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Love them or hate them, e-scooters aren’t going away anytime soon, if New Zealand follows global trends

Editorial – June / July’19

Have you embraced the arrival of e-scooters on our city streets? Or are you still scratching your head about how they have become so popular so fast?

Love them or hate them, e-scooters are the new kids on the block, and they’re not going away anytime soon if New Zealand follows global trends. Their appeal is understandable – they’re lightweight and compact, making them completely portable. They’re relatively affordable – a decent model can be obtained for under $500, or you can simply hop onto one of the increasing ranges that are available for hire.

They don’t require users to wear a helmet (although it’s recommended) and you certainly don’t have to invest in a set of high-vis lycra either. For short journeys around town – between the train station or ferry terminal and the office– they’re ideal. On Auckland’s waterfront on a sunny day, there are now more people riding e-scooters than bikes.

Why have they grown in popularity so fast? With congestion in our urban centres on the rise and city councils pushing public transport over personal car use, e-scooters provide a cost-effective means of getting around town. They can use the footpaths as well as dedicated bike lanes, they don’t create any carbon emissions, and they’re cheap to run. City dwellers are taking to them in droves as apartments are increasingly being built without car parks.

However, while city councils have welcomed them, the infrastructure to support them hasn’t kept pace. Insufficient bike lanes means e-scooters riders are often jostling for space on our footpaths with pedestrians. They travel at speed – some are capable of hitting 30 km/h – and they’re whisper-quiet, making them a hazard for the unwary. As a result, some councils have banned them.

Regulations are struggling to keep up too. While Auckland Council is trialling a new licence for e-scooter hire operators (due for review at the end of October), Auckland Transport chief executive Shane Ellison has said “it has become clear that there is a need for a national regulatory framework for e-scooters, whether they be a shared service or privately owned. We are increasing our advocacy efforts with central government for the development of regulations for e-scooters and new forms of micromobility.”

One thing is certain – our city planners have another mode of transport to take into account when planning new infrastructure. Auckland is already underway with major changes to the CBD along the waterfront and around the downtown area, and Wellington is about to change its city street landscape too; dedicated cycleways are a major feature of both. In the June/July edition of NZCN, you can read about these changes in the Let’s Get Wellington Moving article and don’t miss Marcus Brown’s piece on micromobility in the opinion columns – email us if you’d like copies of these.

As Marcus says, “the proliferation of e-bike and e-scooter start-ups has brought into focus the shape of transport today and in the future. We are waking up to the fact that the future of urban mobility is not just about driverless cars.”

Until next time …

Lynne Richardson, editor


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