By Charlene Chalker-Harris


E-Scooters: A Help or Hindrance?

It seems there are e-scooters everywhere you look at the moment.  E-scooters have been legal in the ACT since 20 December 2019, however the e-scooter share scheme that rolled out last month has seen a significant rise in the number of e-scooters around.  But how many people actually know the laws around e-scooters?  Are they really a help to the community, or a hindrance?

 What is an e-scooter?

E-scooters or electronic scooters are classified as ‘personal mobility devices’, which includes devices such as segways and electrically propelled skateboards.  What characterizes these devices as personal mobility devices is the following:

  • They are propelled by an electric motor;
  • They are designed for use by only one person at a time;
  • They do not weigh more than 60kg unladen;
  • They have one or more wheels;
  • They have a brake system;
  • They cannot travel more than 25km/h on level ground;
  • They do not exceed 1250mm in length, 700mm in width, and 1,350mm in height.

Personal mobility devices do not include motorized vehicles or electric bicycles.

 Where can you use e-scooters?

E-scooters can be used on footpaths, bicycle paths and shared paths.  When using footpaths or shared paths, you must keep to the left unless impracticable to do so, and you must give way to any pedestrians on the path.  Failure to do so can result in a fine of up to $3,200.00.

When using bicycle paths you must keep to the left and out of the path of bicycles, or else face a fine of up to $3,200.00.

When using an e-scooter on a separated path you must use the section designated for bicycles.  You must not use the section designated for pedestrians unless you are crossing that section, in which case you have to cross the footpath by the shortest safe route and must not stay on the pedestrian section for longer than necessary.  When using separated paths, you must keep out of the path of bicycles.  Failure to do any of these things can result in a fine of up to $3,200.00.

You cannot use an e-scooter on the road or on a bicycle lane on a road unless you are crossing the road, in which case you must cross the road by the shortest safe route and must not stay on the road longer than necessary.  The other time you can use the road is if there is no footpath, shared path or nature strip next to the road or it is impracticable to use it.  When using the road, you must keep as far left as practicable, and you must not travel alongside more than one other pedestrian or vehicle unless overtaking other pedestrians.  If you use the road at any other time, you do not keep left, or you travel alongside other pedestrians or vehicles, you may receive a fine of up to $3,200.00.

 What speed limits apply?

When using a footpath, the speed limit is 15km/h, however when on a bicycle path or a shared path the speed limit is 25km/h.  If you exceed these speeds, you are liable to a fine of up to $3,200.00.

When approaching a children’s crossing, marked foot crossing or pedestrian crossing, you must slow down to 10km/h, look for approaching traffic and prepare to stop.  You must not exceed 10km/h while travelling across a crossing.

While travelling across a crossing, you must give way to other pedestrians on the crossing and keep left of any oncoming pedestrian or bicycle.

Failure to do any of these things can result in a fine of up to $3,200.00.

 How many passengers are allowed?

In short, none.  If you have any other people travelling on your e-scooter at the same time as you, regardless of their age, you are committing an offence and are subject to a fine of up to $3,200.00.

How old do you have to be to use an e-scooter?

You must be 12 years or older to use an e-scooter unsupervised.  Any child younger than 12 years must have adult supervision.

Do I have to wear protective gear?

The only protective gear required is approved bicycle helmet, which must be securely fitted and fastened to your head.  Failure to do so can result in a fine of up to $3,200.00.  However, you are excused from wearing a helmet if you are part of a religious group and are wearing a headdress customarily worn by members of that group, and that headdress makes it impracticable to wear a helmet.

What other safety features are required?

There must be a bell, horn or similar warning device fitted to your e-scooter and in working order.  If it is not practicable for this to be fitted to the e-scooter, then you must have a bell, horn or similar warning device readily accessible to you.

If travelling at night or in hazardous weather conditions reducing visibility, you must have a flashing or steady white light at the front and rear of the e-scooter that is visible for at least 200m, as well as a red reflector that is clearly visible for at least 50m from the rear of the e-scooter when illuminated by a vehicle’s headlight.

Failure to comply with the above is an offence and may result in a penalty of up to $3,200.00.

Can I ride an e-scooter home drunk?

It is an offence to ride an e-scooter on a road under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  You face up to 6 months’ imprisonment and a fine of $8,000.00.

Can I use a mobile phone while travelling on an e-scooter?

It is an offence to use a mobile device while travelling on an e-scooter unless it is being used as a driver’s aid (e.g. as a navigational system) and both of the following apply simultaneously:

  1. The mobile device is secured in a mounting affixed to the e-scooter; and
  2. Use of the mobile device can be done completely hands-free.

If you use a mobile device for any other purpose, or without satisfying the above criteria, you are liable to a fine of up to $3,200.00.

Help or Hindrance?

While e-scooters are a novelty and may very well assist the ACT in reducing its carbon emissions, the laws surrounding their use seem to be little known, and widely violated.  People carrying passengers on their e-scooters, riding on the road and not wearing helmets are commonplace, and users are certainly not giving way to pedestrians.  People riding e-scooters can frequently be seen zipping around in groups, travelling at significant speed and scaring pedestrians who do not see or hear them coming.

It is all well and good to roll out an e-scooter share scheme to be used in conjunction with the public transport system, but in order for them to be a help and not a hindrance there needs to be better education of the laws that govern their use.  If you do find yourself charged with an offence while riding an e-scooter, contact our criminal law team for advice.