E-scooter company threatens bans for people seen doing burnouts during Canberra car meet-up

Young men filmed doing burnouts on e-scooters are set to be referred to police, after pulling the stunt during an illegal car meet-up in the middle of Canberra this past weekend.

Hundreds of car enthusiasts put rubber to Canberra’s Lonsdale Street on Friday and Saturday evenings, forcing road closures and leading to cars being impounded.

At a separate illegal meet up in Fyshwick on Friday, police were attacked when the crowd turned on them.

But while tyre smoke was a common sight in the city, some young men were also filmed doing burnouts on e-scooters, which were recently introduced to Canberra streets.

One of the men filming in the crowd can be heard abusing police, while another remarks he can smell the tyre smoke from the electric scooters.

Two cars were impounded due to the illegal cruise, and police said any drivers involved should expect a visit from officers.

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Crowds gather across Canberra to watch illegal driving.

But Tom Cooper from Beam, one of the two companies offering e-scooters in Canberra, said people found to have done the potentially damaging burnouts on their property would also be referred to police.

“We’re certainly aware over the weekend that some people did misuse the scooters, and we’re actively investigating,” he said.

“Anyone found to be misusing them can and will be banned.

“We’re internally collecting all the information and then we’ll take it to police.”

Scooters ‘aren’t toys’

Detective Inspector Adrian Craft from ACT Policing said yesterday that hooning on e-scooters would be easily investigated.

“People should also understand that when they use those sorts of devices for things like that, you do have to scan in your credit card and all your details at the start, so it’s fair to say that it’s reasonably easy to identify the people who are responsible for those sorts of things,” he said.

“If the scooter companies care to come forward to us and to have discussions about that, then it’s reasonably easy for us to chase those sorts of things up.”

Mr Cooper said Beam would contact police once it had gathered all the relevant details.

“We’re looking through it at the moment,” he said.

“We have to stress that the vast majority of Canberrans use it in a really really responsible way and there’s just a few people that take advantage of these things and it’s disappointing and it can ruin it for other people.

“We want to get across to people that e-scooters aren’t toys.”

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Former Adelaide politician gets second chance to sue council after tripping over e-scooter

A former Labor minister who admits he saw a Beam e-scooter on the footpath before tripping over it in the daytime last year has been given a second chance to sue the Adelaide City Council for damages.

Kym Mayes claimed his left foot “snagged” on an electric scooter laying on its side as he walked along Gouger Street, in Adelaide’s CBD, on September 20 — a mild spring day — last year.

Mr Mayes served as a minister in various SA government portfolios from 1985 to 1993.

He told Magistrate Simon Milazzo earlier this year that landed on his right knee, right elbow and left hand, causing damages and loss.

The magistrate dismissed Mr Mayes’ claim for $2,375 in damages, noting that people sometimes walk into poles or trip on gutters and that was not the council’s fault, either.

But a District Court judge has this month overturned the decision, returning it to a different magistrate but acknowledging it “may well fail” a second time.

Man saw e-scooter, but still tripped on it

Mr Mayes’ argument before the first magistrate was that the council had a duty to keep its footpaths free of hazards, just as supermarkets must keep aisles free of spillages.

He admitted that he saw the e-scooter on the ground before tripping on it.

But he said the council had a licence agreement with Beam, requiring it to store its electric scooters safely, and that had not occurred.

The council argued the fallen electric scooter was an “obvious” hazard, while Beam, also named as a defendant, argued it was entirely Mr Mayes’ fault because he was rushing to catch a tram at the time.

Magistrate Milazzo dismissed the case and warned that Mr Mayes risked incurring “a whole lot of costs” if he persisted with the minor damages claim.

But persist he did, asking the District Court to review the case.

Claim ‘may fail’, but will be heard again

In her judgment this month, Judge Jane Schammer acknowledged that there were significant hurdles to Mr Mayes’ claim succeeding.

“As Mr Mayes saw the scooter, he faces a significant challenge in establishing a breach of any duty of care” by either the council or Beam, the judgment says.

“Mr Mayes’ action against the council may well fail.”

Nonetheless, Judge Schammer found “procedural defects” in the way the magistrate handled the case.

She ruled that he should have reviewed CCTV of the incident and considered affidavits and evidence before deciding the claim had “no reasonable basis”.

She returned the claim to the Magistrates Court, where it will be heard again by a different magistrate.

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Struggling e-scooter companies hope for a new beginning after the pandemic

Before the coronavirus outbreak, the future for scooter rental companies was murky at best. They grappled with the high costs of managing thousands of scooters tossed on city sidewalks and government regulations that limited where their services could operate.

But as more cities emerge from pandemic-related lockdowns and people look for safer alternatives to public transit and carpools, many scooter companies expect a smoother ride. It’s a new beginning, sort of.

“Lime will be stronger post this crisis,” said Joe Kraus, president of scooter rental Lime. “People are rethinking their rides, rethinking how they want to get around cities.”

Lime and several of its rivals say they’ve started seeing increases in rides, first-time riders, or the length of trips in recent months. They’re also benefiting from looser regulations and plans by a number of cities to create lanes for electronic bikes and scooters.

But scooter rental businesses still have some fundamental issues to solve—namely, can they stop hemorrhaging money? When the pandemic hit, and many cities implemented shelter-in-place orders, the big losses they were piling on got even bigger after companies paused service in many cities and lost most of their customers.

In January, before the shelter-in-place orders, Lime had laid off about 100 employees and exited 12 cities to reduce its losses. Following the outbreak, the company laid off 80 more workers. In a somewhat similar pattern, Bird cut more than 450 employees since last year. Meanwhile, Lyft pulled its e-scooter operations out of six cities last year, eliminating 20 jobs in the process.

Ryan Citron, an analyst at research and consulting firm Guidehouse Insights, said though the pandemic may change how people get around, it doesn’t appear to have solved the bigger challenge scooter companies face: becoming profitable. They must still pay fees to operate in many cities, spend big money on recharging scooters, and offer deep discounts to lure new riders.

“I’m less rosy than the companies themselves, as far as the future is concerned,” said Citron. “The sticking point is on the economics side. Just because cities are more open to scooters doesn’t mean [companies are] going to be economically successful.”

Euwyn Poon, president of Spin, another scooter company, has a more optimistic view based on the data he’s seeing about ridership. The average duration of trips in a single month increased to nearly 22 minutes in May, up from 15 minutes during the same period last year. And as its business ramps up from the pandemic—Spin has resumed operations in 25 of the 70 cities it previously served—the company expects the trend to continue.

“What that told us was people were using scooters for more functional purposes…to replace longer distance trips they would’ve taken on shared rides,” Poon said. “People were counting on it as a way to get around.”

Bird, which is operating in 50 of the 100 cities it served before the pandemic, is seeing a similar increase in time spent on rides. It also said it’s retaining more new customers than it did before the coronavirus. And since March 1, around the time some of the first domestic lockdowns were being considered, Bird has signed agreements to operate in 11 new cities, including Fort Lauderdale, Roanoke, and Tulsa.

But the biggest change that may help Bird’s business is that cities are relaxing rules to encourage the use of bikes and scooters. For example, London switched a test of scooter services it had planned to start a year earlier, while Milan, Paris, and Berlin all committed to creating temporary or potentially permanent bike lanes that can also be used by people riding scooters.

“[Cities are] realizing the benefits in ways they haven’t before,” said Rebecca Hannah, a spokeswoman for Bird. “That accelerates adoption. It broadens our audience.” 

Lime said the money it makes on each scooter per trip is up 30% from this time last year, reflecting the increase in the amount of time people rent its scooters. It’s also seen the number of new riders grow week over week since restarting service beginning in mid-April, doubling in cities including Dallas, Munich, and Paris, and quadrupling in Washington, D.C., but still below pre-pandemic levels.

Lime recently acquired Uber’s scooter and bike business, Jump, after Uber, under pressure to reduce its huge losses, started cutting back on money-losing ventures. Lime expects to become profitable, minus certain expenses, next year.

While scooter companies took a financial hit following the coronavirus outbreak, several say they’re hopeful about the future. “The way change happens is there are decades when nothing happens, and then there are weeks when decades happen,” Kraus of Lime said. “We’re in that moment” for bikes and scooters.

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