New recipes

15 Australian Food Terms That Are Way Better Than Ours

15 Australian Food Terms That Are Way Better Than Ours

Can I have an Adam’s Ale? And other slang terms

Australians have us beat when it comes to culinary slang.

Australia’s uniqueness stems in part from its wildlife, — kangaroos are only found in Australia and Papua New Guinea — its history, and the fact that it’s the world’s smallest continent. But another aspect of the country that first-time travelers have to get used to is Australian slang and pronunciation, which is called strine. This is a place where seriously ill translates to “as crook as Rookwood,” with “crook” meaning sick and “Rookwood” referring to Australia’s largest cemetery.

Trying to advise someone not to try to fool you? Tell them, “Don’t come the raw prawn.” And if someone asks to hang out “this arvo,” you’ll want to meet them in the afternoon. When it comes to food terms, Australians really have us beat. Who wouldn’t want to ask for “bum-nuts” for breakfast or “lobbies” for dinner? They also make run-of-the-mill items sound fancy, with “aubergines” and “saveloys.” Check out 15 of Australia’s best food terms and consider adopting them into your everyday speech (with credit to the Aussies, of course).

Adam’s Ale — water

Amber Fluid — beer

Aubergine — eggplant

Barbie — barbeque

Bickie — biscuit

Bum-nuts — eggs

Coldie—– a cold bottle of beer

Crisps — potato chips

Cuppa — a cup of tea

Lobbies — Lobsters

Murphy — potato

Sanger — sandwich

Saveloy — hot dog

Slab — 24-pack of beer

Snatch-and-Grab — take-out food


Australian e-scooters' bumpy ride: 'Like when automobiles appeared on streets filled with horses'

It’s peak hour on Brisbane’s busy riverside bikeway. Among the riders are scores of commuters zipping along on e-scooters, wearing business clothes and toting satchels or small backpacks. It looks like fun – a door-to-door commute in the fresh air, free from traffic jams, crowded buses and trains, and without the hassle of a hot and sticky pedal up Brisbane’s hills.

Worldwide e-scooter use is booming, forecast to surpass half a billion rides globally this year. Touted as cheap, efficient and environmentally friendly, they’re a “last mile” solution authorities hope will encourage more people on to public transport and out of their cars.

Brisbane is Australia’s e-scooter testing ground. In November 2018 the city became the nation’s first to trial a dockless sharing scheme. So far it is proving enormously popular, with 1.8m rides clocked up in the first 12 months and 1,000 rentals now on the streets, alongside thousands of privately owned machines.

Prof Narelle Haworth, from the Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety – Queensland, says their sudden arrival “is a disruption just like when automobiles appeared on streets filled with horses”.

As share schemes are rolled out in Townsville, Canberra, Darwin and Adelaide, lawmakers are watching the progress closely.

Not everyone is happy about personal mobility devices. Pedestrians complain about poor parking and inconsiderate riders. A Brisbane inner-city resident, Brendan Harris, says: “They go way too fast and they’re silent. They shouldn’t be on the footpaths.” Canberra’s trial has also been subject to vociferous complaints, including from the author and professor of public ethics Clive Hamilton, who called on the city to ban them.

In New South Wales, where personal mobility devices are illegal despite their growing presence on city streets, plans for a trial were abandoned in March after the transport minister, Andrew Constance, said he was “not in the mood” and described other schemes as “a disaster”.

In the Australian states where e-scooters are legal on public property, they are allowed on footpaths and on the roads in some cases, for instance suburban streets with speed limits lower than 50km/h.

But other countries, including France, Germany, Singapore and Peru, have banned scooters from footpaths. Last year Australia’s National Transport Commission recommended state lawmakers revise their regulations. The NTC’s preferred approach would be to limit e-scooters to 10km/h on footpaths and allow them on roads and bike lanes, with a speed limit of 25km/h.

Pete Finn, the founder of ScootMasters, Australia’s biggest online community of e-scooter riders, thinks moving scooters to bike lanes sounds sensible: “If you have a 30kg scooter plus an 80kg rider on the footpath you don’t want to run into a pedestrian. Worse, on a footpath you’re riding across all these blind driveways where drivers just back out without looking.”

But he believes e-scooters are here to stay, for commuting and for pleasure: “They’re cheap to run, they’re cheap to maintain. They’re relatively cheap to buy.” He says some of his members have even sold their cars since buying scooters – the ultimate aim for city planners. “They can put them on trains and ferries and fold them under their desk.”

Brisbane city council seems to agree with his prediction and is drafting an e-mobility strategy.

Concerns about accidents with pedestrians may be front and centre in planning, but Haworth says research doesn’t bear out the public perception of that risk. “We don’t seem to be getting many pedestrians hit. Realistically, most of the danger of e-scooters so far in Brisbane is to the riders themselves.” Those risks are “largely relatedly to falls. It’s not related to being hit by cars.”

A hire scooter in central Brisbane. Photograph: David Clark/AAP

While analyses of early accident data from Australia and New Zealand showed scooters were two to four times more dangerous than bicycles, Haworth says those results were potentially skewed by inexperienced riders lured by the “novelty factor”, as well as uncapped speeds, braking problems, helmet availability and the smaller wheels of early hire models.

Hire companies have upgraded their fleets to more solid scooters with bigger wheels, helmet-lock systems and geofencing to force slower speeds in highly pedestrianised areas. With those changes in mind, Haworth says it’s time for more research to properly weigh up risks v benefits.

Ambulance and emergency department data from Brisbane in early 2019 showed most injured riders were aged between 20 and 34, with 10% receiving minor head injuries, 3% major head injuries and 27% breaking a limb.

Finn says many riders start wearing full face helmets after their first crash: “The very first thing that hits the ground is your head and the second thing is your face: nose, teeth, jaw.” He encourages the use of knee pads and elbow pads as well.

As for all road accidents, alcohol is a risk factor – the NZ study found that when emergency departments took blood alcohol levels “almost 20% of the e-scooter group tested positive for alcohol compared to 6% of the cyclists, with almost all cases in both groups testing over the legal driving limit for alcohol”.

Finn says most of the risky behaviour he has seen is at night, and he’d like to see share scooters automatically locked at 8pm. At the moment, “there is no control over someone who walks out of a bar in the city and swipes his card on the scooter and takes off drunk”.

The easy availability of high-powered personal e-scooters, legal only for use on private land, is an added legislative challenge. There is now no registration scheme for e-scooters, and in states that place power limits on personal mobility devices, those with more than 200 watts of power are considered motor vehicles.

This means all of these models are technically unregistered motor vehicles, yet you can pick them up at electronics stores, outdoor shops, bike retailers or online. When Guardian Australia conducted a review of e-scooters available for purchase, we found that the majority exceeded the 200W limit, and that many lower-powered e-scooters were promoted as being specifically for children. Some models’ peak power was advertised at 6,720W – making them capable of speeds up to 80km/h, closer to the speed of a motorbike, but on small wheels.

Two shoppers on e-scooters make their way down Collins Street in Melbourne. In Victoria the maximum allowable speed for e-scooters is 10km/h. Photograph: William West/AFP/Getty Images

Confusion about legal speeds, power limits and other laws governing e-scooters is also an issue and, as these rules change, the target keeps moving.

At a busy e-scooter rank in Brisbane on a Friday night there was little knowledge of, or concern for, riding regulations. Guardian Australia spoke to one family hiring scooters for their young children, breaking nearly every law in the process (no children under 12, only one person per scooter, helmets compulsory for all riders). The father laughed off our queries: “It’s like all Ts & Cs – you don’t read them.”


Australian e-scooters' bumpy ride: 'Like when automobiles appeared on streets filled with horses'

It’s peak hour on Brisbane’s busy riverside bikeway. Among the riders are scores of commuters zipping along on e-scooters, wearing business clothes and toting satchels or small backpacks. It looks like fun – a door-to-door commute in the fresh air, free from traffic jams, crowded buses and trains, and without the hassle of a hot and sticky pedal up Brisbane’s hills.

Worldwide e-scooter use is booming, forecast to surpass half a billion rides globally this year. Touted as cheap, efficient and environmentally friendly, they’re a “last mile” solution authorities hope will encourage more people on to public transport and out of their cars.

Brisbane is Australia’s e-scooter testing ground. In November 2018 the city became the nation’s first to trial a dockless sharing scheme. So far it is proving enormously popular, with 1.8m rides clocked up in the first 12 months and 1,000 rentals now on the streets, alongside thousands of privately owned machines.

Prof Narelle Haworth, from the Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety – Queensland, says their sudden arrival “is a disruption just like when automobiles appeared on streets filled with horses”.

As share schemes are rolled out in Townsville, Canberra, Darwin and Adelaide, lawmakers are watching the progress closely.

Not everyone is happy about personal mobility devices. Pedestrians complain about poor parking and inconsiderate riders. A Brisbane inner-city resident, Brendan Harris, says: “They go way too fast and they’re silent. They shouldn’t be on the footpaths.” Canberra’s trial has also been subject to vociferous complaints, including from the author and professor of public ethics Clive Hamilton, who called on the city to ban them.

In New South Wales, where personal mobility devices are illegal despite their growing presence on city streets, plans for a trial were abandoned in March after the transport minister, Andrew Constance, said he was “not in the mood” and described other schemes as “a disaster”.

In the Australian states where e-scooters are legal on public property, they are allowed on footpaths and on the roads in some cases, for instance suburban streets with speed limits lower than 50km/h.

But other countries, including France, Germany, Singapore and Peru, have banned scooters from footpaths. Last year Australia’s National Transport Commission recommended state lawmakers revise their regulations. The NTC’s preferred approach would be to limit e-scooters to 10km/h on footpaths and allow them on roads and bike lanes, with a speed limit of 25km/h.

Pete Finn, the founder of ScootMasters, Australia’s biggest online community of e-scooter riders, thinks moving scooters to bike lanes sounds sensible: “If you have a 30kg scooter plus an 80kg rider on the footpath you don’t want to run into a pedestrian. Worse, on a footpath you’re riding across all these blind driveways where drivers just back out without looking.”

But he believes e-scooters are here to stay, for commuting and for pleasure: “They’re cheap to run, they’re cheap to maintain. They’re relatively cheap to buy.” He says some of his members have even sold their cars since buying scooters – the ultimate aim for city planners. “They can put them on trains and ferries and fold them under their desk.”

Brisbane city council seems to agree with his prediction and is drafting an e-mobility strategy.

Concerns about accidents with pedestrians may be front and centre in planning, but Haworth says research doesn’t bear out the public perception of that risk. “We don’t seem to be getting many pedestrians hit. Realistically, most of the danger of e-scooters so far in Brisbane is to the riders themselves.” Those risks are “largely relatedly to falls. It’s not related to being hit by cars.”

A hire scooter in central Brisbane. Photograph: David Clark/AAP

While analyses of early accident data from Australia and New Zealand showed scooters were two to four times more dangerous than bicycles, Haworth says those results were potentially skewed by inexperienced riders lured by the “novelty factor”, as well as uncapped speeds, braking problems, helmet availability and the smaller wheels of early hire models.

Hire companies have upgraded their fleets to more solid scooters with bigger wheels, helmet-lock systems and geofencing to force slower speeds in highly pedestrianised areas. With those changes in mind, Haworth says it’s time for more research to properly weigh up risks v benefits.

Ambulance and emergency department data from Brisbane in early 2019 showed most injured riders were aged between 20 and 34, with 10% receiving minor head injuries, 3% major head injuries and 27% breaking a limb.

Finn says many riders start wearing full face helmets after their first crash: “The very first thing that hits the ground is your head and the second thing is your face: nose, teeth, jaw.” He encourages the use of knee pads and elbow pads as well.

As for all road accidents, alcohol is a risk factor – the NZ study found that when emergency departments took blood alcohol levels “almost 20% of the e-scooter group tested positive for alcohol compared to 6% of the cyclists, with almost all cases in both groups testing over the legal driving limit for alcohol”.

Finn says most of the risky behaviour he has seen is at night, and he’d like to see share scooters automatically locked at 8pm. At the moment, “there is no control over someone who walks out of a bar in the city and swipes his card on the scooter and takes off drunk”.

The easy availability of high-powered personal e-scooters, legal only for use on private land, is an added legislative challenge. There is now no registration scheme for e-scooters, and in states that place power limits on personal mobility devices, those with more than 200 watts of power are considered motor vehicles.

This means all of these models are technically unregistered motor vehicles, yet you can pick them up at electronics stores, outdoor shops, bike retailers or online. When Guardian Australia conducted a review of e-scooters available for purchase, we found that the majority exceeded the 200W limit, and that many lower-powered e-scooters were promoted as being specifically for children. Some models’ peak power was advertised at 6,720W – making them capable of speeds up to 80km/h, closer to the speed of a motorbike, but on small wheels.

Two shoppers on e-scooters make their way down Collins Street in Melbourne. In Victoria the maximum allowable speed for e-scooters is 10km/h. Photograph: William West/AFP/Getty Images

Confusion about legal speeds, power limits and other laws governing e-scooters is also an issue and, as these rules change, the target keeps moving.

At a busy e-scooter rank in Brisbane on a Friday night there was little knowledge of, or concern for, riding regulations. Guardian Australia spoke to one family hiring scooters for their young children, breaking nearly every law in the process (no children under 12, only one person per scooter, helmets compulsory for all riders). The father laughed off our queries: “It’s like all Ts & Cs – you don’t read them.”


Australian e-scooters' bumpy ride: 'Like when automobiles appeared on streets filled with horses'

It’s peak hour on Brisbane’s busy riverside bikeway. Among the riders are scores of commuters zipping along on e-scooters, wearing business clothes and toting satchels or small backpacks. It looks like fun – a door-to-door commute in the fresh air, free from traffic jams, crowded buses and trains, and without the hassle of a hot and sticky pedal up Brisbane’s hills.

Worldwide e-scooter use is booming, forecast to surpass half a billion rides globally this year. Touted as cheap, efficient and environmentally friendly, they’re a “last mile” solution authorities hope will encourage more people on to public transport and out of their cars.

Brisbane is Australia’s e-scooter testing ground. In November 2018 the city became the nation’s first to trial a dockless sharing scheme. So far it is proving enormously popular, with 1.8m rides clocked up in the first 12 months and 1,000 rentals now on the streets, alongside thousands of privately owned machines.

Prof Narelle Haworth, from the Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety – Queensland, says their sudden arrival “is a disruption just like when automobiles appeared on streets filled with horses”.

As share schemes are rolled out in Townsville, Canberra, Darwin and Adelaide, lawmakers are watching the progress closely.

Not everyone is happy about personal mobility devices. Pedestrians complain about poor parking and inconsiderate riders. A Brisbane inner-city resident, Brendan Harris, says: “They go way too fast and they’re silent. They shouldn’t be on the footpaths.” Canberra’s trial has also been subject to vociferous complaints, including from the author and professor of public ethics Clive Hamilton, who called on the city to ban them.

In New South Wales, where personal mobility devices are illegal despite their growing presence on city streets, plans for a trial were abandoned in March after the transport minister, Andrew Constance, said he was “not in the mood” and described other schemes as “a disaster”.

In the Australian states where e-scooters are legal on public property, they are allowed on footpaths and on the roads in some cases, for instance suburban streets with speed limits lower than 50km/h.

But other countries, including France, Germany, Singapore and Peru, have banned scooters from footpaths. Last year Australia’s National Transport Commission recommended state lawmakers revise their regulations. The NTC’s preferred approach would be to limit e-scooters to 10km/h on footpaths and allow them on roads and bike lanes, with a speed limit of 25km/h.

Pete Finn, the founder of ScootMasters, Australia’s biggest online community of e-scooter riders, thinks moving scooters to bike lanes sounds sensible: “If you have a 30kg scooter plus an 80kg rider on the footpath you don’t want to run into a pedestrian. Worse, on a footpath you’re riding across all these blind driveways where drivers just back out without looking.”

But he believes e-scooters are here to stay, for commuting and for pleasure: “They’re cheap to run, they’re cheap to maintain. They’re relatively cheap to buy.” He says some of his members have even sold their cars since buying scooters – the ultimate aim for city planners. “They can put them on trains and ferries and fold them under their desk.”

Brisbane city council seems to agree with his prediction and is drafting an e-mobility strategy.

Concerns about accidents with pedestrians may be front and centre in planning, but Haworth says research doesn’t bear out the public perception of that risk. “We don’t seem to be getting many pedestrians hit. Realistically, most of the danger of e-scooters so far in Brisbane is to the riders themselves.” Those risks are “largely relatedly to falls. It’s not related to being hit by cars.”

A hire scooter in central Brisbane. Photograph: David Clark/AAP

While analyses of early accident data from Australia and New Zealand showed scooters were two to four times more dangerous than bicycles, Haworth says those results were potentially skewed by inexperienced riders lured by the “novelty factor”, as well as uncapped speeds, braking problems, helmet availability and the smaller wheels of early hire models.

Hire companies have upgraded their fleets to more solid scooters with bigger wheels, helmet-lock systems and geofencing to force slower speeds in highly pedestrianised areas. With those changes in mind, Haworth says it’s time for more research to properly weigh up risks v benefits.

Ambulance and emergency department data from Brisbane in early 2019 showed most injured riders were aged between 20 and 34, with 10% receiving minor head injuries, 3% major head injuries and 27% breaking a limb.

Finn says many riders start wearing full face helmets after their first crash: “The very first thing that hits the ground is your head and the second thing is your face: nose, teeth, jaw.” He encourages the use of knee pads and elbow pads as well.

As for all road accidents, alcohol is a risk factor – the NZ study found that when emergency departments took blood alcohol levels “almost 20% of the e-scooter group tested positive for alcohol compared to 6% of the cyclists, with almost all cases in both groups testing over the legal driving limit for alcohol”.

Finn says most of the risky behaviour he has seen is at night, and he’d like to see share scooters automatically locked at 8pm. At the moment, “there is no control over someone who walks out of a bar in the city and swipes his card on the scooter and takes off drunk”.

The easy availability of high-powered personal e-scooters, legal only for use on private land, is an added legislative challenge. There is now no registration scheme for e-scooters, and in states that place power limits on personal mobility devices, those with more than 200 watts of power are considered motor vehicles.

This means all of these models are technically unregistered motor vehicles, yet you can pick them up at electronics stores, outdoor shops, bike retailers or online. When Guardian Australia conducted a review of e-scooters available for purchase, we found that the majority exceeded the 200W limit, and that many lower-powered e-scooters were promoted as being specifically for children. Some models’ peak power was advertised at 6,720W – making them capable of speeds up to 80km/h, closer to the speed of a motorbike, but on small wheels.

Two shoppers on e-scooters make their way down Collins Street in Melbourne. In Victoria the maximum allowable speed for e-scooters is 10km/h. Photograph: William West/AFP/Getty Images

Confusion about legal speeds, power limits and other laws governing e-scooters is also an issue and, as these rules change, the target keeps moving.

At a busy e-scooter rank in Brisbane on a Friday night there was little knowledge of, or concern for, riding regulations. Guardian Australia spoke to one family hiring scooters for their young children, breaking nearly every law in the process (no children under 12, only one person per scooter, helmets compulsory for all riders). The father laughed off our queries: “It’s like all Ts & Cs – you don’t read them.”


Australian e-scooters' bumpy ride: 'Like when automobiles appeared on streets filled with horses'

It’s peak hour on Brisbane’s busy riverside bikeway. Among the riders are scores of commuters zipping along on e-scooters, wearing business clothes and toting satchels or small backpacks. It looks like fun – a door-to-door commute in the fresh air, free from traffic jams, crowded buses and trains, and without the hassle of a hot and sticky pedal up Brisbane’s hills.

Worldwide e-scooter use is booming, forecast to surpass half a billion rides globally this year. Touted as cheap, efficient and environmentally friendly, they’re a “last mile” solution authorities hope will encourage more people on to public transport and out of their cars.

Brisbane is Australia’s e-scooter testing ground. In November 2018 the city became the nation’s first to trial a dockless sharing scheme. So far it is proving enormously popular, with 1.8m rides clocked up in the first 12 months and 1,000 rentals now on the streets, alongside thousands of privately owned machines.

Prof Narelle Haworth, from the Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety – Queensland, says their sudden arrival “is a disruption just like when automobiles appeared on streets filled with horses”.

As share schemes are rolled out in Townsville, Canberra, Darwin and Adelaide, lawmakers are watching the progress closely.

Not everyone is happy about personal mobility devices. Pedestrians complain about poor parking and inconsiderate riders. A Brisbane inner-city resident, Brendan Harris, says: “They go way too fast and they’re silent. They shouldn’t be on the footpaths.” Canberra’s trial has also been subject to vociferous complaints, including from the author and professor of public ethics Clive Hamilton, who called on the city to ban them.

In New South Wales, where personal mobility devices are illegal despite their growing presence on city streets, plans for a trial were abandoned in March after the transport minister, Andrew Constance, said he was “not in the mood” and described other schemes as “a disaster”.

In the Australian states where e-scooters are legal on public property, they are allowed on footpaths and on the roads in some cases, for instance suburban streets with speed limits lower than 50km/h.

But other countries, including France, Germany, Singapore and Peru, have banned scooters from footpaths. Last year Australia’s National Transport Commission recommended state lawmakers revise their regulations. The NTC’s preferred approach would be to limit e-scooters to 10km/h on footpaths and allow them on roads and bike lanes, with a speed limit of 25km/h.

Pete Finn, the founder of ScootMasters, Australia’s biggest online community of e-scooter riders, thinks moving scooters to bike lanes sounds sensible: “If you have a 30kg scooter plus an 80kg rider on the footpath you don’t want to run into a pedestrian. Worse, on a footpath you’re riding across all these blind driveways where drivers just back out without looking.”

But he believes e-scooters are here to stay, for commuting and for pleasure: “They’re cheap to run, they’re cheap to maintain. They’re relatively cheap to buy.” He says some of his members have even sold their cars since buying scooters – the ultimate aim for city planners. “They can put them on trains and ferries and fold them under their desk.”

Brisbane city council seems to agree with his prediction and is drafting an e-mobility strategy.

Concerns about accidents with pedestrians may be front and centre in planning, but Haworth says research doesn’t bear out the public perception of that risk. “We don’t seem to be getting many pedestrians hit. Realistically, most of the danger of e-scooters so far in Brisbane is to the riders themselves.” Those risks are “largely relatedly to falls. It’s not related to being hit by cars.”

A hire scooter in central Brisbane. Photograph: David Clark/AAP

While analyses of early accident data from Australia and New Zealand showed scooters were two to four times more dangerous than bicycles, Haworth says those results were potentially skewed by inexperienced riders lured by the “novelty factor”, as well as uncapped speeds, braking problems, helmet availability and the smaller wheels of early hire models.

Hire companies have upgraded their fleets to more solid scooters with bigger wheels, helmet-lock systems and geofencing to force slower speeds in highly pedestrianised areas. With those changes in mind, Haworth says it’s time for more research to properly weigh up risks v benefits.

Ambulance and emergency department data from Brisbane in early 2019 showed most injured riders were aged between 20 and 34, with 10% receiving minor head injuries, 3% major head injuries and 27% breaking a limb.

Finn says many riders start wearing full face helmets after their first crash: “The very first thing that hits the ground is your head and the second thing is your face: nose, teeth, jaw.” He encourages the use of knee pads and elbow pads as well.

As for all road accidents, alcohol is a risk factor – the NZ study found that when emergency departments took blood alcohol levels “almost 20% of the e-scooter group tested positive for alcohol compared to 6% of the cyclists, with almost all cases in both groups testing over the legal driving limit for alcohol”.

Finn says most of the risky behaviour he has seen is at night, and he’d like to see share scooters automatically locked at 8pm. At the moment, “there is no control over someone who walks out of a bar in the city and swipes his card on the scooter and takes off drunk”.

The easy availability of high-powered personal e-scooters, legal only for use on private land, is an added legislative challenge. There is now no registration scheme for e-scooters, and in states that place power limits on personal mobility devices, those with more than 200 watts of power are considered motor vehicles.

This means all of these models are technically unregistered motor vehicles, yet you can pick them up at electronics stores, outdoor shops, bike retailers or online. When Guardian Australia conducted a review of e-scooters available for purchase, we found that the majority exceeded the 200W limit, and that many lower-powered e-scooters were promoted as being specifically for children. Some models’ peak power was advertised at 6,720W – making them capable of speeds up to 80km/h, closer to the speed of a motorbike, but on small wheels.

Two shoppers on e-scooters make their way down Collins Street in Melbourne. In Victoria the maximum allowable speed for e-scooters is 10km/h. Photograph: William West/AFP/Getty Images

Confusion about legal speeds, power limits and other laws governing e-scooters is also an issue and, as these rules change, the target keeps moving.

At a busy e-scooter rank in Brisbane on a Friday night there was little knowledge of, or concern for, riding regulations. Guardian Australia spoke to one family hiring scooters for their young children, breaking nearly every law in the process (no children under 12, only one person per scooter, helmets compulsory for all riders). The father laughed off our queries: “It’s like all Ts & Cs – you don’t read them.”


Australian e-scooters' bumpy ride: 'Like when automobiles appeared on streets filled with horses'

It’s peak hour on Brisbane’s busy riverside bikeway. Among the riders are scores of commuters zipping along on e-scooters, wearing business clothes and toting satchels or small backpacks. It looks like fun – a door-to-door commute in the fresh air, free from traffic jams, crowded buses and trains, and without the hassle of a hot and sticky pedal up Brisbane’s hills.

Worldwide e-scooter use is booming, forecast to surpass half a billion rides globally this year. Touted as cheap, efficient and environmentally friendly, they’re a “last mile” solution authorities hope will encourage more people on to public transport and out of their cars.

Brisbane is Australia’s e-scooter testing ground. In November 2018 the city became the nation’s first to trial a dockless sharing scheme. So far it is proving enormously popular, with 1.8m rides clocked up in the first 12 months and 1,000 rentals now on the streets, alongside thousands of privately owned machines.

Prof Narelle Haworth, from the Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety – Queensland, says their sudden arrival “is a disruption just like when automobiles appeared on streets filled with horses”.

As share schemes are rolled out in Townsville, Canberra, Darwin and Adelaide, lawmakers are watching the progress closely.

Not everyone is happy about personal mobility devices. Pedestrians complain about poor parking and inconsiderate riders. A Brisbane inner-city resident, Brendan Harris, says: “They go way too fast and they’re silent. They shouldn’t be on the footpaths.” Canberra’s trial has also been subject to vociferous complaints, including from the author and professor of public ethics Clive Hamilton, who called on the city to ban them.

In New South Wales, where personal mobility devices are illegal despite their growing presence on city streets, plans for a trial were abandoned in March after the transport minister, Andrew Constance, said he was “not in the mood” and described other schemes as “a disaster”.

In the Australian states where e-scooters are legal on public property, they are allowed on footpaths and on the roads in some cases, for instance suburban streets with speed limits lower than 50km/h.

But other countries, including France, Germany, Singapore and Peru, have banned scooters from footpaths. Last year Australia’s National Transport Commission recommended state lawmakers revise their regulations. The NTC’s preferred approach would be to limit e-scooters to 10km/h on footpaths and allow them on roads and bike lanes, with a speed limit of 25km/h.

Pete Finn, the founder of ScootMasters, Australia’s biggest online community of e-scooter riders, thinks moving scooters to bike lanes sounds sensible: “If you have a 30kg scooter plus an 80kg rider on the footpath you don’t want to run into a pedestrian. Worse, on a footpath you’re riding across all these blind driveways where drivers just back out without looking.”

But he believes e-scooters are here to stay, for commuting and for pleasure: “They’re cheap to run, they’re cheap to maintain. They’re relatively cheap to buy.” He says some of his members have even sold their cars since buying scooters – the ultimate aim for city planners. “They can put them on trains and ferries and fold them under their desk.”

Brisbane city council seems to agree with his prediction and is drafting an e-mobility strategy.

Concerns about accidents with pedestrians may be front and centre in planning, but Haworth says research doesn’t bear out the public perception of that risk. “We don’t seem to be getting many pedestrians hit. Realistically, most of the danger of e-scooters so far in Brisbane is to the riders themselves.” Those risks are “largely relatedly to falls. It’s not related to being hit by cars.”

A hire scooter in central Brisbane. Photograph: David Clark/AAP

While analyses of early accident data from Australia and New Zealand showed scooters were two to four times more dangerous than bicycles, Haworth says those results were potentially skewed by inexperienced riders lured by the “novelty factor”, as well as uncapped speeds, braking problems, helmet availability and the smaller wheels of early hire models.

Hire companies have upgraded their fleets to more solid scooters with bigger wheels, helmet-lock systems and geofencing to force slower speeds in highly pedestrianised areas. With those changes in mind, Haworth says it’s time for more research to properly weigh up risks v benefits.

Ambulance and emergency department data from Brisbane in early 2019 showed most injured riders were aged between 20 and 34, with 10% receiving minor head injuries, 3% major head injuries and 27% breaking a limb.

Finn says many riders start wearing full face helmets after their first crash: “The very first thing that hits the ground is your head and the second thing is your face: nose, teeth, jaw.” He encourages the use of knee pads and elbow pads as well.

As for all road accidents, alcohol is a risk factor – the NZ study found that when emergency departments took blood alcohol levels “almost 20% of the e-scooter group tested positive for alcohol compared to 6% of the cyclists, with almost all cases in both groups testing over the legal driving limit for alcohol”.

Finn says most of the risky behaviour he has seen is at night, and he’d like to see share scooters automatically locked at 8pm. At the moment, “there is no control over someone who walks out of a bar in the city and swipes his card on the scooter and takes off drunk”.

The easy availability of high-powered personal e-scooters, legal only for use on private land, is an added legislative challenge. There is now no registration scheme for e-scooters, and in states that place power limits on personal mobility devices, those with more than 200 watts of power are considered motor vehicles.

This means all of these models are technically unregistered motor vehicles, yet you can pick them up at electronics stores, outdoor shops, bike retailers or online. When Guardian Australia conducted a review of e-scooters available for purchase, we found that the majority exceeded the 200W limit, and that many lower-powered e-scooters were promoted as being specifically for children. Some models’ peak power was advertised at 6,720W – making them capable of speeds up to 80km/h, closer to the speed of a motorbike, but on small wheels.

Two shoppers on e-scooters make their way down Collins Street in Melbourne. In Victoria the maximum allowable speed for e-scooters is 10km/h. Photograph: William West/AFP/Getty Images

Confusion about legal speeds, power limits and other laws governing e-scooters is also an issue and, as these rules change, the target keeps moving.

At a busy e-scooter rank in Brisbane on a Friday night there was little knowledge of, or concern for, riding regulations. Guardian Australia spoke to one family hiring scooters for their young children, breaking nearly every law in the process (no children under 12, only one person per scooter, helmets compulsory for all riders). The father laughed off our queries: “It’s like all Ts & Cs – you don’t read them.”


Australian e-scooters' bumpy ride: 'Like when automobiles appeared on streets filled with horses'

It’s peak hour on Brisbane’s busy riverside bikeway. Among the riders are scores of commuters zipping along on e-scooters, wearing business clothes and toting satchels or small backpacks. It looks like fun – a door-to-door commute in the fresh air, free from traffic jams, crowded buses and trains, and without the hassle of a hot and sticky pedal up Brisbane’s hills.

Worldwide e-scooter use is booming, forecast to surpass half a billion rides globally this year. Touted as cheap, efficient and environmentally friendly, they’re a “last mile” solution authorities hope will encourage more people on to public transport and out of their cars.

Brisbane is Australia’s e-scooter testing ground. In November 2018 the city became the nation’s first to trial a dockless sharing scheme. So far it is proving enormously popular, with 1.8m rides clocked up in the first 12 months and 1,000 rentals now on the streets, alongside thousands of privately owned machines.

Prof Narelle Haworth, from the Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety – Queensland, says their sudden arrival “is a disruption just like when automobiles appeared on streets filled with horses”.

As share schemes are rolled out in Townsville, Canberra, Darwin and Adelaide, lawmakers are watching the progress closely.

Not everyone is happy about personal mobility devices. Pedestrians complain about poor parking and inconsiderate riders. A Brisbane inner-city resident, Brendan Harris, says: “They go way too fast and they’re silent. They shouldn’t be on the footpaths.” Canberra’s trial has also been subject to vociferous complaints, including from the author and professor of public ethics Clive Hamilton, who called on the city to ban them.

In New South Wales, where personal mobility devices are illegal despite their growing presence on city streets, plans for a trial were abandoned in March after the transport minister, Andrew Constance, said he was “not in the mood” and described other schemes as “a disaster”.

In the Australian states where e-scooters are legal on public property, they are allowed on footpaths and on the roads in some cases, for instance suburban streets with speed limits lower than 50km/h.

But other countries, including France, Germany, Singapore and Peru, have banned scooters from footpaths. Last year Australia’s National Transport Commission recommended state lawmakers revise their regulations. The NTC’s preferred approach would be to limit e-scooters to 10km/h on footpaths and allow them on roads and bike lanes, with a speed limit of 25km/h.

Pete Finn, the founder of ScootMasters, Australia’s biggest online community of e-scooter riders, thinks moving scooters to bike lanes sounds sensible: “If you have a 30kg scooter plus an 80kg rider on the footpath you don’t want to run into a pedestrian. Worse, on a footpath you’re riding across all these blind driveways where drivers just back out without looking.”

But he believes e-scooters are here to stay, for commuting and for pleasure: “They’re cheap to run, they’re cheap to maintain. They’re relatively cheap to buy.” He says some of his members have even sold their cars since buying scooters – the ultimate aim for city planners. “They can put them on trains and ferries and fold them under their desk.”

Brisbane city council seems to agree with his prediction and is drafting an e-mobility strategy.

Concerns about accidents with pedestrians may be front and centre in planning, but Haworth says research doesn’t bear out the public perception of that risk. “We don’t seem to be getting many pedestrians hit. Realistically, most of the danger of e-scooters so far in Brisbane is to the riders themselves.” Those risks are “largely relatedly to falls. It’s not related to being hit by cars.”

A hire scooter in central Brisbane. Photograph: David Clark/AAP

While analyses of early accident data from Australia and New Zealand showed scooters were two to four times more dangerous than bicycles, Haworth says those results were potentially skewed by inexperienced riders lured by the “novelty factor”, as well as uncapped speeds, braking problems, helmet availability and the smaller wheels of early hire models.

Hire companies have upgraded their fleets to more solid scooters with bigger wheels, helmet-lock systems and geofencing to force slower speeds in highly pedestrianised areas. With those changes in mind, Haworth says it’s time for more research to properly weigh up risks v benefits.

Ambulance and emergency department data from Brisbane in early 2019 showed most injured riders were aged between 20 and 34, with 10% receiving minor head injuries, 3% major head injuries and 27% breaking a limb.

Finn says many riders start wearing full face helmets after their first crash: “The very first thing that hits the ground is your head and the second thing is your face: nose, teeth, jaw.” He encourages the use of knee pads and elbow pads as well.

As for all road accidents, alcohol is a risk factor – the NZ study found that when emergency departments took blood alcohol levels “almost 20% of the e-scooter group tested positive for alcohol compared to 6% of the cyclists, with almost all cases in both groups testing over the legal driving limit for alcohol”.

Finn says most of the risky behaviour he has seen is at night, and he’d like to see share scooters automatically locked at 8pm. At the moment, “there is no control over someone who walks out of a bar in the city and swipes his card on the scooter and takes off drunk”.

The easy availability of high-powered personal e-scooters, legal only for use on private land, is an added legislative challenge. There is now no registration scheme for e-scooters, and in states that place power limits on personal mobility devices, those with more than 200 watts of power are considered motor vehicles.

This means all of these models are technically unregistered motor vehicles, yet you can pick them up at electronics stores, outdoor shops, bike retailers or online. When Guardian Australia conducted a review of e-scooters available for purchase, we found that the majority exceeded the 200W limit, and that many lower-powered e-scooters were promoted as being specifically for children. Some models’ peak power was advertised at 6,720W – making them capable of speeds up to 80km/h, closer to the speed of a motorbike, but on small wheels.

Two shoppers on e-scooters make their way down Collins Street in Melbourne. In Victoria the maximum allowable speed for e-scooters is 10km/h. Photograph: William West/AFP/Getty Images

Confusion about legal speeds, power limits and other laws governing e-scooters is also an issue and, as these rules change, the target keeps moving.

At a busy e-scooter rank in Brisbane on a Friday night there was little knowledge of, or concern for, riding regulations. Guardian Australia spoke to one family hiring scooters for their young children, breaking nearly every law in the process (no children under 12, only one person per scooter, helmets compulsory for all riders). The father laughed off our queries: “It’s like all Ts & Cs – you don’t read them.”


Australian e-scooters' bumpy ride: 'Like when automobiles appeared on streets filled with horses'

It’s peak hour on Brisbane’s busy riverside bikeway. Among the riders are scores of commuters zipping along on e-scooters, wearing business clothes and toting satchels or small backpacks. It looks like fun – a door-to-door commute in the fresh air, free from traffic jams, crowded buses and trains, and without the hassle of a hot and sticky pedal up Brisbane’s hills.

Worldwide e-scooter use is booming, forecast to surpass half a billion rides globally this year. Touted as cheap, efficient and environmentally friendly, they’re a “last mile” solution authorities hope will encourage more people on to public transport and out of their cars.

Brisbane is Australia’s e-scooter testing ground. In November 2018 the city became the nation’s first to trial a dockless sharing scheme. So far it is proving enormously popular, with 1.8m rides clocked up in the first 12 months and 1,000 rentals now on the streets, alongside thousands of privately owned machines.

Prof Narelle Haworth, from the Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety – Queensland, says their sudden arrival “is a disruption just like when automobiles appeared on streets filled with horses”.

As share schemes are rolled out in Townsville, Canberra, Darwin and Adelaide, lawmakers are watching the progress closely.

Not everyone is happy about personal mobility devices. Pedestrians complain about poor parking and inconsiderate riders. A Brisbane inner-city resident, Brendan Harris, says: “They go way too fast and they’re silent. They shouldn’t be on the footpaths.” Canberra’s trial has also been subject to vociferous complaints, including from the author and professor of public ethics Clive Hamilton, who called on the city to ban them.

In New South Wales, where personal mobility devices are illegal despite their growing presence on city streets, plans for a trial were abandoned in March after the transport minister, Andrew Constance, said he was “not in the mood” and described other schemes as “a disaster”.

In the Australian states where e-scooters are legal on public property, they are allowed on footpaths and on the roads in some cases, for instance suburban streets with speed limits lower than 50km/h.

But other countries, including France, Germany, Singapore and Peru, have banned scooters from footpaths. Last year Australia’s National Transport Commission recommended state lawmakers revise their regulations. The NTC’s preferred approach would be to limit e-scooters to 10km/h on footpaths and allow them on roads and bike lanes, with a speed limit of 25km/h.

Pete Finn, the founder of ScootMasters, Australia’s biggest online community of e-scooter riders, thinks moving scooters to bike lanes sounds sensible: “If you have a 30kg scooter plus an 80kg rider on the footpath you don’t want to run into a pedestrian. Worse, on a footpath you’re riding across all these blind driveways where drivers just back out without looking.”

But he believes e-scooters are here to stay, for commuting and for pleasure: “They’re cheap to run, they’re cheap to maintain. They’re relatively cheap to buy.” He says some of his members have even sold their cars since buying scooters – the ultimate aim for city planners. “They can put them on trains and ferries and fold them under their desk.”

Brisbane city council seems to agree with his prediction and is drafting an e-mobility strategy.

Concerns about accidents with pedestrians may be front and centre in planning, but Haworth says research doesn’t bear out the public perception of that risk. “We don’t seem to be getting many pedestrians hit. Realistically, most of the danger of e-scooters so far in Brisbane is to the riders themselves.” Those risks are “largely relatedly to falls. It’s not related to being hit by cars.”

A hire scooter in central Brisbane. Photograph: David Clark/AAP

While analyses of early accident data from Australia and New Zealand showed scooters were two to four times more dangerous than bicycles, Haworth says those results were potentially skewed by inexperienced riders lured by the “novelty factor”, as well as uncapped speeds, braking problems, helmet availability and the smaller wheels of early hire models.

Hire companies have upgraded their fleets to more solid scooters with bigger wheels, helmet-lock systems and geofencing to force slower speeds in highly pedestrianised areas. With those changes in mind, Haworth says it’s time for more research to properly weigh up risks v benefits.

Ambulance and emergency department data from Brisbane in early 2019 showed most injured riders were aged between 20 and 34, with 10% receiving minor head injuries, 3% major head injuries and 27% breaking a limb.

Finn says many riders start wearing full face helmets after their first crash: “The very first thing that hits the ground is your head and the second thing is your face: nose, teeth, jaw.” He encourages the use of knee pads and elbow pads as well.

As for all road accidents, alcohol is a risk factor – the NZ study found that when emergency departments took blood alcohol levels “almost 20% of the e-scooter group tested positive for alcohol compared to 6% of the cyclists, with almost all cases in both groups testing over the legal driving limit for alcohol”.

Finn says most of the risky behaviour he has seen is at night, and he’d like to see share scooters automatically locked at 8pm. At the moment, “there is no control over someone who walks out of a bar in the city and swipes his card on the scooter and takes off drunk”.

The easy availability of high-powered personal e-scooters, legal only for use on private land, is an added legislative challenge. There is now no registration scheme for e-scooters, and in states that place power limits on personal mobility devices, those with more than 200 watts of power are considered motor vehicles.

This means all of these models are technically unregistered motor vehicles, yet you can pick them up at electronics stores, outdoor shops, bike retailers or online. When Guardian Australia conducted a review of e-scooters available for purchase, we found that the majority exceeded the 200W limit, and that many lower-powered e-scooters were promoted as being specifically for children. Some models’ peak power was advertised at 6,720W – making them capable of speeds up to 80km/h, closer to the speed of a motorbike, but on small wheels.

Two shoppers on e-scooters make their way down Collins Street in Melbourne. In Victoria the maximum allowable speed for e-scooters is 10km/h. Photograph: William West/AFP/Getty Images

Confusion about legal speeds, power limits and other laws governing e-scooters is also an issue and, as these rules change, the target keeps moving.

At a busy e-scooter rank in Brisbane on a Friday night there was little knowledge of, or concern for, riding regulations. Guardian Australia spoke to one family hiring scooters for their young children, breaking nearly every law in the process (no children under 12, only one person per scooter, helmets compulsory for all riders). The father laughed off our queries: “It’s like all Ts & Cs – you don’t read them.”


Australian e-scooters' bumpy ride: 'Like when automobiles appeared on streets filled with horses'

It’s peak hour on Brisbane’s busy riverside bikeway. Among the riders are scores of commuters zipping along on e-scooters, wearing business clothes and toting satchels or small backpacks. It looks like fun – a door-to-door commute in the fresh air, free from traffic jams, crowded buses and trains, and without the hassle of a hot and sticky pedal up Brisbane’s hills.

Worldwide e-scooter use is booming, forecast to surpass half a billion rides globally this year. Touted as cheap, efficient and environmentally friendly, they’re a “last mile” solution authorities hope will encourage more people on to public transport and out of their cars.

Brisbane is Australia’s e-scooter testing ground. In November 2018 the city became the nation’s first to trial a dockless sharing scheme. So far it is proving enormously popular, with 1.8m rides clocked up in the first 12 months and 1,000 rentals now on the streets, alongside thousands of privately owned machines.

Prof Narelle Haworth, from the Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety – Queensland, says their sudden arrival “is a disruption just like when automobiles appeared on streets filled with horses”.

As share schemes are rolled out in Townsville, Canberra, Darwin and Adelaide, lawmakers are watching the progress closely.

Not everyone is happy about personal mobility devices. Pedestrians complain about poor parking and inconsiderate riders. A Brisbane inner-city resident, Brendan Harris, says: “They go way too fast and they’re silent. They shouldn’t be on the footpaths.” Canberra’s trial has also been subject to vociferous complaints, including from the author and professor of public ethics Clive Hamilton, who called on the city to ban them.

In New South Wales, where personal mobility devices are illegal despite their growing presence on city streets, plans for a trial were abandoned in March after the transport minister, Andrew Constance, said he was “not in the mood” and described other schemes as “a disaster”.

In the Australian states where e-scooters are legal on public property, they are allowed on footpaths and on the roads in some cases, for instance suburban streets with speed limits lower than 50km/h.

But other countries, including France, Germany, Singapore and Peru, have banned scooters from footpaths. Last year Australia’s National Transport Commission recommended state lawmakers revise their regulations. The NTC’s preferred approach would be to limit e-scooters to 10km/h on footpaths and allow them on roads and bike lanes, with a speed limit of 25km/h.

Pete Finn, the founder of ScootMasters, Australia’s biggest online community of e-scooter riders, thinks moving scooters to bike lanes sounds sensible: “If you have a 30kg scooter plus an 80kg rider on the footpath you don’t want to run into a pedestrian. Worse, on a footpath you’re riding across all these blind driveways where drivers just back out without looking.”

But he believes e-scooters are here to stay, for commuting and for pleasure: “They’re cheap to run, they’re cheap to maintain. They’re relatively cheap to buy.” He says some of his members have even sold their cars since buying scooters – the ultimate aim for city planners. “They can put them on trains and ferries and fold them under their desk.”

Brisbane city council seems to agree with his prediction and is drafting an e-mobility strategy.

Concerns about accidents with pedestrians may be front and centre in planning, but Haworth says research doesn’t bear out the public perception of that risk. “We don’t seem to be getting many pedestrians hit. Realistically, most of the danger of e-scooters so far in Brisbane is to the riders themselves.” Those risks are “largely relatedly to falls. It’s not related to being hit by cars.”

A hire scooter in central Brisbane. Photograph: David Clark/AAP

While analyses of early accident data from Australia and New Zealand showed scooters were two to four times more dangerous than bicycles, Haworth says those results were potentially skewed by inexperienced riders lured by the “novelty factor”, as well as uncapped speeds, braking problems, helmet availability and the smaller wheels of early hire models.

Hire companies have upgraded their fleets to more solid scooters with bigger wheels, helmet-lock systems and geofencing to force slower speeds in highly pedestrianised areas. With those changes in mind, Haworth says it’s time for more research to properly weigh up risks v benefits.

Ambulance and emergency department data from Brisbane in early 2019 showed most injured riders were aged between 20 and 34, with 10% receiving minor head injuries, 3% major head injuries and 27% breaking a limb.

Finn says many riders start wearing full face helmets after their first crash: “The very first thing that hits the ground is your head and the second thing is your face: nose, teeth, jaw.” He encourages the use of knee pads and elbow pads as well.

As for all road accidents, alcohol is a risk factor – the NZ study found that when emergency departments took blood alcohol levels “almost 20% of the e-scooter group tested positive for alcohol compared to 6% of the cyclists, with almost all cases in both groups testing over the legal driving limit for alcohol”.

Finn says most of the risky behaviour he has seen is at night, and he’d like to see share scooters automatically locked at 8pm. At the moment, “there is no control over someone who walks out of a bar in the city and swipes his card on the scooter and takes off drunk”.

The easy availability of high-powered personal e-scooters, legal only for use on private land, is an added legislative challenge. There is now no registration scheme for e-scooters, and in states that place power limits on personal mobility devices, those with more than 200 watts of power are considered motor vehicles.

This means all of these models are technically unregistered motor vehicles, yet you can pick them up at electronics stores, outdoor shops, bike retailers or online. When Guardian Australia conducted a review of e-scooters available for purchase, we found that the majority exceeded the 200W limit, and that many lower-powered e-scooters were promoted as being specifically for children. Some models’ peak power was advertised at 6,720W – making them capable of speeds up to 80km/h, closer to the speed of a motorbike, but on small wheels.

Two shoppers on e-scooters make their way down Collins Street in Melbourne. In Victoria the maximum allowable speed for e-scooters is 10km/h. Photograph: William West/AFP/Getty Images

Confusion about legal speeds, power limits and other laws governing e-scooters is also an issue and, as these rules change, the target keeps moving.

At a busy e-scooter rank in Brisbane on a Friday night there was little knowledge of, or concern for, riding regulations. Guardian Australia spoke to one family hiring scooters for their young children, breaking nearly every law in the process (no children under 12, only one person per scooter, helmets compulsory for all riders). The father laughed off our queries: “It’s like all Ts & Cs – you don’t read them.”


Australian e-scooters' bumpy ride: 'Like when automobiles appeared on streets filled with horses'

It’s peak hour on Brisbane’s busy riverside bikeway. Among the riders are scores of commuters zipping along on e-scooters, wearing business clothes and toting satchels or small backpacks. It looks like fun – a door-to-door commute in the fresh air, free from traffic jams, crowded buses and trains, and without the hassle of a hot and sticky pedal up Brisbane’s hills.

Worldwide e-scooter use is booming, forecast to surpass half a billion rides globally this year. Touted as cheap, efficient and environmentally friendly, they’re a “last mile” solution authorities hope will encourage more people on to public transport and out of their cars.

Brisbane is Australia’s e-scooter testing ground. In November 2018 the city became the nation’s first to trial a dockless sharing scheme. So far it is proving enormously popular, with 1.8m rides clocked up in the first 12 months and 1,000 rentals now on the streets, alongside thousands of privately owned machines.

Prof Narelle Haworth, from the Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety – Queensland, says their sudden arrival “is a disruption just like when automobiles appeared on streets filled with horses”.

As share schemes are rolled out in Townsville, Canberra, Darwin and Adelaide, lawmakers are watching the progress closely.

Not everyone is happy about personal mobility devices. Pedestrians complain about poor parking and inconsiderate riders. A Brisbane inner-city resident, Brendan Harris, says: “They go way too fast and they’re silent. They shouldn’t be on the footpaths.” Canberra’s trial has also been subject to vociferous complaints, including from the author and professor of public ethics Clive Hamilton, who called on the city to ban them.

In New South Wales, where personal mobility devices are illegal despite their growing presence on city streets, plans for a trial were abandoned in March after the transport minister, Andrew Constance, said he was “not in the mood” and described other schemes as “a disaster”.

In the Australian states where e-scooters are legal on public property, they are allowed on footpaths and on the roads in some cases, for instance suburban streets with speed limits lower than 50km/h.

But other countries, including France, Germany, Singapore and Peru, have banned scooters from footpaths. Last year Australia’s National Transport Commission recommended state lawmakers revise their regulations. The NTC’s preferred approach would be to limit e-scooters to 10km/h on footpaths and allow them on roads and bike lanes, with a speed limit of 25km/h.

Pete Finn, the founder of ScootMasters, Australia’s biggest online community of e-scooter riders, thinks moving scooters to bike lanes sounds sensible: “If you have a 30kg scooter plus an 80kg rider on the footpath you don’t want to run into a pedestrian. Worse, on a footpath you’re riding across all these blind driveways where drivers just back out without looking.”

But he believes e-scooters are here to stay, for commuting and for pleasure: “They’re cheap to run, they’re cheap to maintain. They’re relatively cheap to buy.” He says some of his members have even sold their cars since buying scooters – the ultimate aim for city planners. “They can put them on trains and ferries and fold them under their desk.”

Brisbane city council seems to agree with his prediction and is drafting an e-mobility strategy.

Concerns about accidents with pedestrians may be front and centre in planning, but Haworth says research doesn’t bear out the public perception of that risk. “We don’t seem to be getting many pedestrians hit. Realistically, most of the danger of e-scooters so far in Brisbane is to the riders themselves.” Those risks are “largely relatedly to falls. It’s not related to being hit by cars.”

A hire scooter in central Brisbane. Photograph: David Clark/AAP

While analyses of early accident data from Australia and New Zealand showed scooters were two to four times more dangerous than bicycles, Haworth says those results were potentially skewed by inexperienced riders lured by the “novelty factor”, as well as uncapped speeds, braking problems, helmet availability and the smaller wheels of early hire models.

Hire companies have upgraded their fleets to more solid scooters with bigger wheels, helmet-lock systems and geofencing to force slower speeds in highly pedestrianised areas. With those changes in mind, Haworth says it’s time for more research to properly weigh up risks v benefits.

Ambulance and emergency department data from Brisbane in early 2019 showed most injured riders were aged between 20 and 34, with 10% receiving minor head injuries, 3% major head injuries and 27% breaking a limb.

Finn says many riders start wearing full face helmets after their first crash: “The very first thing that hits the ground is your head and the second thing is your face: nose, teeth, jaw.” He encourages the use of knee pads and elbow pads as well.

As for all road accidents, alcohol is a risk factor – the NZ study found that when emergency departments took blood alcohol levels “almost 20% of the e-scooter group tested positive for alcohol compared to 6% of the cyclists, with almost all cases in both groups testing over the legal driving limit for alcohol”.

Finn says most of the risky behaviour he has seen is at night, and he’d like to see share scooters automatically locked at 8pm. At the moment, “there is no control over someone who walks out of a bar in the city and swipes his card on the scooter and takes off drunk”.

The easy availability of high-powered personal e-scooters, legal only for use on private land, is an added legislative challenge. There is now no registration scheme for e-scooters, and in states that place power limits on personal mobility devices, those with more than 200 watts of power are considered motor vehicles.

This means all of these models are technically unregistered motor vehicles, yet you can pick them up at electronics stores, outdoor shops, bike retailers or online. When Guardian Australia conducted a review of e-scooters available for purchase, we found that the majority exceeded the 200W limit, and that many lower-powered e-scooters were promoted as being specifically for children. Some models’ peak power was advertised at 6,720W – making them capable of speeds up to 80km/h, closer to the speed of a motorbike, but on small wheels.

Two shoppers on e-scooters make their way down Collins Street in Melbourne. In Victoria the maximum allowable speed for e-scooters is 10km/h. Photograph: William West/AFP/Getty Images

Confusion about legal speeds, power limits and other laws governing e-scooters is also an issue and, as these rules change, the target keeps moving.

At a busy e-scooter rank in Brisbane on a Friday night there was little knowledge of, or concern for, riding regulations. Guardian Australia spoke to one family hiring scooters for their young children, breaking nearly every law in the process (no children under 12, only one person per scooter, helmets compulsory for all riders). The father laughed off our queries: “It’s like all Ts & Cs – you don’t read them.”


Australian e-scooters' bumpy ride: 'Like when automobiles appeared on streets filled with horses'

It’s peak hour on Brisbane’s busy riverside bikeway. Among the riders are scores of commuters zipping along on e-scooters, wearing business clothes and toting satchels or small backpacks. It looks like fun – a door-to-door commute in the fresh air, free from traffic jams, crowded buses and trains, and without the hassle of a hot and sticky pedal up Brisbane’s hills.

Worldwide e-scooter use is booming, forecast to surpass half a billion rides globally this year. Touted as cheap, efficient and environmentally friendly, they’re a “last mile” solution authorities hope will encourage more people on to public transport and out of their cars.

Brisbane is Australia’s e-scooter testing ground. In November 2018 the city became the nation’s first to trial a dockless sharing scheme. So far it is proving enormously popular, with 1.8m rides clocked up in the first 12 months and 1,000 rentals now on the streets, alongside thousands of privately owned machines.

Prof Narelle Haworth, from the Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety – Queensland, says their sudden arrival “is a disruption just like when automobiles appeared on streets filled with horses”.

As share schemes are rolled out in Townsville, Canberra, Darwin and Adelaide, lawmakers are watching the progress closely.

Not everyone is happy about personal mobility devices. Pedestrians complain about poor parking and inconsiderate riders. A Brisbane inner-city resident, Brendan Harris, says: “They go way too fast and they’re silent. They shouldn’t be on the footpaths.” Canberra’s trial has also been subject to vociferous complaints, including from the author and professor of public ethics Clive Hamilton, who called on the city to ban them.

In New South Wales, where personal mobility devices are illegal despite their growing presence on city streets, plans for a trial were abandoned in March after the transport minister, Andrew Constance, said he was “not in the mood” and described other schemes as “a disaster”.

In the Australian states where e-scooters are legal on public property, they are allowed on footpaths and on the roads in some cases, for instance suburban streets with speed limits lower than 50km/h.

But other countries, including France, Germany, Singapore and Peru, have banned scooters from footpaths. Last year Australia’s National Transport Commission recommended state lawmakers revise their regulations. The NTC’s preferred approach would be to limit e-scooters to 10km/h on footpaths and allow them on roads and bike lanes, with a speed limit of 25km/h.

Pete Finn, the founder of ScootMasters, Australia’s biggest online community of e-scooter riders, thinks moving scooters to bike lanes sounds sensible: “If you have a 30kg scooter plus an 80kg rider on the footpath you don’t want to run into a pedestrian. Worse, on a footpath you’re riding across all these blind driveways where drivers just back out without looking.”

But he believes e-scooters are here to stay, for commuting and for pleasure: “They’re cheap to run, they’re cheap to maintain. They’re relatively cheap to buy.” He says some of his members have even sold their cars since buying scooters – the ultimate aim for city planners. “They can put them on trains and ferries and fold them under their desk.”

Brisbane city council seems to agree with his prediction and is drafting an e-mobility strategy.

Concerns about accidents with pedestrians may be front and centre in planning, but Haworth says research doesn’t bear out the public perception of that risk. “We don’t seem to be getting many pedestrians hit. Realistically, most of the danger of e-scooters so far in Brisbane is to the riders themselves.” Those risks are “largely relatedly to falls. It’s not related to being hit by cars.”

A hire scooter in central Brisbane. Photograph: David Clark/AAP

While analyses of early accident data from Australia and New Zealand showed scooters were two to four times more dangerous than bicycles, Haworth says those results were potentially skewed by inexperienced riders lured by the “novelty factor”, as well as uncapped speeds, braking problems, helmet availability and the smaller wheels of early hire models.

Hire companies have upgraded their fleets to more solid scooters with bigger wheels, helmet-lock systems and geofencing to force slower speeds in highly pedestrianised areas. With those changes in mind, Haworth says it’s time for more research to properly weigh up risks v benefits.

Ambulance and emergency department data from Brisbane in early 2019 showed most injured riders were aged between 20 and 34, with 10% receiving minor head injuries, 3% major head injuries and 27% breaking a limb.

Finn says many riders start wearing full face helmets after their first crash: “The very first thing that hits the ground is your head and the second thing is your face: nose, teeth, jaw.” He encourages the use of knee pads and elbow pads as well.

As for all road accidents, alcohol is a risk factor – the NZ study found that when emergency departments took blood alcohol levels “almost 20% of the e-scooter group tested positive for alcohol compared to 6% of the cyclists, with almost all cases in both groups testing over the legal driving limit for alcohol”.

Finn says most of the risky behaviour he has seen is at night, and he’d like to see share scooters automatically locked at 8pm. At the moment, “there is no control over someone who walks out of a bar in the city and swipes his card on the scooter and takes off drunk”.

The easy availability of high-powered personal e-scooters, legal only for use on private land, is an added legislative challenge. There is now no registration scheme for e-scooters, and in states that place power limits on personal mobility devices, those with more than 200 watts of power are considered motor vehicles.

This means all of these models are technically unregistered motor vehicles, yet you can pick them up at electronics stores, outdoor shops, bike retailers or online. When Guardian Australia conducted a review of e-scooters available for purchase, we found that the majority exceeded the 200W limit, and that many lower-powered e-scooters were promoted as being specifically for children. Some models’ peak power was advertised at 6,720W – making them capable of speeds up to 80km/h, closer to the speed of a motorbike, but on small wheels.

Two shoppers on e-scooters make their way down Collins Street in Melbourne. In Victoria the maximum allowable speed for e-scooters is 10km/h. Photograph: William West/AFP/Getty Images

Confusion about legal speeds, power limits and other laws governing e-scooters is also an issue and, as these rules change, the target keeps moving.

At a busy e-scooter rank in Brisbane on a Friday night there was little knowledge of, or concern for, riding regulations. Guardian Australia spoke to one family hiring scooters for their young children, breaking nearly every law in the process (no children under 12, only one person per scooter, helmets compulsory for all riders). The father laughed off our queries: “It’s like all Ts & Cs – you don’t read them.”