22 January 2021

Scooting off to try Canberra's newest craze

| Lottie Twyford
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The Neutron scooter. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Buckle up. Lottie Twyford taking the Neuron scooter for another spin. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

You’ve seen them around town – Neuron’s unmissable bright orange e-scooters – and now they are being joined by Beam’s purple fleet, but have you been brave enough to take one on?

For me, a decided lack of enthusiasm for the walk home after an evening out in Braddon (coupled with my clearly relentless pursuit of public interest journalism) was enough of an excuse to hop on.

Given that as a child I was a weapon on my Razor with light-up wheels, I consider myself to be a strong scooter-er and so confidently led my friends towards the orange fleet.

This was perhaps where our first hurdle arose: three scooters, five friends and not a lot of patience between us.

What followed was a determined five-minute search around Lonsdale and surrounding streets until we could find another two N3s. Hindsight is a beautiful thing. Had we downloaded the app earlier, technology could have found them for us.

READ ALSO: E-scooter sharing scheme rides into Canberra

The Neuron app

The Neuron app makes getting started on a scooter easy. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

After a brief fumble downloading the app, involving a hot-spot for the perpetually out-of-data friend (me), we sent through our obligatory selfies in our helmets and were on our way.

A lot of yelping and whooping ensued, despite our embarrassingly slow pace along a rather busy Lonsdale St. The scooters have a maximum speed limit of 25 km/h, but when there are people around, it’s best to go a little slower.

The initial shock for me, as a fairly clumsy person, was that on a normal scooter you brake by putting your foot down on the rear fender. Try this on an electric scooter and – as I found out – you’re likely to get both a shock and a sore foot. Nor does it help to smack your foot down on the pavement while travelling at speed.

The other thing to watch out for are bumpy roads. E-scooters work much better on smooth pavements, making the path around Lake Burley Griffin a perfect training ground, but Northbourne Avenue in the dark is a little trickier to navigate.

Luckily for all of us, we made it home without any serious injuries – just some damaged pride. The most important question on our minds after the ride home was, obviously, does anybody look good in a helmet?

READ ALSO: The Best Electric Scooter Shops & Servicing in Canberra

The scooters have clearly been very popular. Neuron’s app has already been downloaded by more than 18,000 Canberrans. For some, they provide a way to beat your PB on the Bridge to Bridge walk, to get to work on time or undertake short legs of longer journeys on public transport.

A ride is also unlikely to put you out of pocket. It costs only $1 to unlock the scooter and then 38 cents per minute. A subscription service also exists if you see yourself as a frequent user.

In many other countries, the introduction of e-scooters led to vandalism and more scooters in rivers than on the streets. Yet Neuron claims, at this stage, Lake Burley Griffin remains scooter-free and there have been no serious accidents in Canberra.

To verify safe parking, after use, a picture has to be uploaded to the app so that Neuron can check all is well.

You can also share your journey with friends or family so that if an accident does occur, someone knows where you are. In case of a fall, there is an emergency button to push.

According to Neuron, although it has only put 750 of these scooters out on the streets, 75 local jobs have already been created to sanitise and maintain the fleet.

Beam put another 750 scooters on the streets this week and is currently not charging any unlocking fees but they do charge 45 cents per minute to ride. It is free to park in any of the designated parking spots, otherwise, it will set you back a further $1.

Beam e-scooters

Beam e-scooters at Ainslie Place in Civic. Photo: Photox – Canberra Photography Services.

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Few, if any, know the current rules to give way to pedestrians at intersections. Fewer will know how to apply the law to motorised footpath users. If e-scooter use on pedestrain ways breeds consideration then all have won something. When pedrestrain-way meets road there’s the devil to thank for confusion.
Do look for Walksmart in Campbell who offer a 1 hour free spin/trial. Everyone can try it!

At 38c/45c per minute, as the only metering option, there’s no incentive to slow down, give way, stop at lights, or anything else that might delay arrival at the destination. Surely with the tech available today something more creative could be offered.

In general I think they’re a good idea for those trips that are just a little too far to walk and would otherwise have people jumping into their car. I do wonder though if Aussies in general have the right attitudes towards these things, and how long will it be before the first person goes under a tram.

I wish though they weren’t painted in such eyesore colours. If they blended in more people might be a bit more accepting. Those orange and purple blotches everywhere are eye pollution, and if you have the app you don’t need high-vis colours to locate them.

Angela Hagedorn10:22 pm 18 Oct 20

I was in Auckland 12 months ago and saw a guy who was going reasonably slow hit a very small crack in the pavement and end up with a concave kneecap and an ambulance trip. Body parts are hard to fix/replace and surgery lists are long…..

They are an eyesore. They are dumped all over the city. The shared helmet thing is a recipe for a head lice epidemic.

Louise Richter12:22 pm 18 Oct 20

I think they’re great! For years I’ve wanted to meet people for lunch or to duck into the mall in a lunch break but there was never enough time to either walk or to walk to the car and drive. An excellent initiative! And they’re easy to use (after the initial, awkward working it out).

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