It seems like things have been moving in opposite directions recently. Whilst there has been an important step in the slow process towards potentially legalising e-scooters, a federal government regulation temporarily made a large proportion of ebikes currently sold in Australia illegal with no prior warning.
The National Transport Commission is a federal body established by an act of parliament in 2003. Amongst other things, it’s role is to provide expert advice to state and federal transport ministers on transport topics. In this case, it has written a report, which you can see here, entitled ‘Barriers to the safe use of Personal Mobility Devices’.
Personal Mobility Devices or PMD’s for short, include e-scooters.
This 73 page report offers five options, four of which involve permitting the use of PMD’s with varying degrees of restriction. The NTC recomments option 3 which in summary, would allow speeds of up to 10 kph on footpaths and 25 kph on roads.
In their recommendation the NTC say, “Allowing PMDs to be used for their intended purposes with moderate restriction is likely to enable the achievement of close to their full potential economic benefits (e.g. commercial opportunities and congestion reduction).
“The NTC acknowledges that to minimise the safety risks for this option there will need to be a high level of compliance and clear enforcement with the proposed road rules. While there may be a variety of challenges with regulating variable speeds across different roads and paths, these difficulties in isolation should not offset the potential benefits of minimising PMD speed around pedestrians.”
As transport is largely regulated at a State or Territory level in Australia, the ball is now in the states’ court to legislate based upon the advice of this report. There is no defined timeline on when or even if this might happen in each state.
Throttle Controlled Ebikes
On 11th January, without any prior bike industry knowledge or consultation, Kevin Hogan MP, Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister put forward legislation that effectively banned throttle controlled ebikes already being sold and ridden in Australia, including the Australia Post fleet.
Individual industry members and Bicycle Industries Australia, representing the industry as a whole, were quick to respond.
In a letter dated 6th March, BIA’s Executive Officer, Peter Bourke wrote, “In very good news for the industry, after the BIA held extensive discussions with the Ministers office and the department, the Director of Vehicle Standards from the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communication, has verbally confirmed that both 200w ebikes and bicycles that meet EN15194 will continue to be permitted to be sold and used in Australia.”
“The director has indicated that they will provide written confirmation in the coming week through an updated explanatory notice.”