of their self-inflicted injuries but we are being displaced from the queue for treatments we need which are part of growing old.

Which political party approved these devices and who voted for them?

Capital Retro5:22 pm 05 Dec 20

This service seems very labour intensive. I can’t see how it will make any money for the investors unless of course the ACT government has given them concessions and freebies like Ikea got.

Capital Retro5:19 pm 05 Dec 20

The Footsal pad was there for many years. In fact, it had diverse uses including being the forecourt for a shipping container storage yard after Andrew Barr created an industrial hub there.

People using electric scooters instead of walking for exercise are contributing to the obesity epidemic.
People using electric scooters instead of walking have a surplus of cash.
People using Chinese made electric scooters requiring high energy resources to make, import and service have a deficit of intelligence.
People using there electric scooters are dumping them around Canberra
All of which means that scooter users are fat, rich, stupid and inconsiderate.

Many of those riders are inexperienced and I find myself continuously worried for the safety of my little kids when we should be safely walking on footpaths. You better have a good liability insurance as quite a few people is going to get hurt.

Capital Retro8:55 am 03 Dec 20

Incorrect: “100% of the electricity paid for in the ACT is renewable.”

Correct: “100% of the electricity ordered for use in the ACT is renewable.”

And which crew is responsible for the scooters parked in the middle of narrow footpaths, or on bikepaths? At some point a scooter must become litter.

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