Two scoots forward, one scoot backward

The use of relatively environmentally friendly electric scooters has surged in the last couple of years, mainly due to scooters for hire in many cities. Lime scooters arrived in Dunedin over a year ago, and it’s common to see them scattered over the city parked and lying on footpaths, and while not prolific on roads they must be being used.

They have not been without problems, in particular injuries of riders who crash. There has also been concerns about the use of scooters on footpaths, posing inconvenience and dangers to pedestrians.

The Government is now trying to address this by looking at restrictions on scooters, in particular limiting their speed to 15 km/h. This may make sense when scooting on footpaths, but it would seem a backward step in cycle lanes where bikes go much faster.

Beehive: Bid for safer footpaths

The Government is looking at ways to make footpaths more pedestrian friendly as new forms of transport such as e-scooters change the way people get around.

It’s looking at:

  • Clarifying that pedestrians and people in wheelchairs have right of way on the footpath
  • Putting in a speed limit of 15km/h (about running speed) and a width limit of 75cm for transport devices used on the footpath
  • Allowing e-scooters and other transport devices to use cycle lanes

“This package looks at how we can make our streets safer for those going from A to B, particularly young children when they are learning to ride bikes, and ensuring our road rules reflect real life,” Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter said.

“How we travel around our streets and footpaths is changing as more Kiwis choose to walk, cycle, and use new forms of mobility like e-scooters.

“New transport technologies like e-scooters are convenient, fun and help ease congestion, but we need to a balanced approach to ensure pedestrians retain priority on our footpaths.

Safety of pedestrians is important – but I don’t know whether there have been increased injuries of pedestrians due to the use of scooters.

And, limiting the speed of scooters on footpaths to 15 km/h may make some sense, it doesn’t make sense to also limit their speed to jogging pace on cycle lanes.

Other minor changes in the package to simplify and clarify road rules include:

  • Categorising vehicles to reflect changes in technology
  • Improving the safety of people walking, cycling and using micro-mobility devices by clarifying a number of give way rules
  • Giving  buses priority when exiting bus stops on roads with a speed limit of 60km/h or less
  • Clarifying the powers of road controlling authorities in relation to parking on berms.

Yesterday National announced a policy that would try to reduce regulations.

The consultation will be open from 9 March to 22 April 2020.

“Everyone has a right to feel safe on the road and close passes at speed are not only scary, they can be fatal,” Julie Anne Genter said.

Are they fatal? Have any pedestrians been killed by scooters? Or, Genter refers to roads, does she mean the speed of cars versus already slower scooters?

Safety is obviously an important consideration, of pedestrians, scooter riders and people in vehicles. Encouraging people to walk, scoot or pedal is a big thing these days.

But more pedestrians, scooters and bikes could cause congestion and safety problems.

And if they over-regulate it may deter people from using scooters.

I have looked into the practicality and economics of getting a scooter for commuting. Limiting speeds to 15 km/h would rule that option out for me.

‘Accessible Streets’ rules package consultation document www.nzta.govt.nz/accessible-streets-consultation