Yesterday the government announced consultation a raft of potential changes aimed at changing rules to make streets safer and easier for those not in cars, in what is known as the Accessible Streets Regulatory Package.
“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.
In total there are nine proposed major changes but many of them have sub-proposals within them bringing the total to seventeen.
Proposal 1: Change and re-name the types of device that are used on footpaths, shared paths, cycle paths and cycle lanes
Over the last few years we’ve see an explosion in the number and variety of transport devices available. This change is about redefining in particular the devices that aren’t mobility devices or bicycles. One thing it notes specifically though is that
Under this change, only e-scooters and Yikebikes are powered transport devices. All other powered devices, like e-skateboards, powered unicycles and hoverboards are motor vehicles and will not be allowed on the footpath, unless the Transport Agency makes a declaration.
However it also notes that while those other powered devices not currently included are motor vehicles, they’re also not allowed on roads either because they’re not registered vehicles. It is quite likely that the NZTA will quickly change their classification and the rules give that ability.
The Transport Agency can declare that a device isn’t a motor vehicle if its maximum power output is under 600 watts. The Transport Agency can also impose conditions on the use of a powered transport device if the maximum power output is between 300 and 600 watts
Proposal 2: Establish a national framework for the use of footpaths
In short, this would change who is allowed to use footpaths, primarily allowing cyclists to use them with certain conditions. These changes would help make cycling more attractive to novice and unconfident riders. It would also mean that legally, a parent can ride with their child on the footpath.
Our proposed change will allow cyclists to ride on the footpath if:
- they behave in a courteous and considerate manner
- travel in a way that is not dangerous for other people using the footpath
- they give way to pedestrians
- the cycle is less than 750mm wide
- they travel no faster than 15km/h.
Proposal 3: Establish a national framework for the use of shared paths and cycle paths
Did you know that currently the speed limit on paths and cycleways is the same speed limit as the adjacent road. This means the NW cycleway has a speed limit of 100km/h. If the path is not adjacent to a road then the limit is 50km/h
This is change is about tidying up how paths are defined, who has priority on them, allow authorities to restrict certain devices from paths and allowing speed limits to be set.
Proposal 4: Enable transport devices to use cycle lanes and cycle paths
Currently it’s not legal for e-scooters and the like to use bike lanes (where they exist). This would change that.
Proposal 5: Introduce lighting and reflector requirements for powered transport devices at night
This would make it a requirement that devices like e-scooters have front and back lights as well as reflectors.
Proposal 6: Remove barriers to walking, transport device use and cycling through rule changes
Within this proposal there are four sub-proposals:
- Allow cycles and transport devices to travel straight ahead from a left turn lane.
- Allow cycles and transport devices to carefully pass slow-moving vehicles on the left, unless a motor vehicle is indicating a left turn.
- Give cycles and buses priority over turning traffic when they’re travelling through an intersection in a separated lane.
- Give priority to footpath, shared path and cycle path users over turning traffic where the necessary traffic control devices are installed.
Of these, one of the more exciting is the suggestions is that cars turning into and out of side roads would need to give way to pedestrians and bikes
Proposal 7: Mandate a minimum overtaking gap for motor vehicles passing cycles, transport devices, horses, pedestrians and people using mobility devices on the road
As the name implies, the change would put minimum passing distance between vehicles and people on bikes or other similar equipment.
Proposal 8: Clarify how road controlling authorities can restrict parking on berms
People parking on berms (and footpaths) is an issue increasing in frequency right now. Drivers often do it to be considerate to other drivers but in the meantime it can tear up the berm, destroy plants on/near it and in some cases prevent people from being able to walk along the footpath. The summary notes this:
Road controlling authorities disagree about how they can restrict berm parking and whether they need signage. For example, both Auckland Transport and Christchurch City Council have bylaws which prohibit parking on berms. However, Auckland Transport considers it unenforceable unless signs are erected every 100m, while Christchurch City Council considers it enforceable without the use of signs.
This is because Christchurch City Council made their bylaw under the Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004, which doesn’t require signs for a berm parking restriction through the making of a bylaw.
In contrast, Auckland Transport made its bylaw under the Land Transport Act 1998, which (combined with the Land Transport Traffic Control Devices Rule) requires signs. Auckland Transport installed signs across approximately 48 locations across the Auckland region between October 2016 and February 2018, costing approximately $50,000.
As well as being costly, signs may also be visually unappealing and make the street appear cluttered
The proposal would still allow local councils to pass bylaws to decide which areas to decide which areas are off-limits for berm parking (it should be everywhere) and remove the need for signage
Proposal 9: Give buses priority when exiting bus stops
One annoying way for a buses to be held up is for them not to be able to exit a bus stop because there’s no gap in the line of cars passing them. Not only is this frustrating for passengers but it also costs more to operate as we need to run buses slower than they could be to account for it. The delays are so much, research from 2017 estimates a network-wide impact at 29.51 hours a day.
The proposal seeks to to change that by making it mandatory for other road users to give way to buses exiting a bus stop and that has indicated for three seconds.
I think it’s great to see these changes being proposed but there are some others that should have potentially been included:
- Allowing people on bikes (and similar transport devices) to cross intersections on a pedestrian phase. This would include Barnes Dance crossings and also mid-block pedestrian crossings but as with the actual proposals, perhaps only if done at low speed and where pedestrians still have priority.
- There are no changes to the helmet laws for cyclists. This should be bought in line with other transport devices in the consultation and in line with other countries by encouraging them but removing them from being mandatory.
Consultation on the proposed changes is open till Wednesday 22 April.