UK Bans E-scooters From Pavements, Bans Private Scooters, Requires Driver’s Licence For Scooter Riders.
New Zealand should follow the lead of the UK and introduce sensible regulations for e-scooters, says the car review website dogandlemon.com.
Editor Clive Matthew-Wilson, who is an outspoken road safety campaigner, says:
“The English government has announced that e-scooters must be hired from licensed operators. These e-scooters will be limited to a top speed of 25kp/h and will only be permitted on roads and cycle lanes, with riders banned from pavements.”
“People hiring e-scooters in the UK must be aged at least 16 and hold a provisional or full driving licence.”
“The English government also recently confirmed its ban on privately owned e-scooters, because it’s effectively impossible to ensure that these scooters comply with safety regulations, such as brakes and speed restrictions.”
Matthew-Wilson describes the English approach to e-scooters as sensible, fair and reasonable.
“Everyone gains and nobody loses, except perhaps for some greedy scooter companies."
“The New Zealand government should promptly adopt these English regulations.”
Matthew-Wilson adds that e-scooters were effectively sneaked onto New Zealand footpaths without proper safety assessments[i].
“The steady stream of accidents followed as night follows day, yet e-scooter promoters have not paid a cent towards treating the injuries caused by their scooters.”
“The English government has demonstrated that it’s possible to use e-scooters in a manner that maximizes both convenience and safety. We should urgently copy this approach.”
• Clive Matthew-Wilson has been actively campaigning on road safety and consumer issues for 25 years. Mentored by engineer Chris Coxon (former technical chair and founding member of the Australian New Car Assessment Program – ANCAP), Matthew-Wilson was the first person to publish crash test results in New Zealand. His research into seatbelt upgrades was awarded by the Australian Police Journal. Matthew-Wilson is a strong supporter of pedestrians’ and cyclists’ rights and has helped shape many major road safety policies in New Zealand.
Clive Matthew-Wilson was the founder of constitution.org.nz
‘A war on pedestrians’
• This document was first produced by road safety campaigner Clive Matthew-Wilson in 2019, but is a reasonably accurate reflection of the current situation.
Auckland Transport, along with many government departments, has repeatedly refused to deny that it wishes to allow bicycles, e-bicycles, as well as existing e-scooters, to use public footpaths. This proposal, which would require a change of law (the government’s proposed ‘Accessible Streets’ package), is of extreme concern to pedestrian groups.
Dr Lynley Hood from the Visual Impairment Charitable Trust Aotearoa (Victa) describes this policy change as “a war on pedestrians.” The advocacy group Living Streets Aotearoa is similarly concerned.
Both groups, along with many advocacy groups for the old, the young, the disabled and vulnerable, are also deeply concerned at the way in which a major foreign corporation was apparently able to circumvent due process of law by hiring the former head of a major political party.
According to Radio NZ, NZTA announced in 2013 that:
“The District Court has held that low-powered electric scooters are not power-assisted cycles but are motor vehicles”.
In January of 2018, NZTA repeated this view:
“… only a small number of low-powered vehicles that have been declared as not being motor vehicles and these are mobility devices, power-assisted cycles and Yike Bikes. As an electric scooter is not defined as a cycle (even if its maximum power does not exceed 300 watts), it has not been declared as being a non-motor vehicle. This means that an electric scooter would be considered to be a motor vehicle and would need to be registered. However, as it would not be able to meet any of the standards it would not be able to be registered as a moped. In addition, as it is considered a motor vehicle it cannot be driven on a footpath in accordance with Section 2.13 of the Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004 which can be found via: http://www.legislation.govt.nz/regulation/public/2004/0427/latest/DLM303057.html .
Any vehicle meeting the definition of motor vehicle requires registration, inspection and a driver licence applicable for the vehicle type. Most two-wheel electric scooters and two-wheel low-powered vehicles are mopeds and the relevant laws apply (e.g. riders must have a class 1 driver licence and wear a motor cycle helmet, mopeds must be registered and licensed, mopeds must not be ridden in a cycle lane). For your reference, vehicle classifications can be found via:
Please note: It would be a significant change in current classification for further small powered vehicles not to be treated as motor vehicles. Any change would require considerable investigation and consultation into the appropriateness of making a change as there are significant possible risks in these vehicles using and sharing both the footpath and the roadway. The legislation also requires the Transport Agency to investigate and make separate determinations for each low-powered vehicle type and model.”
It is also clear from the original definition of a ‘vehicle’ that parliament was not intending to exempt e-scooters and e-bikes.
For example, at the time of legislation, the Hon. Maurice Williamson’ asked parliament to ensure that his small children would be allowed to ride their “little moped, Go-Ped motorised scooters” around the park without having to register their vehicles or obtain driving licenses.
Ergo, it seems clear that the powers of exemption were intended for devices such as childrens’ toys.
The NZTA’s original belief that e-scooters were indeed motor vehicles has also been confirmed by a number of recent judicial decisions, such as the one below:
In Cromwell on October 20 of 2018, Daniel William Hurley (24) was charged with drink driving after a brief joyride on a motorised chilly bin.
Motorised chilly bin
The judge, Michael Turner, confirmed that the motorised chilly bin was indeed a motor vehicle. Hurley’s offending had been ‘‘at the lower end of the spectrum’’, and a Lime scooter was ‘‘probably more dangerous’’, said the judge.
Judge Turner fined Hurley $700, with court costs of $130.
Motorised Lime scooter
Bending the rules
It is also clear that, for some reason, not only did NZTA change its position on Lime scooters being motor vehicles, but also NZTA appeared to bend the law to accommodate Lime.
For example, emails obtained under the Official Information Act show that NZTA effectively took that word of Lime that its scooters complied.
13/9/18 10.01am. NZTA to Lime:
“Can you get your controllers tuned or any other manner to get your vehicles to maximum of 300W? Oh also, can you send us a manufacturer’s spec sheet which has the model code/name etc.”
• 15/9/18 5.20pm. Lime to NZTA:
“...we were able to control the maximum output by setting the ‘acceleration mode’ to the lowest level, which will keep actual power output under 300W at all times. I’ve just got ahold of the manufacturer’s spec sheet, and unfortunately the only version of it is in Chinese... you should be able to use Google translate...”
• 15/9/18 7.31pm. NZTA to Lime:
“...can you tell me how you can assure us that an operator cannot simply turn this mode off and revert it to type...”
• 17/9/18 11.39am. Lime to NZTA:
“I can’t think of any ways that this could be enforced. I suppose it would just be more of an honour system...”
• 28/9/10 2.12pm. NZTA to Lime:
“The wheeled recreational device e-scooter paradigm is essentially a self-certification regime and as such, the Agency does not have a part to play in this... Have to say, our engineers are scratching their heads trying to determine how you managed to detune your units to meet the requirements and still achieve a 27KPH result.”
• 1/11/18 9.42am. NZTA to Lime:
“...the New Zealand Transport Agency has received formal accusations that your devices do not meet the maximum 300W requirement...”
• 8/11/18 1.59pm. Lime to NZTA:
“...I’m working on tracking down the official spec for the scooter version we have here.... the spec sheet you have is for the Ninebot scooter, which we didn’t end up launching here...”
A clear and present danger
As Radio NZ recently reported:
“A recent survey of 200 people by the Blind Foundation found that going out for a walk was becoming increasingly dangerous due to e-scooters.
Auckland man Paul Brown said he spent most of his morning walk in the city down Queen Street dodging discarded scooters.
“I’ve had people move them out of the way for me... I’ve certainly knocked one over,” he said.
Speed fiends whizzing past were also a problem, Mr Brown said.
He said his wife was once forced to pull him out of the path of an e-scooter rider who hadn’t seen him while out with their three-year-old daughter.
Mr Brown said he wasn’t sure what would have happened if his wife wasn’t there.
Rebekah Gartner, from Hawke’s Bay, said she lived in terror that her guide dog Gregan would be hit by one.
She said e-scooters had given him a fright on more than one occasion, and she feared for his safety.
Auckland woman Danielle said her bad eyesight meant she couldn’t tell when an e-scooter was behind or beside her.
“People on e-scooters around where I live go really fast and it just kind of makes your heart drop when somebody like zooms past you, and because I don’t see people very well I almost get like knocked away ... because people on the scooters ... I think they’re just thinking about themselves.”’
It has been suggested, as part of the arrangement whereby e-scooters, e-bikes and conventional bicycles share footpaths with pedestrians, that speed limits and a code of practice would be introduced.
This suggestion is difficult to take seriously. While it may be possible to insist that rental e-scooters and e-bikes are neatly stacked after use, and that these devices have effective speed limits, such controls appear to be impossible for privately owned two-wheeled vehicles.
Conventional bicycles have no registration system, number plates or other means of identification. They also have no way of measuring speed. Similarly, privately owned e-scooters and e-bikes are expected to become more and more common as prices fall. Given that the government currently declines to require these vehicles to be registered or subject to independent inspection, or their riders licensed, it is difficult to see how speed limits and controls on behaviour could be effectively enforced.
It has been suggested that police take over the job of enforcement of speed limits on footpaths. This is another proposal that appears to lack credibility. Given that the number of e-scooters and e-bikes is in the thousands and is growing (not to mention conventional bikes), it is difficult to believe that the police would have either the resources or the inclination to enforce regulations, except perhaps in a few urban areas.
Further, it is difficult to imagine the police being comfortable pulling trained officers off either road patrols or crime patrols in order to control the speed and behavior of two-wheeled vehicles on pavements.
It is possible that private officers could be employed, but it is difficult to imagine this being feasible outside of a few key urban areas.
In addition, what enforcement would be feasible and safe? What, for example, would happen if a privately owned scooter rider or cyclist ignored the command of an enforcement officer? Would a chase ensue? How could the officer identify either the vehicle or the offender?
As with Lime Scooter’s ‘suggestion’ that users wear helmets, it appears that the idea of enforcing limits of behaviour on two-wheeled vehicles on footpaths is essentially a public relations gesture.
“Singapore does appear to have a robust enforcement regime. The use of e-scooters on public paths in Singapore is governed by legislation which fully came into effect in May last year. Essentially riders must register their approved e-scooter, wear helmets and adhere to safe usage otherwise they could be fined, jailed or have their e-scooters seized.”
However, there is little in the government’s ‘Accessible Streets’ package that comes close to Singapore’s level of control or enforcement.
Suggestions of a public education campaign to educate pavement riders also lack credibility. The most obvious example is Lime Scooters’ suggestion that riders wear helmets. Almost no Lime scooter riders wear helmets.
There is, in fact, little evidence that safety promotional campaigns work at all.
In 2001, the American Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, one of the largest and most respected road safety establishments in the world, collated the results of dozens of other studies over the previous 30 years.
“Research indicates that education has no effect, or only a very limited effect, on habits like staying within speed limits, heeding stop signs, and using safety belts.”
“[Until you check out the facts,] who can argue against the benefits of education or training?” asks Institute chief scientist Allan Williams. “But when good scientific evaluations are undertaken, most of the driver improvement programmes based on education or persuasion alone are found not to work.”
The arguments in favour of e-bikes, e-scooters and bicycles on pavements are not particularly convincing.
As Lime NZ stated in late 2018:
“The advantage of our e-scooters is they work together with existing public transit by allowing increasing the accessibility of public transport so people can rely less on personal cars.”
This mantra has been repeated again and again, by vendors and also at the highest levels of government.
It is rarely questioned, because it appears that AT, the Auckland Council and central government all blindly accept the arguments put forward by groups such as Greater Auckland, that e-scooters are a workable transport solution.
In fact, one major American study reported that the single biggest reason for e-scooter rides was ‘joyriding’ (34.3%). ‘Running errands’ was second at 23.4%, with ‘commuting’ a distant third at 19.4%.
It is worth noting that almost all the advocates for e-scooters tend to be young and tend to be somewhat blind to the value of more conventional last-mile transport options such as shared vehicles. Or walking.
It is perhaps easy to see how a young and fit Millennial would see e-scootering as a viable everyday transport option, it is much harder to view such devices as a solution for the vast majority of commuters, including parents with children, people who lack the ability to easily change clothes at work (if they commute in the rain), old people and also vulnerable groups such as people coming home at night.
In addition, the often-repeated benefit of conventional bikes is that they encourage fitness and that therefore conventional bikes are a positive thing.
So, arguably, the chief benefit of e-scooters is a reduction in the exercise that the rider would receive if she or he simply walked instead.
Few commentaries on the value of either conventional bikes or e-scooters mention the health and environment benefits of simply walking.
It is equally disturbing to hear e-scooters described as having a positive environmental impact. Again, the often-repeated assumption is that each e-scooter trip replaces a car trip.
However, given that most trips are recreational, this appears to be a fairly weak argument.
In New Zealand, Lime has made a number of fairly grandiose claims about its products, minimising the harm and perhaps exaggerating the benefits.
After stating that nearly one million trips have been made on Auckland streets in less than four months, in addition, Lime claims that 209,343 people used an e-scooter in Auckland, “replacing a trip in a car or other service”.
However, Lime did not offer an explanation as to how this data was gathered, nor what “other service” meant. “Other service” might have simply meant that a Lime rider rode instead of walked.
It appears that many of the stated benefits of ‘last-mile’ technology originate with the corporations that build them and are then widely repeated without much serious scrutiny. This should be a matter of urgent concern.
In May of 2019, the Auckland Council and AT announced that several e-scooter companies had agreed to limit the speeds on their e-scooters to 15kp/h.
However, these speed restrictions apply only to a few, high density zones, not the city as a whole. And, these speed limits are voluntary for the companies that rent the scooters. There is no actual legal obligation.
Auckland Transport chief executive Shane Ellison stated that the council and AT cannot impose speed limits through the licence process, so operator-initiated geofencing “is important for public safety”.
But, as Auckland Council licencing and regulatory compliance manager Craig Hobbs admitted:
“[The average] walking pace is around about 4km/h to 5km/h, so [these e-scooters will still be] doing about three times walking pace.”
Moreover, both Hobbs and Ellison failed to explain how this speed limit would be enforced on the large numbers of privately owned e-scooters also in use in these same areas.