You most likely know that Lime Scooters have taken America and the world by storm. According to Lime’s website, they have scooters placed in over 80 cities worldwide now, though only 3 of those are in Australia. Brisbane, Sydney and Adelaide have the pleasure of this cheap, environmentally friendly ‘last mile’ mode of transport, so why doesn’t Cairns?
Let’s take a look at the arguments for and against the introduction of personal electric vehicles in Cairns.
- Cheap way to get around
- Great fun
- Made for short distances
- Easy to ride
- Provides income for locals
- Reduces traffic
- GPS speed restrictions
- A real talking point for tourists
- Helmets provided
Let’s break these points down.
Cheap way to get around
Lime scooters cost a measly $1.00 to unlock, then $0.30 per minute in Brisbane and Sydney. This means that a 10 min ride, in which you will easily go from one end of Cairns to the other will cost around $4. Considering the appalling state of Cairns traffic, there is no question that it would be faster to use one of these Electric Vehicles (EV’s) than it would be in an Uber.
Uber also has a minimum charge of $7, even if you only travel 2 blocks.
It’s hard to explain without handing you an electric scooter in person, but these EV’s are so much fun! Coming from history with high powered electric skateboards, these scooters were very slow and sluggish to me. Steffi, on the other hand, had never really ridden anything like it and she was justifiably quite nervous to start with. As a total novice, it only took her about 5 minutes to get comfortable as they are really easy to ride and have more than adequate brakes which will stop you in just a couple of meters.
We ended up circumnavigating Brisbane with Lime Scooters and had no troubles at all along the way. We went over all of the bridges, Southbank, Botanical Gardens and even down to Suncorp Stadium for a beer at Newstead Brewing Co.
It’s important to note that drink riding is illegal, and you can be breathalysed and charged if you blow over the standard 0.05%. I fully agree that drink-riding these things is a bad idea and if caught you deserve to be penalised.
Made for short distances
The entire personal electric transport movement was invented to cover ‘The Last Mile’ of your commute. This was the whole selling point for many of the electric skateboard companies who exploded onto the market about 5 years ago. Most notably, Boosted Boards, Evolve and Meepo. The success of these companies is a testament that there is a severe need for short distance powered transport solutions and due to the ease of riding a scooter instead of a skateboard, it was obvious from the start that Lime was going to have great success.
The problem with owning your own electric skateboard or scooter is that they are generally quite heavy. If you can throw it into your car boot, drive to the city limits then ride the rest of the way, then you are fine. If you have to carry it on and off a bus, you may have quite a bit more trouble.
That point there is exactly why Cairns needs lime scooters. There is no parking in Cairns, so driving to the outer edges of the city, finding a scooter (which is not hard) then scooting the rest of the way in is a much better solution than paying extortionate prices for parking or driving around for 20 minutes trying to find a cheap park.
Easy to ride
Honestly, this is pretty straight forward and anyone can do it. Here is Limes’ instructional video. Please note this is American where they can ride on the road, here in Australia the scooters are only legal on footpaths.
Provides income for locals
Electric scooters need to be charged in order to work and Lime Scooters knows this. In exchange for charging their scooters, they will pay you. The payment ranges between $3 and $5 dollars depending on how badly it needs charging and how long it has been sitting. The second factor is an indication that people are avoiding using the scooter due to the battery level.
Five dollars doesn’t sound like a lot of money until you start grabbing multiple scooters at a time. If you live close to Cairns City and have access to power then you could easily be charging 20 scooters a day. This will obviously go in swings and roundabouts as more people clue onto the easy way to make quick money.
Electricity prices in Cairns are really bad, but charging a Lime Scooter from flat to full will take close to 5 hours and cost around $0.50 by my calculations. The scooters can only be picked up after 9 pm (unless flat) and must be returned to the streets by 7 am.
Cairns traffic is bad, really bad! For a city with only 120,000 residents, it’s insane that driving through town is slower than riding a bike. There are too many traffic lights and none of them seems to be synchronised. As a result of this, people don’t like driving around Cairns. Electric scooters would provide the perfect alternative and take some of the cars off the road which will free it up a little for those who still want to drive.
GPS speed restrictions
This has been the argument from every council that the EV companies have pitched to. The fat, boring and old people who sit in the high tower seem to think that going fast means you will kill yourself and others. We all know that it’s the sudden stop that does the damage.
Over a two month period of Lime Scooters in Brisbane, there have been 80 injuries that required hospital visits. Of those, 12 needed surgery and 1 man died. The man that died was a 50-year-old man (that probably shouldn’t be riding these things anyway) who had a heart attack after falling off at slow speed. See the article here.
While these numbers are quite high, I believe the scooters are not to blame. All of these injuries are user error. If you have never ridden a scooter before, you shouldn’t be going full speed towards a crowd of people. This is just common sense to me but it seems our council have actually called us all stupid by assuming that none of us can figure it out on our own.
Lime Scooters have a built-in feature which would prevent these injuries and it would be so easy to implement. In Brisbane, they already have GPS controlled speed restricted zones, which slow the scooters down to 13 kph. Which is not much faster than walking and much safer in the crowded areas. Imagine if there was a user profile that allowed you to increase your speed as you become more experienced on the scooter.
Hear me out for a second, I ride electric skateboards capable of 65+ Kph quite regularly, but I’d never do that speed if there was a pedestrian around. Why…. because I’m experienced. If Lime Scooters introduced profile locked speed restrictions then different riders would only be able to ride at speeds they are capable of handling.
My suggestion would be based on ride time;
<1 hour = 15 kph
1 -2 hours = 17 kph
2-3 hours = 20 kph
>3 hours = 25 kph
The highest speed of 25 kph is an Australian law for EV’s and of course, that must be adhered to as the max speed although these things are actually capable of quite a lot more if you look at the electronics driving them.
On top of this, I would also like to see the use of the GPS enabled speed limits, regardless of your ride time. The highlighted zone should definitely be restricted as this is the highest pedestrian trafficked area in Cairns.
Cairns has a pretty serious wet season and these scooters are designed for it. They have tires that are made for wet and dry conditions and are totally waterproof.
Talking point for tourists
Ask anyone who has visited a city like Brisbane that has Lime Scooters and they will tell you their opinion on them. Why? Because it’s new and exciting of course. Everyone wants to do something that their friends have yet to experience. Also, it’s a massive step forward in global conservation. Electric vehicles are the future and everyone likes to think they are doing their little bit.
The majority of these scooters have a helmet hanging on the handlebars to comply with Australian laws. Being forced, by law, to wear a helmet is something that only happens in Australia by the way, no other country on the planet raises revenue this way. Helmets save lives and there is no denying that, though being forced to wear one is just quite ridiculous. If you want to risk it and take your life into your own hands, you should be free to make that decision.
It happens, of course, it happens. People fall off bikes and skateboards all the time too. If you get on one of these scooters and have a crash, then it’s your own fault. However, if you are hit by someone riding an out of control scooter then it’s a whole other kettle of fish. This is what the council has a problem with apparently. The argument is of course, how is this any different to someone riding a bicycle. Lime scooters are fitted with reflectors and bells the same as a bicycle and bicycles can travel much faster than 25 kph!
The injuries sustained from Lime Scooters are no different to those received from a bicycle crash. End of story.
This is where it gets tricky. Pedestrians are idiots, anyone who has ridden a bicycle around Cairns will attest that your average pedestrian will wander from left to right and stop suddenly for no reason. I have nearly crashed into many pedestrians on the esplanade because of that. Now, who would be at fault? The guy riding his bike at a sensible speed and ringing his bell or the pedestrian who is wandering all over the place with their noise-cancelling headphones on?
My guess would be the bike rider. There are ways around this with the obvious one being bicycle lanes. Cairns esplanade is a classic example of pedestrians ignoring the rules though. When riding along the bicycle marked path you will frequently encounter pedestrians blocking the whole path who will stop for no reason. People will also walk straight across the bike path without even thinking about looking to see if a bike is coming.
The council really needs to put a stop to this as I’ve seen many crashes with my own eyes due to pedestrians being idiots and I’m sure it was the biker, who was following the rules, that got stiffed with the medical bills for both parties.
Perhaps we should be educating pedestrians.
I think it’s crazy that our council here in Cairns have refused a trial period of Lime Scooters. It just goes to show that our city is run by a bunch of old people who are seriously out of touch. The implementation of my suggestions would no doubt reduce the number of accidents and have a much needed positive boost for Cairns City.