June 23 - 29, 2024: Issue 629


NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into E-scooters, E-bikes opens

The NSW Parliament has launched a new bipartisan inquiry into the impacts of e-bikes and other e-mobility devices within the community.

The inquiry aims to address concerns about safety while acknowledging the popularity of e-bikes as a transport option. Notably, the Northern Beaches and Sutherland Shire have been identified as hotspots for these discussions. 

In October 2023 the Northern Beaches Council was calling on the NSW Government to review the current road rules to improve public safety and protect pedestrians, riders and motorists from e-bike accidents.

With residents reporting to Pittwater Online daily for well over a year near misses and collisions from e-scooters and e-bikes travelling at speeds in excess of 20k on pavements, and on roads, and fines too low to act as a deterrentthe response to community requests for action was being led by Council.

This was followed in May 2024 by Council initiating an E-Bike Safety Campaign, the first in New South Wales.

In NSW bicycle riders must not ride on a footpath. Children under the age of 16 years can ride on the footpath unless there is a NO BICYCLES sign, but bicycle riders aged 16 years and over must not ride on a footpath unless they are an adult supervising a child under the age of 16.

However, cyclists are using the shared paths Council has been rolling out and colliding with pedestrians using the same. The lagoon trail at Narrabeen sees frequent occurrences while others state they have been 'almost cleaned up' on pavements in the shopping centre at Avalon.

In Western Australia, which allows e-scooters to be on pavements up to 10km/h, there were two deaths in 2023 and an average of 15 e-scooter crashes every month, most of which were classed as priority one, meaning the injuries sustained are life-threatening.

There were two deaths in NSW in 2023 of e-scooter riders. In February in Sydney's south-west a man not wearing a helmet fell from the one he was riding on a road and sustained head injuries from which he passed away. A teenager struck by a vehicle in Warner's Bay in July also died. 

In June 2023 there were two deaths of e-bike riders in western Sydney, one a teenager, the other a 54 year old man, both of whom will be missed by their loved ones for the rest of their lives.  Another young man, Royal Australian Navy sailor Wade Franks, is fighting for life after crashing an e-bike in Sydney's eastern suburbs in late September 2023.

Mona Vale residents have spoken of their concerns for teenagers earning pocket money delivering food on e-scooters and e-bikes, many of whom speed over pavements and roads, helmetless, and without lights. In 2020 four delivery drivers on e-bikes were killed in NSW.

Member for Pittwater Rory Amon has welcomed the establishment of the Parliamentary Inquiry into the use of e-bikes, e-scooters and related mobility options.

“For months, I have advocated for Government action. I’ve asked questions in Parliament which have highlighted a lack of enforcement of existing rules; written to the Police Minister, Transport Minister and Premier regarding enforcement of existing rules and regarding the urgent need for reform in this space; spoken in Parliament and moved motions calling on Government action. However, Government is moving too slow,” said Mr Amon.

In March, Mr Amon delivered a speech in Parliament, stating:

“Government needs to provide more support to our police. Council rangers should be empowered to issue bike-related infringement notices. Regarding regulation, the Government needs to consider an insurance scheme for certain kinds of e-bikes. It needs to consider whether it is appropriate for kids as young as six to ride e-bikes or mini motorbikes. Should there be a minimum age to purchase, own or ride an e-bike? Should riders receive some educational resources regarding rules? Should the Federal Government do more to prevent the importing of e-bikes whose speed limiters can be readily removed or tampered with? Should there be penalties, or greater penalties, for manufacturers and distributors who are in breach of the rules? What should be the extent of education campaigns for parents and children, and through schools, to help communities grapple with the challenge? I am not prescribing an answer…”

“E-Bikes have a tremendous capacity for good, but there are many well documented challenges. The Inquiry will provide the platform for experts across all relevant sectors to make their submissions and help us chart a path for the safe use of E-Bikes, so they can be an overall positive,” said Mr Amon.

The terms of reference for the Inquiry are:

That Portfolio Committee No. 6 - Transport and the Arts inquire into and report on the use of e-scooters, e-bikes (including shared schemes), related mobility options, and in particular:

(a) the current and anticipated role of all three levels of government in enabling and encouraging safe electrified active transport options

(b) opportunities to reform the regulatory framework to achieve better and safe outcomes for riders and the community

(c) local council, industry and stakeholder perspectives on the utilisation and impact of e-mobility devices in the community

(d) opportunities to improve mobility, the customer experience, safety for users and the community

(e) the potential benefits and risks of existing regulatory and policy settings, including the Roads Act 1993, Road Rules and Road User Space Allocation Policy and other related legislation regarding safety, traffic, and personal convenience

(f) the extent that e-mobility devices have positive community benefits such as encouraging mode shift, relieving congestion, addressing social disadvantage and tourism

(g) opportunities across government to improve outcomes in regard to e-scooters, e-bikes, and related mobility options

(h) best practice in other Australian and international jurisdictions

(i) the economic analysis of e-mobility contribution to safe transport at night for shift workers and women, to mode shift and to first and last mile transport, and

(j) any other related matters.

The terms of reference for the inquiry were referred to the committee by the Legislative Council on 6 June 2024.

Relevant stakeholders will be invited to make submissions to the Inquiry and give evidence at hearings. Updates regarding the Inquiry will be available here.

Northern Beaches Mayor Sue Heins said the recent proliferation of e-bikes has raised some important questions about the effectiveness of existing road rules to cover e-bikes.

“While it’s great to see so many people choosing cleaner transport options to move around the Northern Beaches, we need to ensure we have the right road rules to protect all road users,” Mayor Heins said.

“With more and more e-bikes appearing on our shared pathways, roads and footpaths, Northern Beaches Council is grappling with how to improve public safety.

With that in mind the Council launched an education and behavioural change campaign to help riders know the road rules, ride safely and respect other road uses. 

Mayor Sue Heins said, in September 2023, Council resolved to develop a community awareness and safety campaign to improve pedestrian and rider safety.

“We’re leading this by implementing a behavioural change campaign and educational resources aimed at young people and their parents, and further reassuring our community that we are taking all possible action within our power to keep them safe. 

“We’ve had to act swiftly with the rapid influx of e-bikes on our streets and in the absence of legislative change of the road rules by the state government.

“We strongly advocate for cleaner forms of transport like bike riding because they are good for our physical and mental health, and the environment, but we know members of the community no longer feel safe walking on our footpaths and there have been some serious collisions and many near misses. Unfortunately, we don’t want it to be a matter of not “if” but “when” someone will get seriously injured or worse. 

“We’re hoping to target young riders through a digital, social and outdoor campaign and signage across our shared paths detailing “the code” or tips that motivate safe behaviour when riding these bikes.” Mayor Heins said. 

The e-bike code is:

  1. Slow down to walking pace when others are on the path 
  2. Ring your bell and call ‘on your right’ to let others know you’re approaching 
  3. Be ready for sudden changes – people, pets and prams can be unpredictable

Northern Sydney Sector Highway Patrol Command Inspector Stuart Forbes has been a strong advocate of not only promoting responsible riding, but a culture of safety and awareness for all road users.

“We're sending a clear message: safety and following the road rules is everyone's responsibility. Since July last year we have had hundreds of reports and complaints involving e-bikes in the Northern Beaches Police Area Command.  Highway Patrol continue to be proactive in education and enforcement with e-bikes.”

Bicycle NSW CEO Peter McLean supports the e-bike Safety Campaign and commended Council for tackling this issue. 

“E-Bikes are changing the way we commute but we need to ensure that this change is not just positive but also safe and respectful to all road users. This campaign aims to highlight awareness, respect, tolerance, and safety.”

Last year, Council wrote to the NSW Minister for Roads and Transport, Jo Haylen, to encourage the Government to initiate a state-wide education campaign on e-bike usage and instigate a review of the relevant road rules. This month the Mayor also wrote to 128 Councils across the state encouraging them to follow suit to take action on growing safety concerns.

Council also submitted a motion to the Local Government NSW 2023 Annual Conference held in November to advocate for a state-wide education campaign, a review of the current road legislation and the provision of grant funding to local councils for safety improvements to shared paths. 

Council has produced an engaging video and educational resources that will be rolled out across social media and shared with parents, schools and bicycle stores. 

Council will also work with schools to provide resources and access to a range of information to assist in improving the knowledge of students using e-bikes.

In November 2023, behaviour change consultants were appointed to provide advice on the strategic direction and safety messaging for the behaviour change campaign. Messaging was tested on local youth and parents on the peninsula resulting in a simple set of safety tips to ensure safer riding and awareness of other footpath users.

Council has been working closely with local stakeholders including the Northern Beaches Police Area Command, local schools and Bicycle NSW to inform the campaign.  

The facts:

  • E-bikes are subject to the same road rules as bicycles. To be considered a bicycle it cannot be propelled exclusively by a motor. In Australia, e-bikes must not assist pedalling past the speed of 25km/h.
  • Under 16’s are legally allowed to ride on footpaths, and they can be accompanied by an adult. 
  • Bicycle riders must keep to the left on footpaths and give way to pedestrians.
  • All bicycle riders must have a bell on their bike to warn others of their approach and wear a helmet.
  • While e-bikes sold in Australia meet the legal requirements, there is currently no quality control over e-bikes purchased and shipped from overseas retailers.
  • Personal e-scooters cannot legally be ridden on public roads and paths in NSW, only on private property. 
  • Bicycles are not allowed in pedestrian malls such as The Corso at Manly.

“As we kick off our e-bike safety campaign, let's remember that safe riding isn't a destination; it's a journey we must all take together,” Mayor Heins said. 

To find out more about e-bike rules and the campaign visit Council’s webpage: www.northernbeaches.nsw.gov.au/services/roads-and-paths/road-safety/e-bike-safety