Ausnew Home Care | Disability advocates seek better public education about e-scooter hazards

Disability advocates seek better public education about e-scooter hazards

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Raymond Ratcliffe has faced several challenges since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) 33 years ago.

While he expected the physical complications which came with MS, he didn't anticipate how hard it would be moving around day-to-day along Hobart's footpaths. 

"It's a challenging situation to deal with all the time," he said.

"You've got to plan your every move, you've got to think about everything in advance."

In April, Raymond was travelling along the route he uses most days when he came across an e-scooter parked directly across the path. 

With no other option, he tried to navigate around the obstacle.

"I unfortunately clipped the back of it, it rolled my four-wheeled scooter which fractured my coccyx and I landed on my shoulder," he said.

Luckily, paramedics travelling past at the time came to his aid.

An older man sits in a mobility scooter on a deck. Ausnew Home Care, NDIS registered provider, My Aged Care
Raymond Ratcliffe fractured his coccyx when his mobility scooter toppled while trying to navigate around an e-scooter.(ABC News: Megan Oliver)

He spent the next four weeks in hospital, but still has not fully recovered from the incident.

"I've been having trouble ever since, but it's been getting better with remedial massage and physio," he said.

He wants people to use common sense and courtesy when it comes to parking e-scooters.

"There's nothing wrong with the scooters - it's the person on it," he said.

"Most people are pretty responsible, but you get the odd one or two that's not doing what you would hope and it's left up to me to get around it."

A head shot of a man looking down slightly
Vaughn Bennison says the general public is not aware how navigating e-scooters can result in serious injuries.(ABC News: Luke Bowden)

Chairman of Disability Voices Tasmania Vaughn Bennison said people with disabilities faced a wide range of difficulties getting around.

"People in wheelchairs may be unable to move obstructions in their way like I can as a blind person," he said.

"If there's a rubbish bin that I can't get past, I can shift it, and I frequently do. Things like shopping trollies as well.

"If you have a physical disability and use a wheelchair, or a walking frame or something like that, moving things out of your way is not something that's particularly easy to do."

Mr Bennison said footpaths blocked by e-scooters could cause serious harm to people with disabilities.

"Frequently we're hearing of them being left on the footpath, not even being stood upright, sometimes lying down. They're a trip hazard, and they're quite heavy," he said.

"I find myself frequently thinking 'if this was a road, would you let whatever it is sit there?' If it was a road and cars were being inconvenienced, things would be shifted but on footpaths they're not."

When it comes to blocked footpaths, Mr Bennison said there were simple things people could do to help. 

"Moving things out of the way is an obvious one, but also if you see somebody coming that might be impacted by a significant barrier, let them know that it's there. Don't insist you help them, but you can offer to help."

Call for greater awareness

Three purple e-scooters parked on a footpath.
E-scooters have also been on trial in Launceston.(ABC News: Luke Bowden)

Council on the Ageing chief executive Craig Chadwick wants to see greater education around the use of e-scooters and the rules associated with them.

"There have been concerns raised about the regulating and the policing of the use of the scooters, and the use of these scooters by unlicensed or underage users and how that affects public thoroughfare," he said. 

"They do cause congestion on the footpaths, which can be particularly difficult for people with mobility issues." 

"There's been evidence of a large range of injuries which do occur due to falls or collisions, and I don't think there's a general awareness in the public of how serious these injuries can be." 

Tasmania's Department of Health does not collect data on injuries related to e-scooters, but data from other states suggests the rates of patients presenting to hospital with serious e-scooter injuries are rising. 

Orange e-scooter left parked on pathway with pedestrians walking in the background at South Brisbane.
E-scooter companies say their apps include safe riding instructions.(ABC News: Michael Lloyd)

Mr Chadwick wants to see people consider all types of footpath users and take care when using e-scooters.

"There needs to be accountability from the users, which is a difficult thing to ensure but it just needs to be about users being good human beings," he said. 

"It's not just about your own safety, but about considering the safety of others, particularly with those people who have mobility issues." 

The two e-scooter providers in Hobart, Beam and Neuron, both said they had measures in place to prevent people parking inappropriately, including warnings and suspensions. 

Both have in-built training in their apps to demonstrate e-scooter safety. 

Male and female riding e-scooters on city footpath.
The Hobart council's e-scooter trial finishes in December.(Supplied: City of Hobart)

The trial for e-scooter rental providers in Hobart finishes in December.

Hobart City Council has three e-scooter bays installed, and said it was currently working with providers to build additional parking bays.

A council spokesperson also said it was currently auditing footpaths and would work with a company to advise on the use and suitability of Hobart's pathways. 

This would eventually result in an app that will provide suitable routes around Hobart for people with access issues.

Three people on purple schooters near a waterfront foreshore.
E-scooters that track the conditions of roads and paths are being trialled in the Hunter Valley.(Facebook: Beam AU)
Source: ABC

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