Raymond Ratcliffe has faced several challenges since he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) 33 years ago.
Most important points:
- A collision with an e-scooter In April, Hobart man Raymond Ratcliffe was hospitalized for a month and he is still dealing with complications
- People with disabilities say more needs to be done to ensure they can safely circumnavigate Hobart’s trails
- Hobart e-scooter trial ends in December and disability advocates want more education and awareness around its use
While he expected the physical complications of MS, he didn’t anticipate how difficult it would be to move around Hobart’s sidewalks from day to day.
“It’s a challenging situation to deal with all the time,” he said.
“You have to plan every move. You have to think about everything in advance.”
In April, Raymond was driving along the route he uses most days when he came across an e-scooter parked directly across the path.
With no other option, he tried to navigate around the obstacle.
“Unfortunately I clipped the back of it. It rolled my four wheel scooter which broke my coccyx and I landed on my shoulder,” he said.
Fortunately, at that moment passing ambulances came to his rescue.
He spent the next four weeks in hospital but still has not fully recovered from the incident.
“I’ve had problems ever since, but it gets better with corrective massage and physio,” he said.
He wants people to use common sense and courtesy when it comes to parking e-scooters.
“There’s nothing wrong with the scooters — it’s the person on them,” he said.
“Most people are pretty responsible, but you get a few that don’t do what you’d hope and it’s up to me to get around it.”
Chair of Disability Voices Tasmania Vaughn Bennison said people with disabilities face a wide range of difficulties in getting around.
“People in wheelchairs may not be able to move obstacles their way like I can as a blind person,” he said.
“If there’s a trash can that I can’t get past, I can move it around, and I often do. Also things like shopping carts.
“If you have a physical disability and use a wheelchair, or a walker or something, it’s not that easy to get things out of the way.”
Mr Bennison said footpaths blocked by e-scooters could cause serious harm to people with disabilities.
“We often hear of them being left on the sidewalk, not even standing up, sometimes lying down. They are a tripping hazard and they are quite heavy,” he said.
“I often find myself thinking ‘if this was a road, would you leave whatever it is there?’ If it was a road and cars would be inconvenienced, things would be shifted, but not on sidewalks.”
When it comes to blocked footpaths, Mr Bennison said there are simple things people can do to help.
“Getting things out of the way is obvious, but even if you see someone approaching who might be hit by a major barrier, let them know they’re there. Don’t push to help them, but be able to offer to help. “
Call for more awareness
Council on the Aging CEO Craig Chadwick wants more education about the use of e-scooters and the associated rules.
“Concerns have been raised about the regulation and supervision of the use of the scooters, and the use of these scooters by unlicensed users or underage users and how that affects public roads,” he said.
“They do cause congestion on the sidewalks, which can be especially difficult for people with mobility issues.”
“There is evidence of a large number of injuries occurring as a Result of falls or collisions, and I don’t think there is a general awareness among the public about how serious these injuries can be.”
The Tasmania Department of Health does not collect data on injuries related to e-scooters, but data from other states suggests that the number of patients entering hospital with serious injuries from e-scooters is on the rise.
Mr Chadwick wants people to consider all types of footpath users and exercise caution when using e-scooters.
“There has to be user responsibility, which is hard to guarantee, but it just has to be about users being good people,” he said.
“It’s not just about your own safety, but taking into account the safety of others, especially those people who have mobility issues.”
The two e-scooter providers in Hobart, Beam and Neuron, both said they had taken measures to prevent people from parking inappropriately, including warnings and suspensions.
Both have built-in training in their apps to demonstrate e-scooter safety.
The trial for e-scooter rental companies in Hobart ends in December.
Hobart City Council has installed three e-scooter parking spaces and said it is currently working with providers to build additional parking spaces.
A spokesman for the council also said it is currently monitoring footpaths and would work with a company to advise on the use and suitability of Hobart’s paths.
This would eventually Result in an app that provides suitable routes around Hobart for those with access issues.