E-scooting into the oBike void

By David Schout

After Melbourne’s first venture into dockless bicycles proved disastrous, an electric scooter company wants to fill the void.

California-based Lime has approached both VicRoads and the City of Melbourne in a bid to get its e-scooters on to city streets.

However, the first hurdle to launching in the city may prove its toughest. At present, e-scooters exceeding a 10kmh top speed and 200W capacity are classified as motorbikes, and require a licence and approved helmet.

These road rules would render the scooters – which have a top speed of 23kmh and 250W capacity – redundant, as most potential users would not have a motorcycle licence.

The scooters, which are currently available in US and European cities, work in a similar manner to the now obsolete oBike, whereby users unlock them via a smartphone app, and park them where they please.

While the “dockless” aspect in theory allows greater user-flexibility and eliminates upkeep costs of docking stations, oBikes were consistently discarded and vandalised.

Its failure, however, has not deterred Lime.

“Lime is conscious of Australia’s history with companies who have introduced micro-mobility solutions in the past and did not put the same care and commitment into integrating their products into the community,” a spokesperson said.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp said after oBike’s demise that “regulating people’s behaviour” was “a big challenge for operators”.

The startup has claimed it will more closely monitor its fleet. When pressed on how it will overcome Victoria’s tough rules on electric scooters, the spokesperson said current discussions would determine its viability. 

“(We are) working with officials to determine whether the e-scooter is the right/possible product for the Melbourne market.”

Both VicRoads and the council confirmed they had spoken with the company.

While confirming that the scooters would be illegal without a licence, VicRoads road user director Roger Chao said his team was researching whether e-scooters could became a part of the transport network.

In the US, the scooters currently cost US$1 to unlock, and US$0.15 per minute to operate.

In addition to e-scooters, Lime’s fleet also includes bicycles. It is unclear whether Lime would try and launch dockless bicycles in the city should its bid for e-scooters fail.

The company, which is backed by Uber, is also advertising various roles across Australia and searching for a suitable office.

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