2023 | Volume 24 | Issue 5



Dr Kate Martin (Victoria, Australia) Trauma and General Surgeon at The Royal Melbourne Hospital and Austin Health

Dr Martin Wullschleger (QLD, Australia) Chair, RACS QLD Trauma Committee

Professor Kirsten Vallmur (QLD, Australia) Chair of Trauma Surveillance and Data Analytics Jamieson Trauma Institute – Metro North Health

We often hear the term ’New World City' and Brisbane is heading that way.

Brisbane released its New World City Action Plan in 2022[1]—an industry led vision for the city as it moves towards hosting the Olympic and Paralympic games in 2032. Much is happening—Cross River Rail, development of Olympic venues, invigorating and creating new entertainment, cultural and office precincts. Work is underway with the government's satellite hospital projects and plans are being finalised for the redevelopment of the famous Gabba.

This coupled with the release of the Intergenerational Report 2023 present challenges[2]. In calling for change to density limits in cities rather than continuing the suburban spread, the report puts pressure on how to move people and other things within and across the city. Cross river rail will help as do the Clem 7 and airport tunnels, and the second Gateway Bridge, all of which have been developed over the last 10 years. The Council of Mayors in Queensland are also promoting the potential for flying taxis to ferry competitors and spectators around Brisbane for the Olympics—designs and prototypes are already available[3].

One of the significant changes to the mobility of people across the city in the last five years has been e-mobility, such as e-scooters and more recently e-bikes. Since the e-scooter company Lime introduced their shared e-scooters in Brisbane in 2018 there has been an explosion of usage in portable e-mobility devices across the country. This is a cheap, readily available and climate friendly alternative for commuting and for leisure. This has also presented challenges with injuries and even deaths associated with the use and misuse of these transport mediums.

The state and national trauma committees in the College have advocated for changes in infrastructure, safety, regulation, enforcement, and legislation around their use.

Like the excellent advocacy the trauma committees have done over the years around quad bikes and alcohol related harm the committees are not calling for the banning of these devices but asking for sensible changes. 

Since their introduction, e-scooter related trauma has increased substantially, with injuries to, and deaths of, riders, passengers, and pedestrians placing further pressure on first responders (ambulance and police) including hospitals and health systems.

National and international studies have documented injuries related to e-scooter use and report that both riders and other road and path users, such as pedestrians, are vulnerable to harm. The e-scooters can also be prone to risk-taking, with reports of product misuse and reports of hacking devices to override built-in speed limits—allowing riders to greatly exceed speed limits.

E-scooters and other e-mobility devices are subject to varying regulatory frameworks across Australia. Speed limits, age limits and where people may legally ride their personal mobility devices (PMD)—footpaths, roads, shared paths—varies across the states and territories.

Furthermore, in some areas, only hired e- scooters are legal in public spaces whereas in other places, privately-owned e-scooters are also permitted. Safety concerns have prompted some jurisdictions in Australia to refuse to participate in e-scooter rental schemes, though electric mobility groups continue to lobby to expand the legalisation of private e-scooter use in every Australian state and territory. Implementing a consistent approach to PMD standards and legislation on a national level would provide beneficial transparency for consumers and other stakeholders.

In response to the recognition that e-mobility devices are becoming an important part of our cities transport infrastructure yet appear to be responsible for potentially preventable morbidity and mortality, the RACS Trauma Committee has chosen to make e-mobility the topic for the 2023 Surgical Week Symposium.

If you would like to know more, read the College’s position statement

If you wish to know more or contribute to the discussion, please join us at QUT Kelvin Grove Campus for this year’s Trauma Symposium on 17 November.

[1] https://www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/planning-and-building/planning-guidelines-and-tools/neighbourhood-planning-and-urban-renewal/new-world-city-design-guide-buildings-that-breathe

[2] https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2023-08/p2023-435150.pdf

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/jul/21/flight-of-fancy-queensland-mayors-plans-for-self-flying-taxis-spark-questions-and-criticism