To Beam or not to Beam?

Queenstown’s councillors will decide today whether or not to enter a ‘memorandum of understanding’ with an Australian-based e-scooter company for a two-year trial in Queenstown, Frankton and Wānaka.

In October, Mountain Scene reported Beam was eyeing up the resort to extend its New Zealand operations — they’ve already got a presence in five other locations, including Auckland — with partnering businesses not required to handle any capital expenditure, insurance or maintenance.

The company handles all of that, and provides commission on every trip from partner parking hubs.

Transport strategy manager Tony Pickard’s report to today’s council meeting says the company wants to set up 400 dockless e-scooters here and, actually, Beam could just set up and operate on the roads and footpaths without consent or approval, the same as as private cars do.

Recommending council enters into a two-year trial with Beam instead, Pickard notes they, and Way2Go, are looking at shifting travel modes to get people out of cars.

He notes we don’t know if Queenstown’s infrastructure’s suitable for a commercial e-scooter operation, with the purpose of the trial to test the resort’s suitability for the emerging transport mode, which could help with traffic congestion.

‘‘Fernhill and Frankton, for example, are connected to the town through roads and paths, and feedback from the trial would provide useful data on how this mode deals with range and gradients.

‘‘The operator is also looking to trial the e-scooters in Wānaka.’’

Pickard says while the Queenstown town centre’s ‘‘very compact’’, with improvements in design, e-scooters can operate on some ‘‘light, off-road terrain’’ due to their suspension, braking system, wheel size and traction.

Beam plans to operate parking zones on private land, for example, at hotels, resorts and cafes, so consent’s not required from council.

‘No ride zones’ and ‘speed restricted zones’ will be agreed and put in place — Beam’s suggesting a maximum speed of 15 kilometres an hour in central Queenstown, and 25kmh in other areas — and no more than five e-scooters will be deployed in each location.

Beam’s proposing to operate daily from 6am till 10pm — they’re to be inoperational at all other times, and removed from the CBDs by 11pm, or be seized by council, with $100 payable for release.

A ‘no ride late night precinct zone’ for community safety’s mooted, while Beam ‘‘must give consideration and take appropriate action to ensure e-scooters will not be made available during weather conditions that could be detrimental to rider safety’’.

In 2019, Lime’s plans for a six-month trial of 400 scooters were met with public outrage — it was canned due to Covid.

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