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Legal Grey Area on NSW Electric Scooter Trials

Everywhere you turn, everywhere you go, there are electric scooters zooming in and out of your sight, at the speed of 25kph. Whether you are in Europe, US or Asia, you are bound to encounter more, and most often it is in high-traffic cities. Age and sex don’t seem to be a limitation. Men, women, teens, and adults alike have been seen riding these personal mobility devices, roaming the streets happily or wherever they are headed. It can be noticed, too, that the e-scooter rider has a companion in his/her ride.

What gives them the state of things in NSW? To date, electric scooters are banned from roads in NSW.

Most electric scooters in Europe are on rental schemes and riders are required to follow the same road rules as bicycles and motorcycles, as they are not allowed to travel on footpaths or in other pedestrian areas. Helmets are not compulsory for adults to wear in many countries, except for children.

It’s getting to be a bit frustrating for many electric scooter owners and riders having to await the outcome of e-scooter trials in NSW. As observers put it, NSW lags behind Europe, including some states of Australia in providing a legal basis for electric scooters. In Queensland, the ACT, and Tasmania, for example, electric scooters are allowed on roads where there is no cycle path, and they can travel at up to 25kph. Riders must be over 16 and must wear a helmet.

In NSW, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, and the Northern Territory,  electric scooters are banned from roads.  

NSW has classified electric scooters as motorized vehicles under 240(2)(c) of the NSW Road Rules 2014. This means they are banned from the road “at any time while any person traveling in or on the device is wholly or partly assisted in propelling the device by means other than human power.” Violation of said road rule exacts a penalty of up to $2,200.

NSW trials on rented electric scooters only

In July 2022, the NSW government announced a trial of rented electric scooters only, in four Sydney parks, to be extended to council areas. The trial is said to last 12 months and will be limited to riders aged 16 and over. On highways with a 50 km/h speed limit or designated bike lanes, riders are permitted to go at speeds of up to 20 km/h; on shared pathways, they are limited to 10 km/h.

However, privately owned electric scooters are still banned. Scooters must be leased from private companies, and helmets must be worn at all times.

Although local councils were invited to be part of the trial, some councils, including the City of Sydney and Inner West Council have opted not to participate. 

The vague part – Electric scooter accidents and the law

It is still unclear as to what happens in an electric scooter accident. The law is not explicit. Even car insurance doesn’t cover electric scooter accidents. Considering that electric scooters can zip along at 25 kph, if the e-scooter hits a pothole at that speed, the rider may go flying.  

This is why e-scooter riders and owners need to consider the law regarding insurance or culpability if a collision with a pedestrian, or if damage is caused to another vehicle occurs.

Word of advice: Do get legal counsel before taking up electric scooting. If you, as the rider, damages someone’s property or causes an injury, you may be personally liable and have to pay for the damages out of your own pocket. Renters of electric scooters are required to sign a waiver giving up the right to sue the rental company in case of injury or accident.

But what if you are the one injured by an oncoming electric scooter? Be wise to get legal advice on whether to bring a claim against the electric scooter company, which may be liable, or you can make a claim against the other rider, who may have insurance or assets. Then again, you could go to the council and file a complaint for a poorly maintained footpath or lack of a cycleway that electric scooter riders like yourself could have used.

Six months hence, since the shared e-scooter trials scheme in NSW started. Immense patience among those who are petitioning for the approval has not floundered. The NSW government has not begun to consider bringing to trial private electric scooters, with the possibility of allowing them on roads, including laws and rulings on accidents – damages, fees, how it will resolved as a way to protect and recompense riders from injury or whatever damage caused to his person.

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