Policy to address the way we wheel to work

Lime scooters have taken the city by storm.

But they could soon be a thing of the past, making way for new modes like hoverboards, Ogos (a hands-free wheelchair), Segways, e-unicycles, velomobiles (a combination of a bike and a car) and two-seater pod cars.

With the huge popularity of Lime, the city council is looking at being prepared for all future forms of transport by developing a policy for micro-mobility vehicles.

The policy would cover any current and future form of low-powered devices from e-bikes, e-recumbents and e-scooters to everything in between.

ViaStrada senior traffic engineer Glen Koorey said transport technology is moving so quickly that the city council and central Government needs to prepare.

“With rules and regulation, you have to try not to be too prescriptive because it won’t be long before something new comes along,” he said.

Dr Koorey said policy should be based around “performance measures” such as size, speed, protection, so it did not rule any future technology out.

“Then you can try and future-proof regulation. The legislation for e-scooters has been around since 2004, but we never anticipated their uptake now in it.”

Any future transport modes would have to co-exist with cars, pedestrians and bicycles, he said.

“There’s a concept for a mid-size vehicle lane that would include cycles, scooters, skateboards and other low-powered devices. I do see merit in that,” Dr Koorey said.

“First we need to make it easier for any of these devices to use cycle lanes, then we’ve got to build them.”

Last week Lime was granted a one year permit with an $86.25 fee per scooter by the city council.

Since they were launched in October, more than 100,000 people rode the scooters and a survey found 95 per cent of users wanted them to stay.

They were briefly removed from Auckland and Dunedin streets after safety concerns over a software glitch which caused the wheels to randomly lock up and riders to be thrown over the handle bars.

But Lime also has plans to launch pod-like two-seater cars for rideshare in New Zealand.

City council head of planning and strategic transport David Griffiths said it would take 12 months to develop the policy, which would give guidance on a range of issues arising with the popularity of new kinds of transport.

“The way people connect and move is changing with new technologies, the city needs to be adaptable to these transport options as they will offer travel choices for the city’s growing population,” he said.

It would include encouraging increased uptake of all types of micro-mobility vehicles, designing the city’s infrastructure to suit them, managing any share scheme operators and working with the Government to develop regulations and education campaigns.

“More recently these devices are increasingly being used for commuting or in shared fleets, making them a common fixture in urban areas,” a city council discussion paper said.

“With the proliferation of low-powered devices, cities need to carefully consider how road space is allocated, and what fit-for-purpose infrastructure is needed.”

City councillor Vicki Buck said it was important to prepare for new transport technology, though it would be impossible to stay ahead of all trends.

“There’s a heap of different modes of transport coming at us and we need to make provision for this,” she said.