Lime scooters could be forced off Auckland's streets

Lime's Auckland trial faces being cut short as early as this week after reports its scooters have a tendency to hit the brakes on their own.

A man was seriously injured last week when the Lime scooter he was riding locked up, sending him flying into the pavement.

"I sat up, spat out a little blood and some teeth and walked on home," Liam Thompson told RNZ on Monday.

He's now on a liquid diet thanks to a broken jaw, but he's not the first to experience the flaw. Lime actually pulled its scooters from two Swiss towns in January when its scooters began braking on their own.

But approximately 600 scooters remain on Auckland streets. Auckland Council told Newshub the company has until 12pm Friday to "provide information on the number of scooters affected, the technical issue leading to failure, its proposed solution including how it will manage pulling affected scooters off the streets, and assurance there will no further malfunctions".

"Our priority remains ensuring that those people who choose to use this innovative new mode of transport are safe," said Auckland Council chief operating officer Dean Kimpton.

"We will continue to hold Lime and other e-scooter providers accountable for the safety of their scooter product."

Lime has told the council it plans to meet the deadline.

Auckland Transport chairperson Lester Levy, a medical doctor and former DHB head, said he had concerns for safety right the day Lime scooters arrived.

"I was concerned [dangerous] behaviour would lead to injuries, and unfortunately that has unfolded to be the case," he told RNZ on Wednesday.

That was before reports the scooters would randomly hit the brakes, mid-ride.

Auckland Transport had little input into giving Lime the green light, with the company's licence falling under a bylaw monitored by Auckland Council. Dr Levy said it should have been handled by senior management, rather than being rubber-stamped by staff.

He suggested that in future, companies that want to provide transport services should have to formally prove their safety before getting approval.

"We cannot let cool trump safety," Dr Levy said. "They are very cool and people love them, but I'm very worried about… people that may not be alert enough, may not see it coming, may not be able to get out of the way quickly enough."

Lime scooters in action.
Lime scooters in action. Photo credit: Supplied

For now, Lime's trial lasts until the end of March. When the braking flaw was first reported in January, Lime said it checked its entire New Zealand fleet. 

Lime has been contacted to ask how it plans to avoid such a penalty. It has so far reportedly failed to respond to authorities' requests, but told NZME on Wednesday it has taken malfunctioning scooters off the streets.

Neither had responded to Newshub at the time of publication.

Dr Levy said if Lime doesn't get in touch "with immediacy" to prove the scooters are safe, they should be recalled without delay.

Since Lime scooters arrived in October, more than $500,000 has been paid out by ACC to people suffering electric scooter injuries - more than half to Aucklanders. 

The Government is considering setting a 10km/h speed limit on electric scooters. Lime scooters can go more than twice as fast as that.