e-Scooters, dockless bikes: safety under siege!

Have YOU been passed at speed by someone on a scooter or an Onzo bike? Are you worried about the LATEST INVASION threatening children, the old people, and law-abiding citizenry going about their business on footpaths?

The news has been full of harumphing about lime e-scooters and Onzo bikes of late.

Should you be, like Dog and Lemon Guide guy, “shocked”, or alarmed by the workplace safety campaigner saying “someone’s going to die”?

In short: Yeah nah. Here’s what it boils down to

THREE reasons to Yeah Nah to this furore

1. Our safety IS under siege! But not by e-scooters and dockless bikes.

for 60+ years, people – that is, “fresh humans not canned humans” – have been the afterthought in our road design. “Here’s the road we’ve designed to cater for X volume of traffic now and in the future, we meet all the standards for safe and consistent vehicle movement.” … … … “oh and by the way, we should try not to let those silly fragile unpredictable humans kill themselves.” Commentators are absolutely right: footpaths have been under siege, but it’s from the last 60 years of car-centric investment. That’s left us with this:

What’s the REAL problem here?

Our streets are Hunger Games arenas where the overlords have made it so all humans moving under their own steam must fight amongst themselves for the last remaining scraps of the space.

2. Yes people will be dorks when on wheels. But let’s keep perspective.

Of course there are people behaving like inconsiderate plonkers. Or even behaving like outright dorks. Many humans behave like this often, and most of us behave like this sometimes.

  • Yes absolutely, dork behaviour on wheels on footpaths will make those footpaths more nerve-wracking and unpleasant to be on. And that’s extra galling because footpaths are the last refuge of the Humans in our streets.
  • Yes, on-wheels dork behaviour there will disproportionately affect the young, the old, those carrying shopping, people with impairments. (Yep, the ones already disadvantaged the most in getting around.)
  • Yes, the potential harm from this should be reduced, be it through speed controls on scooters or special parking-areas or whatever. (It’s doable, though tricky.)

But given that whatever vehicle they’re using (including feet) some humans will be dorks a lot of the time, and most humans will be dorks occasionally, what vehicles should we be getting exercised about – writing to your local MP or whipping off an outraged post on social media?

What should we be angry about?

There’s a type of wheeled vehicle – in motion and parked – that makes human dork tendencies actually maim, kill, and trap people in their homes to keep themselves safe.

There’s a type of wheeled vehicle that’s the overwhelming suppressor of some essential Kiwi rights.

Rights to enjoy their streets – to confidently send the kids for a popsicle – to get aroundunder our own steam for short trips, getting the incidental exercise that’s a free “wonder drug”.

What’s that vehicle type? You guessed it.

5 out of these 6 dockless vehicles are parked deliberately blocking the footpath

dockless vehicle parked any old how, blocking footpath

It’s motor vehicles, folks – automobiles. Those things we love, around which we’ve been encouraged to build our lives – and around which our neighbourhoods, our suburbs, our cities, our streets – even our houses – are now built.

3. Putting the safety burden on the victim is stupid

If the commentators have their way, this is what we’ll end up with.

Kids about to go… walking. For real.

At what point do we say “having to protect ourselves against cars is cramping our style. And cities are for people to do stuff, not for cars to rule”?

We need to assert our rights to be able to be human on our city streets, without having to bear all the burden of protecting ourselves against the machines.

What to do?

So sure, get exercised about e-scooters and the like if you want! But here’s what’ll make the difference.

  1. yell for wider footpaths – everywhere that’s a street.
  2. agitate for protected, separated lanes for people on wheels – works for people cycling, scooting, e-scooting, mobility scootering, segway-ing
  3. clamour for slower speed limits – real ones, not just signs – on all inner city streets (so e-scooter and onzo people don’t feel too scared to ride on the road).

That’s what will get real results.

But meantime, if you’re on wheels – like at this weekend’s Open Streets Day – and feeling the urge to slalom between people walking… there’s one simple, beautiful thing that lets us all get along.

Image credits:

  • Banner image: Pocket Lint
  • Street Chasm (modified by Talk Wellington) – Karl Jilg
  • Taranaki St traffic – Automotive News
  • bad parking photos: Talk Wellington

2 comments on “e-Scooters, dockless bikes: safety under siege!”

  • Jo Booth says:

    I’m in Beijing at the moment, where roads are two traffic lanes, a turning lane and a bike / taxi lane each way, plus wide footpaths with a bike parking / riding zone.

    Sure you get motorbikes and bikes mingling with pedestrians, and you have to watch your six for silent scooters, but everyone in Beijing has horns and bells, and will tell you they’re coming through. Generally the rule seems to be the biggest vehicle has right of way, but Ive yet to see an accident, just a slow motion chaos of tooting and walking and driving.

    • Isabella Cawthorn says:

      Nice. IMO in NZ we have abstracted too much of the Human from (what should be low-speed) interactions in city centres by putting too many rules in place. (And we have too much of the Human in charge in higher-speed interactions, which is where better smart vehicle tech would apparently take a big chunk out of our road toll!)

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