At the end of last year and beginning of this year e-scooters dominated the news cycles. I’m still not entirely why they got so much attention but media were absolutely obsessed with them. Perhaps this is a reflection of how Auckland is said to have had one of the strongest uptakes of e-scooter use of any city – a clear sign there’s a demand for more mobility options.
Thankfully the news cycles have died down a bit now. But that may change later this week again though. Scooters from both Lime and later Wave were rolled out under a trial licence which has now expired and a new trial of them is getting underway. This new trial will include new conditions and those conditions are expected to be finalised by Friday. AT explained a bit more about it recently:
The new trial builds on the current trial that ends on 31 March 2019, with new licence conditions for operators. The trial will be for seven months, until 31 October 2019.
Auckland Transport Chief Executive Shane Ellison says the new trial will set requirements for improved incident and maintenance reporting by operators, as well as new fees.
“This week we will be receiving the remaining trip data from the two operators that participated in the first e-scooter trial. By 12 April we will have completed analysing that data and we will be able to confirm how many scooters we believe will be the best number for the city centre and other areas of Auckland,” he says.
“We’re following other cities, such as Portland, Oregon, by holding a second trial with more stringent conditions. E-scooters are proving very popular as a new mode and we are already seeing benefits. They give people more choice for shorter journeys and for the first and last leg of their public transport trips.
“The benefits also need to be balanced with the safety of everyone on our footpaths. 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,” he says.
“We are increasing our advocacy efforts with central government for the development of regulations for e-scooters and new forms of micro-mobility.
“In the meantime, AT and Auckland Council believe the licences issued under the Street Trading Bylaw enable us, as much as we can, to regulate shared e-scooter services,” says Mr Ellison.
Auckland Council Chief Operating Officer Dean Kimpton says the two current operators will be issued an interim licence until 12 April 2019, when the new trial licence conditions will be finalised.
“The operators will have two days to provide any feedback on the new licence conditions before they are finalised. Once adopted, they will have stringent timelines to meet with the new conditions.
“Other operators are welcome to apply for licences and these will be considered based on the quality and track record of the operator, as well as the number of scooters permitted overall as part of this new trial,” he says.
The new e-scooter trial:
Runs from 1 April 2019 to 31 October 2019.
- Will include new conditions, to be finalised by 12 April 2019, following final analysis of data. provided by the existing e-scooter operators to 31 March 2019.
- Operators will be issued an interim licence until 12 April 2019 when the new conditions are finalised
- Operators will have the opportunity to give feedback on draft conditions ahead of them being finalised.
- Once confirmed, operators will have seven working days to comply with the new conditions
- The evaluation of the first trial is underway and will be completed in the coming weeks.
If I had to guess, some of the additional restrictions placed on Wave when they launched, such as limiting scooters to 15km/h on Queen St and around Wynyard Quarter and the Viaduct Basin are likely to be expanded.
An important point in their press release above is about them increasing their advocacy efforts to central government. We don’t know what that advocacy is (yet) but we do know what the NZTA thinks about it all thanks to the resolution below from the NZTA board back in November last year.
There are a couple of things that really concern me with the stance the NZTA have taken. In particular that they want to see the law amended banning e-scooters from roads and even cycleways. The latter is particularity stupid as cycle lanes are the most ideal place for e-scooters given their size and speed. Even at 10km/h (how is that going to be enforced), using the footpath mixing with pedestrians should be the last option, not the first. I also worry about the helmet stance, if anything we should be removing making them mandatory from bikes, not adding them to e-scooters.
It seems from the minutes that this stance might be a result of the board worried about e-scooters being too successful. One part of the minutes notes:
Board Members also noted concerns about the definition of cycleways and the impact this may have on the network in future in light of the vast array of new types of mobility emerging.
This is purely speculation but is this the board worried they’ll be asked to fund even more cycleways/mobility lanes in the future, like it’s a bad thing.
Anyway, we await with interest the new conditions e-scooter companies will need to adapt to but let’s hope it doesn’t include the draconian rules the NZTA want to see.