Since Beam e-scooters were introduced to Whangārei, ACC claims for e-scooter injuries have soared by more than 400 per cent. Photo / Michael Cunningham
There’s been a more than 400 per cent increase in the number of ACC claims for e-scooter injuries in Whangārei in the 12 months since Beam e-scooters were introduced.
Figures released to the Northern Advocate
show that in the 12 months to November, 2022, there were 94 new claims for injuries caused by scooters since the Beam e-scooters were introduced to the city in December 2021. The new claims have so far cost ACC $70,873 in treatments, with the costs likely to increase in some cases.
In the 24 months before the e-scooters were introduced, there were 18 new claims to ACC for scooter injuries – at a treatment cost of $15,105.
However, ACC says figures are only for scooter injuries reported to them, and other injuries may have occurred that did not need ACC treatment.
E-scooters are identified by ACC when the accident description includes one of the following keyword combinations with some spelling variation: battery-powered scooter, Flamingo scooter, Uber scooter, Beam scooter, green scooter, Wave scooter, electric scooter, Jump scooter, electronic scooter, Lime scooter, e-scooter or Neuron scooter.
Claims are included where the accident location is within the Whangārei region, although the client may not necessarily reside or seek treatment in this district.
The danger of the Beam e-scooters was highlighted last month, when a person riding one suffered a broken leg after colliding with a car on Dent St at the Town Basin.
One person not happy about the commercial e-scooters is deaf advocate Kim Robinson, who wants the Whangārei District Council (WDC) to stop Beam, or any other company, from operating e-scooters in the city.
“I’ve been asking the council to get rid of the Beam e-scooters as they’re a hazard towards disabled people, blocking footpaths etc, despite the assurances this won’t happen,” Robinson, chairperson of Deaf Action New Zealand, said.
“I have no objection to people owning their own e-scooter but… not the rental e-trash. Owners don’t park their own e-scooters like the current rental ones [that] are being parked in inconvenient ways.”
He was not surprised there have been injuries of all sorts caused, one way or the other, by e-scooters, but said the city’s footpaths – which he described as goat tracks – would also have caused injuries.
Jeff Devine, strategy and planning manager with the WDC/Northland Transportation Alliance said the council does not give approval for the use of scooters, the Government had already approved the use of scooters on the roads and footpaths.
Devine said the council just grants a licence to provide scooters for hire and the use of private scooters on roads and footpaths is not under council control.
He said the Government approval does not require the user of an electric scooter rider to wear a helmet, but Beam encourages users to wear a helmet while in use and provides a helmet for use, attached to the scooters.
“As the wearing of helmets is not a legal requirement for all scooter users, council cannot impose such a condition,” Devine said.
He said the conditions of the licence to operate requires Beam to manage the parking of the scooters on the footpaths and to provide a 24/7 service to collect, relocate and attend to any complaints or issues.
“Council monitors complaints and the operators response to complaints. There are penalties that council can impose on the operator if they do not comply with the conditions of the licence.”
The WDC initially approved a six-month trial of the e-scooter hire service in 2021. Following that, the council approved a 12-month licence with conditions which included some exclusion zones in the CBD.
The council at that time did not require the addition of e-scooter bans in the Public Places Bylaw. This may be considered in future bylaw reviews.
Frederick Conquer, head of sustainability at Beam, said the company’s commitment is to the safety of both the riding and non-riding community, and ensuring rider compliance with legislation.
“We’ve been pleased with how the service has been received by the community with great uptake across the city. With many transport challenges through this year, shared e-scooters have been a safe and accessible way to get around town,” Conquer said.
“We have comprehensive in-app rider education, and incorporate safety features such as precision geofencing, vehicle tracking, triple brakes and bluetooth-locked helmets. Our key safety message is to always keep safety in mind while riding, be a considerate rider at an appropriate speed and look out for obstacles. When riding on the footpath, always give way to pedestrians.”
There is a dedicated team in Whangārei who manage the e-scooter fleet.
“They work to charge and distribute the scooters, work with the community on safety and relationships, and service and maintain the vehicles. We believe that shared micro-mobility is a transport solution that can work for cities of all sizes and demographics, aiding in easing car congestion and ensuring safe, sustainable and technology-backed transportation for all residents,” Conquer said.
“We are working to build a long-standing relationship with the local communities in which we operate, and bring a positive environmental impact to the city.”
Few of the Beam e-scooters in Whangārei appear to have helmets with them anymore.
ACC’s top tips for staying safe on e-scooters:
■ Share the space: respect the people around you by allowing space when passing, and if on the road, follow the road rules.
■ Wear a helmet: it should fit nice and snugly and have two fingers of space from your eyebrows. If you do fall off and have a serious knock to the body or head, see a doctor.
■ Start off slow: if you’ve never ridden a scooter before, get a feel for it first and find your balance before you go racing off.
■ Have fun: most of all, enjoy being out and about, and trying something new.