Probing the polls: changing names and e-scooters on the footpaths

Genevieve Jacobs 7 July 2020
Electric scooters

Lime electric scooters in Auckland, New Zealand. Users find, unlock and pay for them using an app. Photo: File.

Very few of our polls come up almost even but when we asked what you thought about changing place names, the votes were evenly divided all the way.

The question was hotly debated in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests and discussions about changing the name of Ben Boyd National Park near Eden.

Boyd was a Scottish-born entrepreneur who amassed an enormous landholding and fortune before a spectacular financial collapse. He used Aboriginal and Maori labour in his pastoral and whaling operations under grim conditions.

His business ventures often involved the practice known then as blackbirding, or enslaving South Sea Islanders, a controversy even at the time when he brought several shipments of labourers to Australia and justified his actions to the NSW Legislative Assembly on the basis of the then-thriving African slave trade.

We asked you Should we change or match place names to acknowledge Indigenous history? A total of 778 votes were cast.

Your options were to vote No, history is what it is, leave it alone. This received 52 per cent of the total (401 votes). Alternatively, you could vote Yes, it makes sense to reflect our whole story. This option received 48 per cent of the total (377 votes).

This week we’re asking you about the latest option to traverse the city. Up to 1,500 dockless electric scooters are being introduced under a new share scheme in August.

The rollout will begin in Canberra’s inner north and inner south suburbs and will operate in at least one other area as part of the contract with two e-scooter operators that will be issued permits for up to 750 e-scooters each.

Electric scooters are already legal to use on shared paths and footpaths in the ACT (like bicycles) but are not permitted on roads or on-road bicycle lanes. It is also legal to use an e-scooter on shared paths and footpaths in the ACT.

The e-scooters are subject to a maximum speed of 15 km/h on footpaths and up to 25 km/h in all other permitted locations.

Not everyone was equally convinced about the value of the new vehicles on our footpaths, though. Sue Skinner said “Hard enough dodging hardcore lycra cowboys on roads & footpaths as it is. Looks like fun though!”, while Ken Owers asked “Sounds like fun but how much more traffic can the shared paths cope with before someone is seriously hurt?”

There was also some concern about the fact that the vehicles are dockless, and what that might mean for where they end up.

“I’m not opposed to new things. I actually quite like the idea of having these scooters around. But as we’ve seen in Sydney, if it’s dockless, people will just dump them wherever they feel like it which makes for a very unsightly Canberra,” Victor Lee said.

Our question this week is:

Are e-scooters a good addition to our transport options?

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