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Lime plans Adelaide e-scooter return

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Lime e-scooters could return to Adelaide by summer, with the company claiming it is in talks with the State Government and metropolitan councils to bring a fleet of up to 1500 scooters to city and suburban footpaths.

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The US company says it has spoken to all metropolitan councils in Adelaide, as well as the State Government, to introduce what it calls a “region-based” transport solution that eliminates the need for geo-fencing at the city perimeter.

In February, Lime became the first company to trial e-scooters in the CBD, but it was forced to leave in April when the Adelaide City Council granted two of its competitors – Beam and Ride – a new permit.

At the time, InDaily revealed a confidential email was sent to councillors claiming that Lime had declined to force its e-scooters to slow to a stop if they went outside a set of council-imposed boundaries.

Lime responded by threatening legal action against the council, alleging that it had run an “unfair” process and that its request would compromise user safety.

But the company has now changed its tactic, claiming it is “really excited to come back” to Adelaide following conversations between it, the State Government and the city council.

“We want to come back to Adelaide and I believe the council and the State Government is going to provide an avenue for us to come back to Adelaide,” Lime’s Asia Pacific public affairs manager Will Peters told InDaily.

“I think at the moment a tiny percentage of Adelaidians have used it (e-scooters).

“We can really grow that out across that region and not just capped at the four terraces.”

Beam and Ride’s current trial will come to an end on October 13, with the city council yet to confirm whether it will support the continuation of e-scooters beyond that date.

The State Government is equally non-committal, with Transport Minister Stephan Knoll telling InDaily in a statement that he was “awaiting the completion of the current e-scooter trial before any decisions are made for the future”.

But Peters said Lime was hopeful its previous foray in Adelaide – which saw about 50,000 people ride the green scooters around city footpaths – would bolster its chances of a successful return.

He said the company was currently seeking guidance on how it could return to Adelaide once Beam and Ride’s trial wraps up, with Lime’s preference being that the State Government introduce a permit, similar to what is currently in place in Brisbane.

That permit allows Lime to operate about 1000 e-scooters through Brisbane’s CBD and inner suburbs.

“We want to make sure that a person can go from one council to another council and they are not limited by the fact it’s a council border,” Peters said.

“If you’re going home at night and you look at this (an e-scooter) and go, hang on a second, I’m going to trial one of these new solutions… they get on it and they find that they can get one kilometre down the road and then for no obvious reason it stops, that’s really bad and something that we don’t want to occur.

“A lot of trips, they’re not in just within one LGA, they’re not within just one location, and I don’t think if you’re looking for a transport solution… that you want to cap that and limit that.

“It’s a region-based solution that we need.”

The council-defined boundaries of the “geofence” e-scooter providers are expected to maintain. Image: supplied

Peters said the company had engaged in “positive” discussions with the Adelaide City Council, with councils including West Torrens and Port Adelaide Enfield also expressing interest in e-scooters.

He said creating a uniform set of rules for e-scooter usage would be key to coordinating an across-council permit.

“Some councils have met with us, some have said, ‘look, we’re going to wait on the State Government to give guidance’,” he said.

“I don’t think the geo-fence is the right way to do things and I think the term geo-fencing is incorrect as well.

“You really want to look at service zones, because when you look at a service zone that’s the area that’s going to be serviced by the scooter.

“If you do go outside that zone then the scooter can slow down gradually and we can go retrieve it at the end of the day.”

Asked how many scooters Lime would likely need to service the whole of metropolitan Adelaide, Peters said it depended on how many councils got on board.

“It could be 1000 scooters, it could be 1500 scooters on different areas, but each one is collected overnight and then we deploy relative to the demand that’s needed,” he said.

“We would probably do a gradual launch back, so you would have… 300 or 400 initially and then the next day we would see how that’s affected the market, the supply and the demand, and then we will manipulate that to make sure scooters aren’t just sitting on the street not being used.”

Knoll said the State Government would work with councils to determine the success of the current trial “and any possible expansion or changes to things such as location, speed and road access”.

Adelaide City Council director of place, Klinton Devenish, said the council was open to meeting with Lime or any e-scooter operator about future opportunities “however our team remains focussed on the current trial”.

“Later this year the trial will be evaluated on safety, usage and the benefits of e-scooters on the transport system,” he said.

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