Beam launches electric scooters trial in Albury, unfortunately, plagued by issues


Today, electric scooter company Beam launched their services in Albury, NSW. Like many towns, adding a new transport option for residents and visitors increases mobility and allows people to move between locations with real convenience, often visiting locations they otherwise wouldn’t walk to.

With the trial starting at 11.30am today, many residents started spotting the eScooters parked on the sidewalks around the town. Having enjoyed the fun of electric scooters in other locations, I was keen to try out the local experience and headed from Wodonga across to Albury to give it a try.

On multiple corners around the CBD there were half a dozen scooters to choose from. As you’ll see from the photos below, I stopped at a few to take some photos around town. The next step was to actually try the service and compare it to others I’d used in the past, like Neuron and Lime.

When you approach a Beam Scooter you’ll spot a ‘Scan to ride’ instruction card. These contain a QR code that will link you to the iOS App Store or Google Store on Android to download the Beam app.

Once you have the app installed, you’ll then need to move through the introduction screens before nominating a payment method to pay for your ride. The two choices are Credit Card and Google Pay (for Android users). I attempted to use Google Pay as I knew it would auto-fill and didn’t have my wallet on me. Unfortunately, this was met with the error: ‘Failed to add payment – This payment method is temporarily not available now, please try with a different payment method’.

Having to return to my car to get my wallet, I managed to successfully add my credit card to the app and returned back to the scooters.

I then used the QR scanner in the Beam app to scan the code on one of the scooters. At first, this looked promising, showing the ID of the scooter, the price and a Start trip button. Unfortunately tapping this button returned another error.. ‘Oh dear, there’s a problem. Please ensure your card has enough balance or contact your bank for further assistance.’ Bad grammar aside, there’s definitely money in my account.

Given I exhausted the two payment options available, there was no way for me to take a ride on a Beam scooter today. I know there are teething issues with all new rollouts, but frankly, these are pretty unacceptable, particularly given the publicity from Albury City Council, the anticipation and excitement that the day had arrived and also the fact Beam has seen 20,000,000 kilometres travelled on their e-scooters and e-bikes in Australia and New Zealand since launching in 2019.

The price of a ride (if you can get one to work), is A$1.00 to unlock and then priced by the time you use it, at A$0.51 per minute. I guess this means you will want to ride fast to reduce your cost, not exactly the best thing to incentivise. There is a range of 50km, but given the zone, you’ll be restricted to is effectively Albury to Lavington, I doubt anyone will be doing any more than 10km if their wallets can handle it.

The app helps riders to ‘follow the rules of the road’ and details that in New South Wales, you can ride on shared paths, bicycle lanes and roads that have a speed limit of 50km/h or less and no dividing lines or median strip. While it says do not ride on the footpath, I expect many will risk a fine and do so. To be honest, most footpaths in Albury are wide enough to support pedestrians and scooters and I know I’d feel a lot safer passing people walking, than riding alongside a car at 50km/hr doing 10-15km/hr.

You also have to wear a helmet while riding and it is expected that you’ll leave the scooter standing up ready for the next person. There are obviously community concerns that these will be misused, and left in all sorts of weird and wonderful places, that’s natural with something new, but over time, I’m hopeful the community will do the right thing and embrace these electric scooters.

What I noticed about the scooters I saw today is that they are all pre-loved, with lots of scratches and marks on the scooters, clearly, they have been redeployed after being introduced somewhere else. I understand the commercial realities mean that the re-use of scooters makes the most sense, that said, it still would have been a lot nicer to see bright shiny new scooters around town.

Overall this is a pretty disappointing start to Albury’s eScooter trial, one I hope will ultimately be successful as electric scooters are fun to ride and it does solve a mobility issue for those who don’t have or don’t want a car.

If you’re looking for a scooter, you can fire up the app and you’ll see their last known location on the map. I was impressed at just how many are made available across the Albury CBD, there are dozens and dozens of them now in Albury. The trial will see as many as 300 scooters available which are geofenced to control how fast they can travel – The shared e-scooters will be limited to 10km/h on shared paths and 20km/h on bike lanes or roads. You must be 16 years old and sober to ride them.

You can get more information Albury’s eScooter Trial here.