Safety and footpath access were two of the more pressing issues raised at the first ever Mobility Scooter Safety Awareness session held in Cowra on Wednesday, November 15.
The session was organised by Cowra Highway Patrol, Acting Sergeant, Annette Tindall, who was thrilled by the turn out of around 30 community members including 22 scooter owners.
Cowra's session, a collaboration with local scooter supplier, Beds R Us, is the first of its kind and the brainchild of Annette who was given a challenge by NSW Police to organise a community event.
For Annette scooter safety instantly sprang to mind as a big void in the community information programs offered by police.
"I saw this as a great opportunity to get some really important messages out to the community, clarify road rules and most importantly support local scooter owners to keep their independence and stay safe.
"We have an aging population and a growing number of scooter riders, and this program is designed to inform them of their rights and responsibilities and what they can expect of other people in the community."
"It was also very important for us to hear back from them on their concerns as riders.
"For instance, I didn't realise until today how unstable scooters are, and how compromised people's safety is by uneven, damaged footpaths and how difficult access from roads to footpaths is in some locations."
Scooter rider, Sandra O'Brien, said the session had been very helpful for her.
"The main message I will take home is to look, listen and watch.
"It was also good to get the message out around the difficulty of access from roads to footpaths."
Dave Fragar, who came along as an observer, said the important thing he would take home is that scooter riders are considered to have the same rights as pedestrians.
"They have the same rights and the same laws apply as pedestrians. For example, at a pedestrian crossing motorists have to give way to scooter riders."
The excellent attendance and positive feedback means the Cowra event will be used as a blueprint to be rolled out in other centres such as Bathurst and Orange.
Annette said, "Building on the success of today, I hope to organise a similar information session for Cowra riders in March or April of next year."
There are estimated to be around 100 scooters in Cowra.
Following is some of the information presented.
Mobility scooters, also known as Gophers or Mobility Aids, must only have a top speed of 10km/h on ground level, must have two or more wheels and don't include a wheeled recreational devices such a motor scooter, pram, stroller, trolley or any other motor assisted machine.
They are built for transporting a single person who either can't walk, has trouble walking, is elderly and physically impaired.
When using a mobility scooter you should not drive on highways, roundabouts or major roads, don't drive across driveways without looking for vehicles entering and leaving driveways, don't drive up or turn around on steep hills unless it's necessary, don't travel on either a bicycle path or bicycle lane, alcohol mixed with prescription or other drugs may further affect your ability to use a mobility scooter.
To use a mobility scooter ride on the footpath, preferably at walking speed which is two to three kilometres per hour, watch for vehicles entering and leaving driveways, wear bright clothes and attach a safety flag to your chair high enough above your head to be visible to others.
How to scooter safely - if you're forced to use roads, travel on quieter streets, keep to the side and face oncoming traffic wherever possible. If possible, attach rear view mirrors to your chair and wait until traffic has stopped before travelling onto a pedestrian crossing.
Some tips and tricks to remember to safely use your mobility scooter; judge speeds and distances, spot obstacles and avoid collisions, keep your balance and adjust your body position when travelling across uneven ground, operate controls and manoeuvre the scooter around tight corners.
NSW road rules for scooter riders;
- If you're forced to use roads, travel on quieter street, keep to the side and face oncoming traffic wherever possible.
- Avoid highways, roundabouts, major roads and heavy vehicles
- Be prepared to stop for pedestrians
- Cross the road at safe places such as traffic lights with pedestrian signals and pedestrian crossings.
- Plan a route that allows access to a footpath for the entire journey.
- Wait until traffic has stopped before travelling onto a pedestrian crossing.
- Obey all pedestrian road rules
- Not unreasonably obstruct the path of another driver or pedestrian
Your obligations as a mobility scooter user are;
- When using your mobility scooter, you're considered a pedestrian. You must follow the same rules that apply to pedestrians.
- It is recommended mobility scooter users don't travel on either a bicycle path or a bicycle lane. However, you can cross a bicycle path/lane, use a bicycle path if there are no signs that prohibit it and use a bicycle lane for up to 50 metres.
- A bicycle path is an area that looks like a footpath, but is designated for bikes.
- Overall as long as you meet these safety rules, you can use your mobility scooter on a shared path, footpath and nature strip.
In common areas of travel in Cowra such as Redfern, Brisbane and Liverpool streets footpaths are available to use safely, to cross use the most direct route and do not travel diagonally across the intersections.
Use pedestrian traffic islands or crossings as extra safety where available to cross major roads and intersections with roundabouts.
For more information contact Senior Constable Annette Tindall at the Cowra Police Station on 63415099.