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Electric Riders Australia Wants to Be the Change

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Sydney, NSW

Although it is a very young organisation, Electric Riders Australia (ERA) has set itself a big task – the legalisation of the vehicles that their members love to ride, including e-scooters, e-skateboards and one-wheelers.

We recently spoke to Jonno Sea, who began by introducing himself.

“I am the Chair of the Board (of ERA),” he began. “We have an executive board which covers a range of people with different backgrounds and skills.

“My primary work was in the hospitality industry. I’ve been managing café’s and restaurants.

“I’ve had to commute a fair bit as these businesses were mainly in the City of Sydney or the eastern suburbs and I’ve had to travel in from the west or south west suburbs.

“I’ve tried lots of different options. I picked up an electric skateboard in 2017 and found it really useful as a last mile solution to get to train stations and in between points in the city.

Jonno Sea, Chair of Electric Riders Australia board
Jonno Sea

“I’ve never looked back since then.

“I now ride an electric unicycle which has a little bit more range and is a little bit more manoeuvrable, especially in congested areas.

“I definitely see its appeal. I can see it’s the future. All the people I’ve been in contact with, especially through our campaigns, they’ve told us so many reasons why they ride.

“Some people have mental health issues, some have physical disability issues. It’s something I was aware of from the very start. But I wasn’t aware how wide ranging and how much it means to so many people.”

The ERA website lists four other national groups three local groups in each of NSW, WA, Tasmania and Victoria, four in Queensland, two in the ACT and one in SA. Even though some of these are small, informal groups, it still demonstrates a nationwide groundswell of activity and support.

“We began as a loose connective of e-skate riders in Sydney back in 2018,” Jonno recalled. “We’ve always known from the very start that legality has been a pressing issue and we wanted to see what we could do to try to push things along with the government.

“There were some meetings formed and many strategies looked into. But it wasn’t until we had a Willoughby Council member Brendon Zhu… he knew some riders in the group.

“He started riding an electric skateboard because he missed last year’s ski season due to covid meaning that the ski fields were shut down.

“Brendon thought, ‘Hey this is really great, but it’s not legal.’ So he put out a social media post on his official Councillor page and it kind of went viral. He was saying, ‘We really should do something about making this legal.’

“Our group immediately got in touch with him and got him onboard as an advisor. He’s really led the way in terms of forming a more formal objective and vision and all of the things we need to do to work with government, as opposed to just being a grassroots group.

“We formally founded Electric Riders Australia in December last year (2020). We registered as a non-profit organisation.

“It’s primarily based around members in the New South Wales region, but we have been working with groups in capital cities all across Australia. Melbourne, Adelaide, Canberra and Brisbane. We’ve made lots of good headway in uniting the cause and getting things done.”

Electric Riders Australia website
Electric Riders Australia have a very comprehensive and professional website.

When Will They Become Legal?

So far, the vehicles that Jonno and his friends love to ride are illegal in all states and territories except for Qld and the ACT.

But he’s hopeful that this will change in the not too distant future.

“Things have been going well so far with the way that the National Transport Commission (NTC) has conducted their research into finding the best policy and best framework for including personal mobility devices into the Australian Road Rules,” Jonno reported.

“We believe that framework was presented to the National Transport Ministers meeting on Friday 28th May. To my knowledge, if that has been endorsed, and we’re still waiting on formal word on this, then we do expect to see changes in the Australian road rules, hopefully within the year, that will name personal mobility devices as a legal class of vehicle.

“If that is the case then we’re hoping to have the states adopt those model rules within a decent time frame – within two years at least.

“However the victory is ours to lose. There are all sorts of things that can prevent this from happening. Right now we’re working on public perception – the public sentiment around these kinds of vehicles. Electric Riders Australia are really trying our best to ‘be the change we want to see.’

“We want to present the positive side of these vehicles and what they offer and also be a positive example and role model for the community.

“Our Sydney group has embarked on some community projects including a charity ride last night to help certain homeless shelters.

“We’re hoping to be in the public consciousness in a positive way. We want to bring safe, enjoyable and practical commuting to everyone.”

Speed and Range

According to the last report from the NTC, their recommendation was that these vehicles should be limited to a maximum of 10 kph on footpaths and on cycleways as well as local roads up to a speed of 25 kph

Their range depends upon the use case and the infrastructure that’s there to support it.

Jonno resumed, “In Sydney, it’s great that we have a fairly decent public transport system across most areas of the city and the same goes for most capital cities. But there are other areas that are outside of city centres and rural areas where you’ve got to ride 20 k’s or so. There are people that will ride daily for about 20 kilometres.

“There are some electric unicycles that will easily handle 100 k’s of range. There are people in the Sydney group who will ride over 150 k’s on a single day. They really love to ride.

“There is definitely an interest in following what’s happening in the electric bicycle situation and the electric cargo bikes as well. We are 100% for it. We’re 100% for vehicles that take cars off the road, basically and are suitable replacements for cars in the long run.

“But electric bicycles already have their own legal categorisation and they are, for the most part, legal, within certain bounds. They are also already represented by various cycling groups. So they’re generally well accepted and well liked – well, to a degree!

“Our main point of concern are the devices that don’t yet have that legal status.”

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