Scooters vs walking vs bikes: the Hunger Games of the street

As the media focus on Lime scooters and their perils, provoking caution and regulation (largely ignoring the four-wheeled elephant in the room), Kate Spencer calls it: it’s time to abandon the Hunger Games of the street.

When I’m walking I hate slower pedestrians who hold me up and make me pass.

Move, people! Don’t you know I have places to be?

But I also hate those who walk that much faster than I do, and bustle past me.

Where are you going in such a hurry? Honestly. Chill out! 

But worse than the sluggish or speedy folks on foot are the true sidewalk sinners: people speedily skateboarding, scooting, and cycling who zip past your elbow without a sound.

Aargh! Oi! Mate! Ride on the road!

When I’m cycling, I’m still somewhat scared of Wellington roads.

I wouldn’t dream of riding on the footpath (the clue is in the name), but I do understand to an extent why people are cycling on them instead of the road.

It’s dangerous! Buses are enormous. Drivers are impatient, distracted. Blind spots are a thing – and people driving tend to check only for things big enough to damage their car.

With nothing but your own body’s padding to protect you if you get hit cycling on the road, injury is a legitimate concern. Plus, of the Onzos that are still functioning, a number of them don’t have helmets any more (#wherehavetheygone?). It’s unsurprising that many feel their safest option is to ride on the footpath.

Jessica Rose of Women in Urbanism has a suggestion: the little road or rori iti!

It’s not a cycleway, it’s a space for fresh humans who go quickly.

Pedestrians can manage up to 6km/hr if they’re fit and healthy. But there’s also the more vulnerable footpath users the ones in prams, the elderly, the differently abled and they need to be protected. Urban spaces are already problematic for those with mobility issues. 

Cars, buses, taxis, motorbikes, fast confident cyclists and other vehicles that go over 30km/hr have their roads.

They can keep them.

Let’s give better space to the people on unenclosed wheels fresh humans whizzing along at up to 30km/hr need a safe place to whiz.  At present all fresh humans are obliged to fight for the tiny scrap of space left to us – the Hunger Games of the street – yet we have as much right as anyone else to get along at the speed which suits us and doesn’t harm others. 

(Perhaps more, because while I’m getting around the city on a bike, on foot or scooting I’m costing society much less than if I was  driving!)

Let’s forget the c-word; rori iti FTW! 

Many people seem to get riled by the mere word “cycle lane” – and fascinating research shows that some of the angst is simply from the fact that “cycle lanes” are seen as “for cyclists”. (Other “hatey” people just feed on conflict.)  

But the rori iti is not just for those nasty c-words it’s for everyone going around as a fresh human on wheels. So the Little Road may be a lovely breakthrough – it’s for all people going a bit faster.

The Lime Scooters were dropped in the Hutt today and it’s super exciting. They’re such a convenient option! You can go from travelling to shopping / talking / coffee to moving again in a heartbeat. No finding a hugely inefficient parking space! 

(I love Limes because I’ve had people nab “my” parked Onzo while I’m in a shop, but Limes are portable enough to take with you, hang your purchases from the bars, and be on your merry way to the next place on your to-do list. Perfect!)

Anyway, back to who gets to go where…  People will always get riled up about fast wheely things on footpaths. We’ve talked about it before.

But will Lime Scooters mean ever more crowded pavements, frustrated pedestrians being squeezed further towards the walls? I’d like to think not, if we do things properly.

We’re a diverse bunch of people, all trying to get around. We have to share the space we have, surely we should all be catered for. Those of us who are outside of our tin cans –  the ones who are interacting with other people, making eye contact, doing that hilarious and beautifully human “which-way-are-you-going-ah-ok-sorry” dance when we cross paths we’re the ones who deserve the best, most thought out areas to do our thing.

The kingdom of the machines should not be how our cities feel.  They should be for people – fresh humans, getting around slowly, fast and everything in between.

So let’s stop snarking about cycleway this and e-scooter menace that, and just get on with making us rori iti!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to practise what I preach and work on my pavement rage.


This post was originally published here in December.

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