Thursday, December 9

Palmerston North prepares to ride the e-scooter wave

By Jimmy ellingham, Manawatū Reporter

Palmerston North will pick up speed as the provincial hub joins larger cities to have e-scooters on their streets.

And while the mayor is an enthusiastic advocate, some people wonder if they are safe for sidewalk users.

Helmet lime e-scooter, electric bike

Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

About 600 scooters from three companies, Lime, Beam and Flamingo, will hit city sidewalks at 6 a.m. Monday as part of a year-long test. Flip is also expected to join soon.

This week, Palmerston North Mayor Grant Smith took the Lime, Beam and Flamingo scooters for a spin, but was shy about choosing one, saying he would use them all while cruising the CBD for meetings.

“Council to Council, the City of Palmerston North to Horizons [regional council], sometimes it’s a bit far to walk. I can see that it is a very good option for us. “

Scooters can be used between 6:00 a.m. M. And 9:00 p.m. M. Council officials say safeguards are in place to prevent a flood of injury claims to the ACC.

There are exclusion zones and areas where they cannot be left.

Scooters can go as fast as 25 km / h in the outer parts of the city and 15 km / h in the CBD.

Beam e-scooter, electric bike

Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Smith said Palmerston North had learned lessons from larger cities like Wellington and Auckland, where electric scooters were introduced with fewer safeguards.

Scooter companies claim that they are a safe and environmentally friendly means of transportation.

The three operations that started on Monday also say that people are eager for them to operate in Manawatū.

Flamingo co-founder and CEO Jacksen Love said passengers would be reminded of their obligations.

“We always encourage our passengers to use the bell and always yield to pedestrians, and be aware of those on the sidewalk. It is always pedestrians who have the right of way on the sidewalk.”

People on the streets of Palmerston North this week, with whom RNZ spoke, mostly welcomed the arrival of scooters, but there was no universal endorsement.

Flamingo e-scooter helmet, electric bike

Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Living Streets Aotearoa spokesman Chris Teo-Sherrell said electric scooters pose risks to vulnerable walkers.

The groups are against their riding on the trails, rather than wanting to see them on the road bike lanes. Currently, they are not allowed in those lanes.

While acknowledging that scooters brought benefits like moving people from one place to another, he said that people on sidewalks in other cities had been injured when hit and the permitted speeds were too fast.

Teo-Sherrell also raised concerns about regulating the use and safety of electric scooters, saying that companies were often left in charge of the police.

“The rules are going to say that people should use common sense and watch out for other people on the trail. Yeah right.

“Do you know how fast the typical person walks? 5 km / h, so at least [scooters] they are three times the speed of the walker. “

The differences were even greater for older people or those with movement difficulties.

“It is the difference in speed that contributes to the force of a collision.”

Blind Citizens NZ Chairman Jonathan Godfrey has similar concerns.

“Too many people in society cannot hear the arrival of scooters or do not have the ability to take evasive action even if they hear them,” he said.

“I have been to Auckland and Wellington. I suffered at the hands of idiots who were riding skateboards and I have suffered [from] the idiots who leave them lying in the streets. “

Godfrey predicted that there would not be much demand for scooters, especially given the absence of students in the city due to Covid-19 restrictions, while Teo-Sherrell said that the new technology often loses its luster after initial interest.

Scooters can be used from 6 a.m. M. From Monday.

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