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

Lime scooter introduction has had mixed response

Since the introduction Lime scooters were launched in Dunedin 10 days ago there has been a lot of free publicity for a commercial enterprise, but not all of it has been good.

It is now common to see clutters of scooters cluttering footpaths in the mornings, but they get scattered during the day. Out and about yesterday there were quite a few being used.

There has been some stupidity. It only took a day for someone to try one down Baldwin Street – I didn’t see it explained how they got it up. The electric scooters don’t do well on hills. I saw someone having to push one up London Street (just off George Street) after giving up trying to power up. There’s a lot of hills in Dunedin, but there’s quite a bit of flat too, especially around the CBD and University and Polytech campuses.

There have been reports of a steady stream of injured riders going to the Emergency Department. This isn’t surprising. I haven’t seen anyone wearing a helmet, and I saw someone riding one wearing jandals, so feet are obviously at risk.

There has been one serious accident that has raised serious questions. An international student was knocked off a scooter by a truck in the early hours of Friday morning – Scooter rider out of surgery, remains serious.

There has been an unconfirmed report that the scooter went through a red light, but regardless of that questions are being asked about being able to use one at night, the scooters don’t have lights and are supposed to be taken off the road at night.

ODT:  Don’t ‘demonise’ Lime scooters over crash – Bidrose

An investigation is ongoing, but the ODT has been told the woman rode through a red light at the intersection and into the path of the truck.

A police spokeswoman would not confirm that, saying the Serious Crash Unit had examined the scene but “we are not able to speculate on the cause of the crash while the investigation is ongoing”.

Lime also refused to answer specific questions about why the scooter was on the street at that hour of the morning.

The company signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Dunedin City Council that included a requirement for scooters to be removed from public places each evening.

The ODT understands “juicers” — those who collect and charge the battery-powered vehicles — have been told to collect scooters needing charging from 9 o’clock every evening.

All other scooters were to be off the streets by midnight, and were not to be returned again until the following morning.

There have been inevitable reports of pedestrian clashes with scooters on footpaths. This has also been an issue in other places where the scooters have been introduced. And this has prompted calls for speed restrictions.

Stuff:  Government looks set to impose 10kmh Lime scooter speed limit

Work is under way on law changes that will impose a 10kmh speed limit for Lime electric scooters, with the Government set to consult on the new rules early this year.

But the scooters soon became a topic of controversy, with Auckland Mayor Phil Goff ordering an urgent scooter safety report in October after councillor Christine Fletcher was almost hit by a rider.

Goff later raised safety concerns with Transport Minister Phil Twyford. In his letter, he asked that the Ministry of Transport instruct police to pull up “dangerous scooter use” and raised the possibility of a e-scooter speed limit.

Stuff has been provided with a copy of Twyford’s response.

It shows the Government is considering a package of law changes called Accessible Streets, which aim to increase the safety of all users on the footpath.

“Among the proposed measures is a proposed maximum speed limit for all vehicles that are allowed on the footpath,” Twyford wrote.

“I expect that this package will be ready for consultation in early 2019.”

A spokeswoman for duty minister Grant Robertson said the maximum speed limit proposed under Accessible Streets was 10kmh.

If implemented, the limit would apply to Lime scooters being used on the footpath, she said.

A spokesman for Goff said the mayor would like to hear from the public on what speed would be appropriate.

10 kmh seems too over the top, I can walk that fast.

I don’t know how they could be just limited to that on footpaths. A blanket 10 kmh limit would possibly stuff the market for Lime.

A speed limit along with compulsory helmet wearing would be more of an issue. And what about requiring safe footwear, and even knee, elbow and hand protection? Scooters could easily be regulated out of contention as a viable transport alternative.

Like anything new the Lime scooters in Dunedin have received a mixed reception. They could be a good thing, but are not without their problems.

 

 

 

70 km per hour open speed limit?

There is some qualification to that – not all roads are included, but a report by an inter-governmental organisation with 59 member countries (including New Zealand) is recommending that rural roads that don’t have median barriers should have their speed limits lowered to 70kmh.

That’s a lot of roads in New Zealand, most roads outside cities and towns.

But they also recommend a speel limit of 30 kmh “for built-up and residential urban areas where vehicles and vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians share the same space”.

In other words, most streets.

Stuff: Is 100kmh too fast? Landmark report wants 70kmh open road speed limit

A landmark report by an inter-governmental organisation with 59 member countries – including New Zealand – is recommending that rural roads that don’t have median barriers should have their speed limits lowered to 70kmh.

Taken literally, that would mean that almost NZ’s entire roading network, state highways included, would need to have their speed limits reduced to 70kmh. Only those section of motorways with median barriers would be allowed to retain their 100kmh limit.

Not only that, but the report out of Paris by the International Transport Forum also recommends a 30 kmh speed limit for built-up and residential urban areas where vehicles and vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians share the same space, and 50kmh for other urban areas with intersections and high risk of side collisions.

I suspect this wouldn’t be very popular.