The wheels of the sustainable transport industry have certainly begun to turn and it is evident that New Zealanders are along for the ride.
There’s been a frenzy on the topic of e-scooters since Lime entered the NZ market pouring several hundreds of e-scooters all over the country. The main question everyone is asking is ‘Will the e-scooters remain operating after their initial 3-month permit?’
The permits obtained by such e-scooter operators, allows them to be ridden and parked on footpaths, and is due to expire on Jan 14th 2019.
The purpose of this article isn’t to argue for or against Lime’s permit, but instead to share ideas on how Lime’s operations (or those of similar operators) could be improved.
We’re sharing some of the values and processes that the Kwikli team follows in our approach to a safer ecosystem with our electric moped sharing fleet, and some of these could be applied to the e-scooter sharing model.
Because if there’s one thing we should all agree on, it’s that the focus on the quality and safety should not be compromised.
Before we discuss the future of certain technologies, companies or policies, let’s look at the issues affecting Auckland’s current wellbeing with regards to transportation.
Auckland’s congestion levels are at 40% compared to 2013, and Kiwis are spending an average of 45 mins extra during our daily commutes, primarily during the ‘first and last mile’.
We’re ever so reliant on our cars, and the average car emits over 2.8 tonnes of CO2 every year.
The additional time spent in our cars costs the economy $1.3 billion per year in lost productivity.
These may just be symptoms of bigger underlying issues, such as rapid population growth, a culture of car reliance, or inadequate transportation infrastructure.
Not only do we need convenient mobility options that reduce our impact on the environment, but we need these now.
Now let’s talk about the e-scooters…
Amongst other requirements, riders of the e-scooters are required to follow the Land Transport Road User Rules (2004), which state the following:
A driver of a mobility device or wheeled recreational device on a footpath—
(a) must operate the device in a careful and considerate manner; and
(b) must not operate the device at a speed that constitutes a hazard to other footpath users.
(5) A person using a wheeled recreational device on a footpath must give way to pedestrians and drivers of mobility devices.
Kiwis love trying the Lime e-scooters out; Lime proudly reports over 100,000 registered users, which is a testament to our willingness to embrace change and innovation.
However due to the nature of the enterprise, enforcing the aforementioned - as you can imagine, has been problematic. The largely unregulated use of e-scooters through this platform has lead to injuries and inconvenience. There’s an increasing resistance against seeing the e-scooters remain on our roads, and some of the concerns raised against the e-scooters are:
The lack of helmets worn by most riders
The speed at which they’re ridden on the footpath (approx. 24 km/h)
The ‘dumping’ of e-scooters on footpaths, impeding pedestrian traffic
The number of ACC claims (approx. 408 within 3 months); paid for by the taxpayer due to the irresponsible behaviour of riders without adequate road experience
As a society, we’re divided on where we stand on this topic:
Some call for a complete ban on the e-scooters, some call for tougher regulation, and others support the e-scooters, stating that they’re a great alternative to walking the first/last mile; not to mention being fully electric.
At Kwikli, we’re acutely aware that disruptive technology acts as both a threat and an opportunity, and the conversation around the future of e-scooters needs to address it’s impact on the quality and safety of all stakeholders.
”We didn't take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake.”
- Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s Senate Hearing, April 2018
We commend Lime on their success in raising the profile of sustainable transport solutions in New Zealand. Though both sweet and sour, the trial of the e-scooters has highlighted the benefits that can be had with a first/last mile commute but also risks that can be addressed for a safer future in such transport.
And this future needs to start with a huge cultural leap forward in such a direction, where operators of such services have to lead these initiatives whilst keeping quality and safety at the forefront of their values.
The road forward
Here are some ideas that will get such initiatives talked about, and although they don’t provide complete solutions in and of themselves, demonstrate the values that everyone agrees shouldn’t be compromised:
Tighter verification processes.
Although operators will see a decrease in the total number of users, the reduced risk of damage due to inexperience on the road is an initial safer call.
For those that are inexperienced, offer free tutorials in the community for people to get used to riding the e-scooters. Kwikli riders have enjoyed the interaction with the team and ability to get comfortable on the electric mopeds prior to use.
Who: Council, Operators, Users
Just like the rules for cyclists, e-scooter riders that are caught not wearing helmets should be liable for fines - the onus here is on the riders to act responsibly, and it seems unfair that cyclists are solely scrutinized for safety. All Kwikli electric mopeds come with helmets.
This obviously doesn’t mean that our police officers spend their days enforcing this; but rather, it creates an awareness in the community that it’s probably not a good idea to ride these without helmets.
Operators could also supply the e-scooters with helmets (affixing baskets to the e-scooters to hold them).
There may be a portion of the population that abuses this privilege, but given Kwikli’s transparency on our processes, we’ve found out that our users respect and treat our gear with care.
Develop ways to not only detect if a helmet has been returned to a basked (ie, bluetooth/RFID tags, scales to detect weight, etc), but also to encourage user behaviour of reporting missing helmets, returning helmets, etc.
Maximum speeds could be controlled by inbuilt software, instead of punishing riders that exceed this (as Auckland Council is considering enforcing a 10 km/h limit).
This list could go on, but we just wanted to shed light on how a safe and sustainable transportation future is possible if we place our values in the driver’s seat.
We’re all learning.
For more info on how the Kwikli team are trying to responsibly operate our electric moped sharing fleet, visit the following page and feel free to get in touch with any feedback!
Noho ora mai,
Your Kwikli Team