Electric scooters could soon be zipping through Canberra's streets, as the ACT government is considering tweaking the territory's road rules to allow the vehicles to travel legally in the nation's capital.
ACT Road Safety Minister Shane Rattenbury has instructed government officials to develop a framework to allow dockless electric scooters to safely and lawfully operate in Canberra.
Electric scooters are an emerging mode of inner-city transportation. US company Lime has launched vehicles in Queensland, New Zealand and, soon, for a trial in Adelaide.
Lime's battery-powered scooters can travel up to 27 kilometres an hour.
Like dockless share bikes, the vehicles are "unlocked" via a mobile phone application and do not have to be returned to a particular location.
However, operators do face hurdles to break into Australian markets. Existing road safety laws prevent their use in most jurisdictions.
Under the ACT's Road Transport (Road Rules) Regulation 2017, motorised scooters must not be able to travel faster than 10 kilometres an hour and must have a motor with a 200 watt output or less.
Electric scooters are banned from travelling on roads, or road-related areas, under the regulations.
In the ACT, Lime's scooters would essentially be classed as a moped or motorcycle, which require registration. That wouldn't be realistic for the communal electric scooters, meaning riders would face court-ordered fines of up to $8000 if they broke a road rule while riding an unlicensed vehicle.
Similar regulations existed in Queensland when Lime launched its service in Brisbane and the Gold Coast in November, prompting the state government to warn users risked hefty fines for hopping on the scooters.
Mr Rattenbury said people were keen to use new types of transportation, such as electric scooters.
"They’re an interesting new means of transportation that help people be more mobile in a sustainable way," Mr Rattenbury said.
"Regulations have generally not kept pace with these new technologies and I’ve asked my officials to look at how we can facilitate their use in Canberra – while making sure that we don’t compromise road safety."
The Canberra Times reported last month
- if the government permitted it.
A government spokeswoman this week said it was aware of a "few different organisations" who were keen to establish an electric scooter operation in the nation's capital.