Electric scooters, Segways and Electric skateboards can be seen anywhere in the city, from kids racing them around the park to suited up adults zipping through the CBD, but the rules on riding an E-scooter is in the grey after almost 2 years since we first saw them on the street in NSW.

It is an interesting topic, since technically, these relatively new modes of transport such as E-scooter, E-skateboard and Segway are not recognised under the existing Australian Road Rules (ARRs predates the emergence of these new devices).

Situation regarding to PMDs around Australia

Due to the huge public demand for these innovative personal mobility devices (PMDs), many jurisdictions have been under increasing pressure to introduce regulations that permit the legal use of these devices. This has resulted in PMDs operating in an undefined and increasingly inconsistent regulatory environment.

Queensland (QLD), South Australia (SA) and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) are the only Australian states and territories that have implemented legislation to enable PMDs to be legally used on roads and paths.  However, in the most populated state of NSW, and the most crowded city in Australia, Sydney, you cannot legally ride an E-scooter or E-skateboard on the footpath or the road, leaving them a “useless” mode of transport for the most of us. Unless the mansion of yours is big enough for the 30km/h capable scooter to ride around in, and you don’t have any concern about knocking down your precious arts and scaping up your marble floor.

Current NSW Road Rules

Under the current NSW road rules, electric scooters and any motorised wheeled recreational device are prohibited from being ridden on the road under Division 2 Rules for persons travelling in or on wheeled recreational devices and wheeled toys,  section 240(2)(c), where it states:

  • A person must not travel in or on a wheeled recreational device on the road at any time while any person travelling in or on the device is wholly or partly assisted in propelling the device by means other than human power.

If a PMD user is found to be guilty of the offence, the maximum penalty for riding a wheeled recreational device can be up to 20 penalty units. Applying the current rate, it can lead to a fine of $ 2,200.

Steps taken of the legalisation of PMDs

Even though it is technically illegal to use PMDs on the street in NSW, it is legal for retailers to sell them, provided that they do not sell their products based on incorrect or misleading information. They are required to tell you that the PMDs they are selling are not permitted on the road and footpath of NSW.

With this been said, the huge demand and availability of PMDs have pushed for an update in the state legislature to legalise the use of PMDs on the street.  The National Transport Commission, the statutory body for developing road regulations, spent 18 months considering the barriers to the safe use of PMDs. In August 2020, a 73-page report was published by the National Transport Commission to advocate the safe use of PMDs. It provides multiple regulatory options, such as limiting its speed to 10km/h on a footpath or shared path and 25km/h on a separated footpath or bicycle path.

The Result

However, even though his department ran a lengthy process recommending conditions to hold a trial,  but due to various safety concerns and the COVID-19 pandemic, transport minister Andrew Constance stated he is unimpressed with the push for e-scooter trial at a time like this, and he is “not in the mood” to have e-scooters on Sydney streets.

If E-scooter is banned on the road, can Electric bicycles be legally ridden in NSW?

On the other hand, it is a completely different story for electric bicycles. If you live in the city or any urban area, you will notice the increasing number of E-bikes ridden by food delivery riders and commuters.

There are two types of permitted E-bikes regulated by the Road Vehicle Standards Rules 2018 (cth)

  • Power-assisted pedal cycles (without throttle)
  • Electrically power-assisted cycles (with throttle)

Things to consider when purchasing an E-bike

One important thing to keep in mind is that on 1 July 2021, the Government updated the requirements for permitted E-bikes, where they must be designed to be propelled primarily by the rider; they cannot be propelled exclusively by the motor. The motor is intended to help the rider, such as when going uphill or riding into a headwind. A bike propelled exclusively by a motor without any pedals would be considered a motorcycle.

However, when you are shopping for E-bikes, that are a large number of E-bikes fitted with a throttle, but Australian standards across the board make it clear that an E-bike with a throttle must rely on pedalling power as its main power source. If you are thinking of getting an E-bike to commute or to make some extra cash on the side, you need to make sure that your electrically power-assisted cycle with a throttle can only have a maximum continued rated power of 250 watts, and the power cuts off when:

  • The bicycle reaches a speed of 25 km/h; or
  • The rider stops pedalling, and the travel speed exceeds 6 km/h.

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