26 September 2023

Would you commute on an e-scooter? The government is holding a 'Street Party' so you can find out

| James Coleman
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Chris steel on a scooter

Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel on an e-scooter. Photo Region.

Every year on or around 22 September, people across the globe leave their cars at home and get on a bike or catch the bus for World Car-Free Day.

The UN-sanctioned event is designed to showcase what it might look, feel and sound like living without a car.

You’d expect a government hell-bent on slashing emissions to net zero by 2045 would want to mark the occasion, and sure enough, earlier this year, Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability Shane Rattenbury told Region the ACT Government was “vigorously” working on it.

He also quashed rumours of an outright ban on cars.

“We’re still shaping the final design, but it will be a ‘here’s how you can do it differently if you want to’ event,” he said at the time.

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Well, the details are now out. The government chose 22 September to announce plans for a ‘Sustainable Travel Street Party’ to be held in Braddon on 26 November.

Think of it like a try-before-you-buy street festival for e-scooters, e-bikes and EVs, where you’ll have the chance to watch demonstrations from local retailers and advocacy groups.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr described it as “a great opportunity to learn more about the sustainable transport options that are now available”, and Mr Rattenbury said it was a key stepping stone to bring down the ACT’s transport emissions (which currently account for 60 per cent of all the ACT’s greenhouse gas emissions).

“The car plays an important role for many of us in getting around our city, but the Street Party will be a great opportunity to check out other ways to get around that could just save you money while cutting emissions and improving your health,” he said.

“You’ll have the chance to enjoy a pedestrian and cyclist-friendly street and check out some sustainable travel options, including electric bikes and scooters.”

The clincher is that there’ll also be “plenty of food, entertainment, free activities for the kids, and giveaways throughout the day”.

Stephen Ning drives a 2021 Tesla Model 3 when he isn’t on an e-scooter. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

But while we wait, how does an e-scooter work in the real world for commuting?

For Kingston resident and founder of Mad Dog Scooters in Fyshwick, Stephen Ning, he ended up at his desk earlier after swapping his car for a $3000 e-scooter.

“I was commuting to a public service building and ended up being at my desk earlier as I didn’t have to deal with traffic or parking,” he says.

The return on investment took no time either.

“The savings were ridiculous – I saved around $300 in fuel and $60 on parking. So even if I rode only in the warmer period, that is about $8000 a year that I save.”

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Stephen founded ‘Mad Dog Scooters’ in October 2020, with a range spanning the $1199 Inokim Super Light 2 to the $5500 Zero 11X. He says demand for e-scooters is higher than ever in Canberra, spanning grandfathers to job seekers to people looking to get rid of their second car.

“The market will grow,” he says.

“There are a lot of people out there that love scooters but don’t know where to get more information on what is best for them.”

The only downside is your fingers might freeze over and fall off in winter.

“You quickly know if you haven’t tucked your shirt in or zipped up your jacket when you ride on a cold morning. Cold mornings in Canberra are a definite downside. You aren’t generating your own heat while riding a scooter (unlike a bike), so all you get is windchill.”

The ACT Government will release a more detailed event program and street closure map for the Sustainable Travel Street Party closer to the event on 26 November.

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I thought I’d like one, until the day I was waiting at the lights, and watched this young man slowly ride across the pedestrian crossing on the left-turn slip. Not at high speed, his front wheel caught the spoon gutter on the road edge, the thing went up and over and he landed right on his face. I thought, wow that wouldn’t ever happen on my bike; reason being, my bike’s got much bigger diameter wheels, while a scooter has wee little ones, easily trapped in the most innocuous imperfections in the road surface. I dropped the idea of getting one because I’m getting to old to fully recover from bone fractures.

The poor safety of the e-scooters will keep me from using them. Specifically, the small wheel size combined with obstacles. I would far prefer to use a e-bike, or car.

Are light electric vehicles something the federal government intends to regulate the import, power limits and safety of?

Victor Bilow3:33 pm 28 Sep 23

Wonder who pays for the damage, accidents to riders and third parties as they carry no insurance? Maybe you send the bill to ACT Government as the promoters and path providers of this new travel arrangement/suggestion. Work Cover as you are traveling to work?

Victor Bilow3:25 pm 28 Sep 23

Wonder who is going to pay for injuries to riders and third parties as these people do not carry insurance, or do they just send the bill to the ACT labour party?

Would I commute on a scooter? No chance. I drive 60+km round trip per day… What sane person would attempt that in a winter, summer …or really any time in Canberra?

I’ll take my safe, comfortable car with multiple airbags thanks, I’ve seen the horror stories of people killed on those pieces of junk.

I guess I’m not the target market for this kind of thing though as I am not a single, inner city Greens voter; For anyone else, they are all but useless.

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