Lime scooters are causing stress for vision-impaired pedestrians

By ABC Radio Brisbane By Jessica Hinchliffe

Updated January 21, 2019 13:56:48

The electric scooters seen moving around Brisbane at the moment might be popular, but they are causing headaches for visually impaired people and how they move around the city.

The scooters are part of a sharing scheme brought to Australia by Californian tech start-up Lime.

More than 100,000 riders in Brisbane have downloaded the app and used the scooters since the trial began in November.

But visually impaired resident Jane Brit said the two-wheelers were causing stress and even collisions on footpaths.

"It's hard to detect scooters coming up from behind and where the scooters are dumped across the city," she told ABC Radio Brisbane's Craig Zonca and Loretta Ryan.

What is scooter-sharing?

  • Scooter-sharing is like bike-sharing, but instead of hiring bicycles you hire motorised foot scooters
  • The scooters are designed for the last leg of your journey — from the train or bus to the office
  • They are generally fitted with rechargeable batteries that can be charged between uses
  • Users are charged a booking fee via an app and then pay for each minute they ride
  • There are multiple companies offering schemes in the US
  • Some cities have had trouble with the scooters becoming a public nuisance

Ms Brit said the bells equipped on the scooters were not enough to alert pedestrians.

"We're not hearing the bell and we're not getting any other auditory signals like them calling out that they're coming up from behind," she said.

"You don't detect them until they are already up on top of you and trying to overtake."

Ms Brit said riders often overtook pedestrians on both sides, making it difficult for people using canes.

"Once you realise they are there you jump to one side, but you may be jumping into their pathway," she said.

"I've been forced into gardens at the Botanical Gardens as the paths are quite narrow, and when you connect it with the cane it often pushes you forward and over the scooter, leading to injury."

Getting onto bike paths

Lime spokesman Mitchell Price said safety events teaching people how to operate the scooters were rolled out before Christmas and the company was in talks with local and state governments about safety.

"We've been having conversations with them about getting the scooters off the footpath all together," he said.

"In Brisbane's CBD there is also a low speed implemented of 30kph and there is a great network of cycling infrastructure around there.

"We want to work with the community and make this a way we move around Brisbane."

Possible solutions

Ms Brit said a couple of changes could really help the visually impaired community, including more signalling and designated return areas to prevent people stumbling over them on footpaths.

"I would encourage people to use the bell and to call out and say, 'I'm coming up behind you to your left or right'," she said.

"I would also like to see designated spots like the City Cycles so the scooters are put back in the same spots."

She said some councils fined people for dumping shopping trolleys and believed it could also work with the scooters.

"It would be wonderful to see that implemented here so that people have an incentive to take them back to docking stations."

Opinions divided

Mr Price said one of Lime's aims was to get scooters onto cycle and shared paths to avoid issues with pedestrians, adding that the scheme had been designed to be dock-less.

"Although dock-less, we've been talking about having parking corrals, whether that's in the CBD or near the City Cycles, which is a painted space on the footpath which we will pay for," he said.

"With our app we can get the parking locations to reflect the spot and we can drive the scooters back to those parking corrals to help avoid them being left on the footpath in the way of pedestrians."

Callers to ABC Brisbane seemed to be divided on the issue.

"Outside our store they are doing 40-50kph on the footpath and we had a lady who had an incident with one the other day. They shouldn't be allowed in the city." — Ken from Brisbane

"The moaners should ride one; it's so much fun and the best way to commute. Drivers on mobile phones and pedestrians with headphones in are far more hazardous." — David from Caloundra

Topics: disabilities, community-and-society, local-government, internet-culture, social-media, safety, brisbane-4000

First posted January 21, 2019 12:50:46