Segway Scooters

Electric scooters are reaching the peak of their popularity in 2023.  The advancement of the technology within them means they can now go faster and last longer;  they also take less time to charge.

Because of their popularity, you may be asking, are electric scooters legal in NSW? Let’s explore the laws surrounding e-scooters and more in NSW.

Are e-scooters legal in NSW?

Currently, it is illegal in NSW to ride an e-scooter anywhere other than a privately owned residence; this does not include a road or road-related area not in the confines of a private residence.

To be more specific, you also cannot ride an electric scooter on:

  • Bike paths (or bike lanes).
  • Footpaths (a shared path also counts).
  • Car parking facilities.

Electric scooters don’t meet Australian Design Standards, meaning they are illegal to ride. In fact, they are not even eligible to register.

According to the NSW Road Transport Act 2013, road users can face the following penalties for riding an e-scooter on the road.

  • They can seize it from you.
  • A police officer can apply to forfeit your e-scooter to the crown; they will give you a penalty notice; you can appeal to it, or Transport for NSW can waive it and get the charges dropped.
  • They can fine you if the e-scooter has unpaid tax (or you didn’t pay insurance).
  • They can issue a fine for driving it without a license or with a suspended one.

Essentially, they will treat you the same as anyone driving an unregistered vehicle.

What are the advantages of electric scooters?

While the law is firmly against e-scooters for now (apart from trials), they remain trendy. Here are some significant advantages e-scooter riders experience that explain their persisting popularity.

  • They are much faster than bicycles – it may surprise bicycle riders that an e-scooter can reach 12-100 km an hour, comparable to some electric bikes (remember to ride under the speed limit). They are also a faster option than public transport.
  • They can be portable – if riding them on a private residence, you can fold them up and walk away with them once finished.
  • Like most powered vehicles, you can get different specifications for more speed.
  • They are easy to maintain if you regularly check the tyres, battery and brakes.
  • They come at affordable prices – less than motorised bicycles, electric bikes and cars
  • They are energy efficient – you will harm the environment less than motorcycle riders.
  • They are fun to ride.

What Are the Disadvantages of Electric Scooters?

In contrast, an electric scooter can come with some downsides.

Some of these include:

  • Even though they are more affordable than some transport options, they cost more money than many high-quality road bikes.
  • They don’t provide anywhere near as much exercise as riding a bike.
  • The battery can overcharge if you overuse the e-scooter.
  • There is no insurance if you crash an e-scooter because you can’t register them in NSW.
  • They aren’t suitable for long trips due to their short battery life.
  • They have a low weight capacity, so they are unsuitable for obese persons or carrying goods.
  • They are easier to steal than a bike or motorbike; they are smaller and not too heavy to carry.
  • They have poor protection against weather like rain and snow.
  • Riding an electric scooter is illegal in New South Wales; this is currently the most significant disadvantage.

How can you use electric scooters safely in NSW?

If you want to use an electric scooter in a legal area (private property), you should understand its safety precautions and responsible riding techniques.

What safety equipment do you need to ride an electric scooter?

First, as you would a bike or motorbike, you need a helmet to ride an e-scooter. If you fall on your head, you can have a serious accident if you aren’t wearing a helmet. A bike helmet will do fine, but a full-face motorcycle helmet is the best way for the most protection. Wearing an approved helmet is essential if riding privately owned e-scooters.

Other pieces of equipment you need include:

  • A high-visibility shirt. This is one of the road rules if riding at night.
  • Body armour if you want extra protection.
  • Knee guards.
  • Wrist guards.
  • Elbow guards.
  • Gloves.
  • Cycling sunglasses or goggles, especially if riding at faster speeds.

You should also attach a bell to the e-scooter to alert other road users (check scooter brands to see if it comes with one). Also, e-scooters with phone holders can be helpful, but ensure you keep your eyes on the road if you use them.

How do you ride e-scooters responsibly?

To be a responsible e-scooter rider, consider the speed limit and what you intake before riding.

As you cannot legally ride an electric scooter in NSW on roads, this doesn’t yet apply. However, it may apply if the laws shift, and it does apply in other territories.

Here are the maximum speeds you can reach on e-scooters in other territories in Australia (according to traffic law).

  • 25 km per hour on a bike path.
  • 15 km an hour on a footpath.
  • 10km an hour on a crossing.
  • If you are on a public road, abide by the signposted speed limit.

Also, you cannot ride under the influence under any circumstances; this includes alcohol or drugs. If you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs whilst riding an e-scooter (for example), you are subject to the same drink or drug-driving laws as you would be for driving a motor vehicle.

What is the public opinion?

Because the e-scooter laws in NSW mean that it is not legal to ride them, there needs to be more evidence of the overall public opinion of them in the territory. However, some evidence exists for territories where it’s not illegal to ride e-scooters.

A table in a Brisbane personal mobility device report states that electric scooter trips in Brisbane returned to the pre-pandemic average in 2021 (over 5500 trips). It also says that “E-scooter demand is expected to continue to increase over the coming years and warrants further detailed reviews to ensure the adoption and implementation of these devices is safe and appropriate”.

According to another report assessing the popularity and demographic for e-scooters, men make up 54% of the people riding them in Australia, meaning that e-scooters have yet to reach a significant female audience in Australian territories where it’s not illegal to ride them.

Electric scooters initiatives in NSW

Although scooter laws in NSW state that e-scooters are illegal, that doesn’t mean that were no attempts to set up initiatives to ride them. 

NSW Government initiatives

Although there were rumours of a trial of electric scooters pre-2021, the pandemic put those plans on hold. Also, in February 2021, the NSW Minister for Transport put any possible trials (like shared schemes) on the back burner.

However, trials resumed in 2022 and will conclude in 2024, so you will get a final answer about electric scooter laws determining if electric scooters are legal; this means that riding a trialled e-scooter will not result in multiple criminal offences.

Private company initiatives

Although the NSW government is taking longer to determine the legality of e-scooters, the current trials mean that some private companies are now offering shared e-scooter schemes in NSW.

One of the largest NSW e-scooter trials is in Western Sydney Parklands. The company Beam now offers wheeled recreational devices to hire in Sydney. The conditions to use them include partaking in a pre-ride safety briefing and an in-app safety quiz. Also, there is a three-strike policy if you break parking or speed laws. 

They also set up 100 new hireable e-scooters in Lake Macquarie, NSW, in December 2022 (the same safety precautions apply). You can only use them on four tracks in Lake Macquarie, including:

  • The Toronto foreshore to Fassifern train station.
  • The Fernleigh Track.
  • The Warners Bay foreshore.
  • The Croudace Bay foreshore.

Because of the current e-scooter trials in NSW, there is an ongoing process to determine if e-scooters will be fully legal in NSW. However, we won’t know the result of the trials until 2024, so for now, they are illegal unless an accepted part of the trial run.

Summing up

E-scooters are currently illegal for public road use in NSW. Ignoring these e-scooter laws results in fines or the government seizing your scooter. The future of e-scooters in NSW may look different because of the ongoing trials;  these trials conclude in 2024, so we will understand their new legal status then. However, privately owned e-scooters are still illegal in the state.

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