There is no incentive or financial constraint on operators to ensure that Victoria drivers are doing the right thing so that they are not negatively impacting other members of the community.
E-scooter parking and unloading continues to be a major failure of the process. They are to stand “in an upright position on the curb so as not to obstruct the pedestrian walkway, at least 1.5 meters from buildings”. Yet they are often parked near buildings, over footpaths, over stroller ramps, over pedestrian crossings, at public transit stops, and even on floor tiles that guide blind people.
The number of trips with e-scooters is not enough to have a significant impact on traffic congestion. Many of the trips have replaced walking, which is not good from a health, economic and environmental point of view. Then there are excursions just for fun, a bit like jet skis on the beach.
The government recently decided to extend the process. The lack of proper, transparent assessment and public consultation, particularly among those most affected, is worrying.
Recent research into improving driver compliance, particularly when parking, found that in-app messaging for e-scooter programs and signage did very little to change behavior. Rather, special parking spaces or the obligation to attach e-scooters to bicycle stands improve compliance with the regulations.
This brings us to one of the fundamental shortcomings of the trial – it actively allows and encourages on-street parking, which means that most journeys begin or end with illegal driving on sidewalks.
Because of this, overseas cities such as B. Bristol in the UK stipulates that future rental schemes may only use designated parking spaces on the street rather than on footpaths unless it is clear that they will not impede people’s walking.
If our process is to continue, at least five things must happen.
First, ban parking on sidewalks without a dock entirely in favor of dedicated on-street parking, and the same goes for bike-sharing schemes.
Second, hire contractors to impound improperly parked e-scooters, much like vehicles are towed when parked in open spaces. The problem of bad parking would practically disappear if operators had to pay to salvage these e-scooters. Some operators are already requiring users to submit a photo of where they parked an e-scooter, making their system accountable.
Third, they provide TAC-style no-fault insurance coverage for injured pedestrians.
Fourth, resource policing to provide consistent footpath traffic control. Vulnerable people should be able to feel safe walking.
Finally, collect, assess and publish independent data on all aspects of the process and give a voice to vulnerable Victorians who are most impacted by the arrival of e-scooters on our streets. Without this, the government runs the risk of giving the impression that private companies are dictating transport policy without proper scrutiny.
Our governments are committed to equity, inclusion, access and social participation as cornerstones for healthy, fairer communities. Will they remain true to these principles? Will they change the process and hold operators accountable or let them call the shots?
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