Getting around town has never been easier with e-bikes and other electric personal mobility devices (PMDs) opening up a new world of transport options for those looking for cheaper, more convenient and environmentally friendly ways to travel.
This fast-growing trend includes e-scooters, e-skateboards, Segways and even hoverboards, although these are more self-balancing scooters than the famed flying device in the blockbuster movie Back to the Future.
Before jumping aboard, it is important to consider the safety and legal issues around the various PMDs. The rules are not always straightforward and some electric devices might not even be legal on public paths and roads.
More than 3 million Australians use pedal power to get around each week. In recent years, you may have noticed a rise in battery-powered electric bikes zipping around.
Whether you’re on a traditional or electric bike, cyclists are among the most vulnerable road users and following the rules will help you stay safe.
In Western Australia, the rules for e-bikes are the same as those for traditional bikes although riders must be over 16 years of age and the power assistance must cut out at 25 km/h.
Riders of e-bikes must wear a helmet and comply with the rules that apply to all bikes, including:
- The bike must have front and rear lights;
- Have at least one working brake and warning device (bell/horn);
- Have a front white light and a red rear light and reflector which is visible for 50m;
- Cyclists can ride side by side with up to 1.5m between riders;
- Cannot ride less than 2m behind a vehicle;
- Cannot pass on left of a vehicle that is turning left;
- Cannot ride on freeways or in pedestrian malls;
- Can use the left lane of a roundabout when turning right, but must give way to vehicles exiting a roundabout;
- Should ensure visibility by wearing reflective or fluorescent clothing.
In WA, people of all ages can now ride on footpaths. That means electric bikes too, as long as they are compliant and ridden in single file.
While there are many electric scooters for sale in WA, many are illegal to ride on public paths and roads because they have too much power and travel too fast.
Motorised scooters can only be ridden legally if their maximum power output is 200 watts and they travel no more than 10 km/h on level ground. These e-scooters are permitted on low-speed roads, footpaths and shared paths, provided the rider keeps to the left and gives way to pedestrians on public paths.
Riders of compliant e-scooters must wear a helmet and follow the rules under Road Traffic Code 2000:
- No riding on roads with a speed limit exceeding 50km/h;
- No riding on roads with a dividing line or median strip;
- No riding on one-way roads with more than one marked lane; and
- No riding during the hours of darkness.
The more powerful e-scooters, which exceed 200 watts and travel at speeds of more than 10 km/h, come under the same vehicle category as motorcycles and are subject to the same licensing laws. That means holding a motorcycle licence and wearing a motorbike helmet. Otherwise, they are confined to use on private property and fines can be issued if you are caught riding on public roads and paths.
The popularity of personal mobility devices continues to grow as more people look for sustainable options for short trips. However, there are growing issues around their safety following the death of a man who fell from an electric skateboard in Carnarvon last year.
National safety guidelines for personal mobility devices were proposed by the National Transport Commission in late 2020. Although the WA government has agreed to the recommendations, it is still working with stakeholders to determine how best to modify state legislation to accommodate the proposals.
Segways are only permitted as part of commercial tours during daylight hours.
If you’re thinking of joining the trend and buying an e-mobility device it is advisable to consider the rules before making a purchase.