Saturday, 3 November 2018

Why Lime Is Leaving A Sour Taste In My Mouth.

Scoot! That a vehicle every bit as silent and speedy as the bicycle has been allowed to use the footpaths, while bicycles remain prohibited, is astonishing. Serious questions should be asked about who, or what, made the decision. Was it the result of quiet (but obviously effective) lobbying on behalf of “Lime”, the company responsible for unleashing hundreds of electric scooters upon the unsuspecting cities of Christchurch and Auckland? Certainly, the extensive public consultation normally associated with activities involving potentially serious and expensive social consequences does not appear to have been undertaken.

WHAT DOES IT SAY about the times we are living in, that electric scooters are permitted to share our footpaths? These vehicles are capable of speeds of up to 27 kms p/hr –  constituting a significant threat to the health and safety of riders and pedestrians alike. Thirty years ago, the idea that local authorities would have allowed such vehicles to travel where children and the elderly expect to walk in safety would have been preposterous. That the owners and promoters of such vehicles were motivated purely by the expectation of profit would have made the notion of scooters on footpaths even more outrageous. And yet, here they are.

Now, before the partisans of electric scooting offer up the usual ripostes to this partisan of vehicle-free footpaths allow him to freely concede that pedestrians have been sharing the footpaths with mobility-scooters, non-electric scooters, skateboards, roller-skaters and, of course, cyclists, for many years. Unwillingly – for the most part.

Not surprisingly, exception was made for the mobility-scooter. Had it not been, a wonderfully liberating invention for the elderly would have been denied them. That the scooters travelled at roughly walking speed and were easily identified when still many metres away did much to ease their introduction. Non-electric scooters, skateboards and roller-skates, while potentially as dangerous as the electric scooter, at least made a fair amount of noise. You can hear them coming.

That is not the case with the bicycle. These are capable of travelling silently and at speeds even greater than the electric scooter. Not surprisingly, it was long ago declared illegal to ride a standard-wheeled bicycle on New Zealand’s footpaths. In 2016, David Clendon, then a Green MP, attempted to have the law changed, without success. Not that this stops all manner of cyclists using the footpaths as their preferred cycle-way – much to the fury and, all-too-often, the injury of innocent pedestrians.

That a vehicle every bit as silent and speedy as the bicycle has been allowed to use the footpaths, while bicycles remain prohibited, is astonishing. Serious questions should be asked about who, or what, made the decision. Was it the result of quiet (but obviously effective) lobbying on behalf of “Lime”, the company responsible for unleashing hundreds of electric scooters upon the unsuspecting cities of Christchurch and Auckland? Certainly, the extensive public consultation normally associated with activities involving potentially serious and expensive social consequences does not appear to have been undertaken.

Those consequences are readily apparent in every country where the short-hire electric scooter companies have set up shop. In the emergency departments of hospitals – and city morgues – physicians and pathologists are dealing with the entirely predictable results of people being allowed to travel at close to 30kms p/hr along crowded city footpaths and/or dangerous city streets. Pedestrians struck down from behind. Riders struck by motor vehicles; pitched over the handle-bars; dragged bare-legged across rough concrete and bitumen. Electric scootering’s victims are running-up quite a tab on the public purse. Needless to say, the hire companies contribute almost nothing towards the medical and economic costs of their “service”.

Why, then, haven’t our national and local politicians stepped in to remove electric scooters from our streets until a fulsome set of regulations governing their safe and responsible use has been drawn up? The answer lies in the culture that has evolved, both here in New Zealand and around the world, since the economic liberalisation programmes of the 1980s. In the thirty-something years since “the markets” were given their head, the whole notion of “heavy-handed” regulation has been anathematised. Those who attempt to protect the public from irresponsible entrepreneurs and their enterprises are dismissed as promoters of “The Nanny State” – a political crime only a short step away from full-throated Stalinism.

It is an interesting commentary on contemporary society that the name given to the people (usually women) whom parents hire to look after their children and keep them safe has become a term of political abuse. As if there is something fundamentally wrong with a state that manifests a similar level of concern for the welfare of its citizens.

This thirty-year disdain for government regulation in the public interest has now been overlaid with the much more recent adulation of “digital disruptors”. Entrepreneurs who have developed successful new businesses out of the opportunities provided by the global positioning system and the near ubiquity of smart cellular phones. Uber is the most famous, but it has many, many imitators. With the right app, a company can attract billions.

And with those billions the digital disruptors can hire the best advertising and public relations agencies in the world which, in turn, can make their clients unchallengeably “cool”. So cool, that no politician or regulator is going to be in any hurry to slow or obstruct the roll-out of their service.

Never mind that their service is leading to an unacceptable and ever-rising number of deaths and injuries around the world. Or, that the massive cost of this new transportation craze is being heaped upon the taxpayers of the countries in which the electric scooter hire companies operate.

After all, who wants to be called old, cantankerous and not in the “now”?

So, here they are. Electric scooters. With more to come.

Take care.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Friday, 2 November 2018.

14 comments:

Gerrit said...

In times gone by councils fought the retailer to have the ambiguous shop advertising sandwich board removed form the footpaths so as not to impede foot traffic flow.

Now they allow lime scooters to park and block the footpath at every conceivable location. Why is the non rate paying scooter company allowed to clutter the foot path but the rate paying shop keeper not?

Surely scooter companies should not have free use of the rate payers owned footpath for commercial gain? Noticed that the CHCH council charged lime the humongous sum of $136 to operate a three month "mobile trading permit" for use of city footpaths to park their scooters throughout the city. Surely the rate payers should be up in arm on thia minute amount?

Make the scooter company take commercial leases on property to "sell" the services from. Or maybe share space with taxi ranks and bus stops to leave the footpath clear of obstruction.

I for one am sick of tripping over the scooters whilst parked, or left in the middle of the footpath by could not care less users.

Sanctuary said...

When you get past old men moaning about the shock of the new, Lime scooters are great. people also die and get injured in car accidents and on bikes, you know. In fact we strangely just accept the annual slaughter of 400 odd people on our roads as part of life. I have seen heaps of people use Lime scooters, almost always responsibly, and they look fabulous for short range trips that save a cab or taking the car. I'll give one a whirl shortly.

They are bit expensive though, at 30c a minute.

Pedro Lunar said...

The impact of 60 kilos @ 30 kmh is the same as 360 kilos @ 5 kmh ...bike or scooter .. the laws need to be changed , as it is , the size of the wheels allow for footpath use ..ACC Stats will sort it out in the long run , and then we lock up the politicians that sat on their hands.

Nick J said...

Chris I'd prefer empirical evidence to solve this.

A few years back I cycled footpaths in Berlin where there were marked lanes and people courteously rang warning bells. The bikes were not Lyra wearers racing machines....Seems to me in NZ cyclists are as dangerous a breed as drivers.

What I'm suggesting is that pedestrians and cyclists can coexist, it's an attitude issue. Which is where I come to scooters....that's a reflection of an attitude as well. It's a combination of techno narcissism, the perceived need for speed, look at me and total disregard for your own or anyone else's safety....maybe the same reason for bikes being banned on footpaths.

Shane McDowall said...

I have the solution for these scooter riding pavement terrorists : the Lockheed Martin F-35.

The 25mm GAU-12 Gatling delivering 1800-plus rounds per minute travelling at 1000 m/s does the job nicely.

Another problem solved by #Overkillsolutions.

greywarbler said...

NJ
I think you have made the right points:

Seems to me in NZ cyclists are as dangerous a breed as drivers.
... pedestrians and cyclists can coexist, it's an attitude issue.
...It's a combination of techno narcissism, the perceived need for speed, ...look at me and total disregard for your own or anyone else's safety...

A bit more deep thought about the road laws, the road code etc. It is by practical reason, run as a very efficient democratic system, and people tend to keep the laws because they are made so that everyone 'can have a go'.

It seems that without these defined laws we can't rely on individuals having concern for others. There is something in NZs now that wants to take rather than share, courtesy and the 'golden rule' as in doing as you would be done by, has gone. If I pull over as a courtesy for another driver to have more room when there is no obligation, do I get a small hand wave or any acknowledgment? The driver's eyes seem glazed, the head fixed, the mind elsewhere.

On the road the laws provide a template of how one should behave. On the footpath its scoot along and whether people ring a bell or not, it is stressful for pedestrians. Quite simply the authorities have taken away our most basic right, our 'commons', to walk in safety on what were footpaths. I understand cities of the USA do not have footpaths at all in some normal city streets. When a democracy does not enable citizens to have pathways so they can move around their localities, is it a democracy?

Robert M said...

Foot powered scooters and fast foot bikes on main roads have long been a lethal danger to the poorly sighted and old. In 2006 as a smooth skinned 48 year old beauty and history honors student my mother recommended smashing all by glasses to give me a last chance with he beauties ' Without them I could just see the foot traffic red and green across the very wide Morehouse avenue once a major tram artery. Well I did smash ten pairs of glasses and went without spectacles for three years. Probably the right course in my view. Yes I go third class and Yes if I had bothered with more proof reading a would have got a 2/2 but I could have achieved that if I had made the concession of regarding Hamas and the PLO has legitimate and held myself closer to the scree fro a few hours. I think these foot or electric powered scooters are lethal and should be tolerated a minute. I also dislike the whole cycling thing because they are very diffiucult for the those with flawed sight to see on motorways compared with cars or even conventional motorways.

greywarbler said...

Robert M
This does sound quite concerning. It also sounds a bit off-centre. Could it be that you need to return to better glasses and that would enable you to see problems more clearly and lead to less mental confusion.

Gerry Hill said...

It is just plain wrong that these electric scooters are allowered on footpaths.The place is cyclelanes

Nick J said...

Grey, I hear what you say about defined laws as a template, but there's something else lacking as you point out by the lack of a hand wave. It is the focus on the rights of the individual that has dominated discourse since the 80s. No discussion in that time about the associated responsibilities. On my train I have seen whole carriages of commuters sit tight in their seats as elderly or pregnant women stand. They have paid for and have a right to be seated...They feel no responsibility for their fellow travelers, we really need to cure self centred entitlement if we want to cure bikes and footpaths.

Charles E said...

Sanctuary, Nick and most of all Shane have my vote. But put the guns on the scooters so they can shoot up these grumpy old buggers on the footpaths. They should stay home and watch Coro or re-runs of old Labour conferences.
More seriously I think the things are great but should have a sound built into them and perhaps lower max speeds. That is all. And perhaps an age restriction by which I mean, only people under 30. These 'kids' know scootering, as they were brought up with them.
The other day, two boys were zooming up and down our very quiet little street. Reckon about 10 years old. I went out and as I approach they slowed and I could see they thought this sour old git was about to tick them off. I gave them 2 thumbs up and they whizzed off doing perfect slalom in tandem. Great.
As Peterson writes in his brilliant book, Rule 11: 'Don't interrupt children when skateboarding'. Applies exactly to scooters too. Deliberately facing risk is essential brain and character development.

greywarbler said...

I concur Nick J. I think to size it up in one word, we should start a zeitgeist of 'courtesy'. This doesn't refer to curtsey (a sort of subservient greeting) though sounding similar, but self-respecting people yielding their rights voluntarily at appropriate times, to others in a gesture that shows respect for them also.

(courtesy (n.) c. 1200, curteisie, "courtly ideals; chivalry, chivalrous conduct; elegance of manners, politeness," also "a courteous act, act of civility or respect," from ...)

greywarbler said...

Just to add to the bit on courtesy. It seems to be needed most when we are using a vehicle, but also on busy footpaths, making room for others, keeping to the left which is a NZ thing, that is helpful. Sometimes on foot we scan be over-courteous. I have people in the supermarket apologise for being in the spot where I am heading, when they have every right to be there. Though some have a fault of parking their trolley in the middle of the aisle. But I find a lot of courtesy in supermarkets, so perhaps the supermarket paradigm should be a guide for everywhere. Life and public movement would be more pleasant.

David C said...

"In 2016, David Clendon, then a Green MP, attempted to have the law changed, without success."
Nope, not guilty - quick fact check will show that it was Jo(anne) Clendon who presented a petition to Pariament and lobbied for bikes on footpaths.