Only a few years ago, e-scooters were a novelty in New Zealand. Now, they can be found in cities all over the country — in major cities such as Auckland and Wellington, and regional cities like Palmerston North.
Beam's e-scooter riders have already ridden more than 3.5 million kilometres in New Zealand to date. We've seen them explode in popularity across the country, and they've now landed in the streets of Whanganui.
Residents and visitors alike will soon be able to zip around town on a shared e-scooter, with 100 Beam e-scooters rolling out across the city from last week.
As with any new mode of transport, community members may have concerns and questions about how shared micromobility in Whanganui will operate.
And that's understandable — embracing a new vehicle on our streets is something many of us have never had to do. The majority of New Zealanders were born into the world of the car, with horses and carts relegated to the sidelines decades ago.
It is important that the community understands the advanced technology behind shared e-scooters that differs from the personal e-scooters they may have seen, or even shared bike schemes from years ago.
Beam has a strong emphasis on safety, investment in technology to monitor operations and nipping reckless behaviour in the bud, and investment in education for not only riders, but the broader community.
For example, we are able to automatically control the speed of e-scooters within certain areas, block rider access to other areas such as high foot-traffic or pedestrian-only streets, and detect and correct rider behaviour as it happens. Each shared e-scooter is also capped at a maximum speed. In addition, every rider has to acknowledge the riding rules prior to being allowed to start.
Our state-of-the-art GPS navigation system controlling each e-scooter is constantly updated with new "no ride" and "slow" zones, automatically adjusting the speed of each vehicle. It's called "geofencing" and it is an important tool in keeping e-scooters out of certain locations.
We also make our purple Beam fleet as safe as possible and are constantly adding new features to improve the experience. For example, our e-scooters in Whanganui will have a warning bell, anti-tipping kickstands, double brakes, and a Bluetooth-locked helmet.
To maintain city amenity, our virtual parking docks utilise technology and GPS to direct riders to appropriate parking spots, ensuring riders are unable to start and end a trip outside of these virtual parking locations. It is these virtual parking docks that will be in place in Whanganui. When riders finish their ride, we ask them to take a photo so we know it is parked safely.
If a rider does the wrong thing, we already know a fair bit about them. Every e-scooter has its own QR code which means every e-scooter can be tracked and monitored 24/7, with us knowing who the registered rider is at any moment. This assists us and the police with tracking down riders not doing the right thing.
It also assists our local marshals who we employ to know where each e-scooter is at all times so they can clean it, swap new batteries, relocate it to an optimum parking location to ensure it can be used again, pick up e-scooters which have fallen over and assist riders with their queries.
Our marshal team are local Whanganui residents who understand their city best, and are available 24/7, ensuring the e-scooter operations run smoothly.
They are supported by Beam Safety Ambassadors, who will roam central Whanganui, assisting riders and the broader community and answering questions on the scooter trial. We hire locally wherever we go, and our Whanganui Beam team care about the city as much as you do.
Beam has the lowest incident rate of any e-scooter operator, and incidents of vandalism or bad behaviour are rare. In the event that these occur, we investigate every single report made through our 24/7 customer service to ensure the actions of some don't ruin a good experience for others. Our three strikes policy ensures those doing the wrong thing are barred from our platform.
We're excited about the introduction of shared micromobility in Whanganui, and the potential for it to support modal shift to sustainable transport — something we've already seen across New Zealand.
Our data shows that whilst the majority (68 per cent) of Kiwi Beam riders still own a car, 35 per cent of these car-owners shared they used their car less as a result of having access to shared e-scooters.
We're committed to bringing the latest in micromobility technology to the city, and are looking forward to working collaboratively with the council and with the local community to make this trial a success.