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Australia Takes a Step Towards Legalising Scooters and Other Micromobility

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Canberra, ACT

Australia’s National Transport Commission (NTC) has released its recommendations for common micromobility legislation across all Australian States and territories.

The recommendations could see electric scooters and other forms of Personal Mobility Devices (PMDs) become legal across Australia in 2021.

Australia is one of the world’s laggards in adopting progressive legislation to enable a wider range of electric personal vehicles. Only Queensland and the ACT have legalised electric scooters and skateboards. It is illegal to ride them on public roads and pathways everywhere else in Australia — even though retailers actively sell them — more than 100,000 have been purchased Australia-wide.

The situation exists due to the Federal Government approving vehicle standards allowing ePMDs to be imported and sold in Australia, while State governments control whether they can be used on public roads and paths.

The result of a two-year project, the recommendations were presented and reviewed with all States transport ministers in November and endorsed. The NTC is now progressing to the legislative drafting phase. These are known as Australian Road Rules and are “Model Law” which each State can choose to adopt or vary.

The final ‘model legislation’ will now be drafted for States and territories’ approval in May 2021. Several states have indicated they have been waiting for the NTC guidance before considering the legislation of micromobility — particularly e scooters and other forms of personal Mobility Devices.

Key elements of the approved framework are:

  • A standard definition for Personal Mobility Devices
  • Recommendations on which areas of public paths and roadways PMDs can be used
  • Speed limit recommendations

While the NTC has made its recommendations, it proposes local governments have final decisions on use on local roads and footpaths and local speed limits. This is to allow each local government to make informed decisions based on their local environment.

The key elements of the recommended PMD definition are:

  • A device with one or more wheels propelled by one or more electric motors
  • When propelled by a motor, it cannot exceed 25kmh on level ground
  • Is designed for use by a single person only

Category A vehicles can be up to 25kg and no more than 1250mm in length, 700mm in width and 1350mm in height.

Category B vehicles can be up to 60kg and no more than 700mm in length, 1250mm in width and 1350mm in height.

Significantly the definition uses speed as the controlling element and allows for compliant devices of any power level. This is a positive outcome as it allows PMDs to have the power required for heavier riders, coping with hills and carrying cargo.

Areas of use recommended for PMDs are “most pedestrian infrastructure, bicycle paths and local roads.”

Local roads are defined as roads with speed limits up to 50 km/h.

A local government may vary this based on local conditions.

The speed limit recommendations are:

  • 10 km/h on pedestrian infrastructure
  • 25 km/h maximum on bicycle infrastructure and local roads
  • A local government may vary speed limits based on local conditions

Other recommendations include a requirement for helmets to be worn and a minimum rider age of 16 years. The NTC recommended children under 16 should still use PMDs with speed limited to 10 km/h.

A longer version of this article was published on medium.com by Stephen Coulter & Krystyna Weston, Founders Zipidi Micromobility & Convenors of the Asia Pacific Micromobility Alliance.

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