The Western Australian
February 27, 2024
James Curtis FAIM GAICD
Why Footpaths and Bike Paths are More Crowded Than Ever

If you’ve noticed your suburb’s footpaths and bike paths seem a little more crowded lately, you might be seeing the impact of micromobility.

West Australians have embraced micromobility with a passion, and according to data from 2022, WA has the second highest number of e-scooter consumers per capita (second to the ACT), driven unsurprisingly by the demand from 18 to 34-year-olds.

With the exponential growth of e-bikes and e-scooters zipping across our urban landscape, governments and communities are facing a dual challenge. First, getting our transport infrastructure fit for purpose and second, getting community buy-in for the micromobility revolution.

This revolution is happening quickly, with many Perth LGAs now undertaking trial e-scooter hire schemes, including the City of Perth, the City of Stirling and the City of Vincent. But with each additional hire scheme and increasing private ownership of e-bikes and e-scooters, there is pressure being placed on the ageing local infrastructure network of paths and lanes, leading to increasing tensions between users, motorists, walkers, cyclists and runners.

Let’s be clear: the benefits of micromobility on our environment, well-being, road congestion, and hip pocket outweigh the naysayer view, but we have some way to go before we achieve a smooth integration of these relatively new transport modes.

We have had significant investment into major infrastructure in the CBD recently. Including, as part of the Perth City Deal, a $1.6B infrastructure partnership between State, Federal and local governments to improve bike lanes and shared pathways throughout the CBD and the work now underway on the causeway pedestrian and cyclist bridge.

But as we see increased density in the inner suburbs, more tourists flocking back to Perth, and cost of living pressures, combined with projects like the new ECU city campus, which is set to inject 10,000 students into the CBD, we can expect to see many more e-rideable on Perth’s roads and footpaths. More broadly, the Metronet project will lead to a significant increase in last-mile use of e-scooters between the home, station, and local shops.

Anyone who’s visited Europe or the US recently for post-COVID travel would have experienced first-hand the mostly seamless integration of e-scooters and e-bikes in cities and suburban areas. However, like Australia, cities around the world have had different approaches to and experiences with micromobility. Some major cities, such as Atlanta in the US and Paris, have introduced bans on hire e-scooters, citing safety concerns, but others, like Brisbane, an early adopter of e-scooters for hire, have embraced e-scooters and look set to keep them as part of the transport mix.

If we intend to make the most of our critical infrastructure investment and increase the vibrancy of urban Perth, we need to evolve our approach to light transport infrastructure to accommodate the full range of vehicles and pedestrians.

All levels of government in WA must continue to invest in micromobility infrastructure if they are to keep pace with the booming Australian micromobility market, which is forecast to grow by 89 per cent between 2020 and 2030.

This would include more priority paths that connect within suburbs and the CBD and an increased number of secure and aesthetically pleasing micromobility parking lots in the CBD and inner suburbs, which could integrate charging stations connected to local community infrastructure.

Improving the safety of users, pedestrians, and other road users, plus increased community education on e-renewables, should be made a priority. We can’t afford, in the infancy of this rapid movement, to have an “us versus them” mentality develop between micromobility users and others.

An increase in community education, combined with sensible regulations that improve user safety and encourage harmony between all road users, pedestrians and our broader community, is critical.

The micromobility revolution is here. You can either hitch a ride yourself or watch and marvel at how e-rideable will shape our urban environment for the future.