Why Lime Is Leaving A Sour Taste In My Mouth

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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 motorised 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 mobility-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 make 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.

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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 pending a fulsome set of regulations governing their safe and responsible use being 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 will be in any hurry to slow or obstruct the roll-out of their services.

Never mind that the electric scooter hire 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 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.

Be careful out there.

 

15 COMMENTS

  1. I’m not sure that mobility scooters travel at walking speed, and they have the potential to do a lot of damage at the speeds they go. But generally the speeds they do move at are low enough that the person in control has time to avoid collision with those few that actually do walk the streets.
    The issue is the speed these scooters do on the footpath, so why not just regulate the scooters so the top speed is say 15 kmph. I can’t imagine anyone inconvenienced that much as surely they aren’t used often for long distance travel. So if it takes you 15 min to travel to the bus stop or supermarket instead of 8 min is that such a big deal.

  2. Joggers regularly travel faster than walkers and that mix requires some common sense and social responsibility.

    While deliberate body ramming of other pedestrians is rare, no doubt a charge of assault with intent to injure is an option
    .
    Scooters have used footpaths for generations. and can provide cause for concern that we manage usually.

    A speed limit is not imposed for joggers nor foot powered scooters and prams so it would seem the battery powered scooters bring a new concern because of higher speed capability.

    So speed is a concern as it is on the road.

    A speed limit response seems simple enough.

    How about 8kph max speed on footpath and a penalty of 8 hours in public stock for transgressors, but with a limit to the velocity of any rotten tomatoes thrown.

  3. It may well be against the law to cycle on a footpath but this has not prevented the Christchurch City Council, ever alert to saving money, from installing so called “shared footpaths” all over our car crazy city.

    Monkey see, monkey do…

    You all wanted the neo-liberal dream.

    Now suck on it…

    • JS Bark: “Christchurch City Council, ever alert to saving money, from installing so called “shared footpaths” all over our car crazy city.”

      When we lived there 25 years ago, ChCh was ideal for getting around by bike. Flat, nice wide streets, no need to bike on the footpaths. Just avoid Riccarton Rd….

      There was no need for Council to do anything. But clearly the biking zealots have invaded that area as well, busily persuading Council that it needs to fix what ain’t broken.

  4. Can we be drunk and ride them? Just asking?
    They look like fabulous fun.
    As for pedestrians? Fuck them. Get out of the fucking way!
    I’d always thought a mobility scooter would be great to go clubbing on.
    It’s 6.00 AM and the sun’s coming up. The Zombie in you is about to come out so home time. Mobility scooter! You can be drunk as fuck, high, stoned… what ever. You’ll just look a bit ‘special’. A mobility scooter that could fold flat with a bed in a tent on top. Oh! Wouldn’t that be fabulous?
    An airbag suit could be a thing? Ejector shoes? Shoot you in the air at the first sign of trouble? A taser on a stick for the fat, slow ‘innocent pedestrians’?
    I love the idea of a risky element coming into our blunt edge, air bag lives. So? You can ride one of these wondrous things without a helmet, fluro vest or flashing orange lights? Amazing! I can’t wait to give one a go.
    You seen ‘Year One’ starring Jack Black?
    Fresh from the Stone Age, Jack Black and his friend hitch a ride on an Ox drawn cart. They sit there, terrified, as they lumber along. Jack Black says ” Surely, no human can survive such a speed. “

  5. I’m dreading the arrival of these damn things in Wellington. If ever a city were unsuited to bikes – and these e-contraptions – it is Wellington. Not that it’s slowed down any the biking zealots. To coin a phrase…

      • John W: “Wellington is also unsuited to cars which fill our street day and night.”

        Public transport in Wellington can’t get you everywhere. Given the topography here, and the very dodgy weather, cars are the next best thing. We just need somewhere to park ’em. We need Council zealots removing public parks from the CBD like we need toothache.

    • Denny your suggestion I hope would also apply to Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mitsi and many other companies and corporations as well as local councils.

  6. In ‘Mars Attacks’ faced with a similar implacable invasion Jack Nicholson asked;

    “Why can’t we all just get along?”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGQUbbSQP_I

    After decades of sharing the footpath with pushchairs and runners and cyclists and tricycles and skateboards and kids of every age and level of skill on skates.

    The old curmudgeon in me has to ask;

    What is it, with these things?

    Where has this startling new phenomenon sprung from?

    In first place must be the revolution in battery technology which makes these vehicles existence possible.

    Secondly the computer and smart phone revolution and applications (aps), which allow the business model

    Thirdly and which can’t be ignored, is the fun factor.

    There is the undeniable environmental benefit vs the private motor car.

    There is the convenience, no wasting time driving around in circles searching for a parking space.

    The big problem to me seems to be the speed, the powerful lithium battery technology allows for previously unheard of speeds for such vehicles. 27Kph is way way to high.

    It is faster that the average speed of an adult at full sprint.

    According to Google, “The fastest among us can sprint 100m at a speed of 15.9 mph”

    Have you ever seen an adult sprinting down a city footpath at full tilt.

    Every single time there are collisions, with people getting knocked aside.

    “The greater the speed the bigger the mess” as the traffic cop on TV says.

    A regulatory mandatory speed limiter on every electric hire scooter.

    Seems to be the obvious answer.

    John W suggested 8kph

    Duncan suggested 15kph

    I would go with John W’s 8kph, Not so sure about Duncan’s 15kph, a running adult doing the same speed and collisions are a certainty.

    Should we ban these things from the footpaths?

    For eons people and vehicles have shared the carriageway.

    Look at the earliest silent footage of our cities. Cars, horses, trams, all unhurriedly intermingling without any apparent road rules.

    Speed seems to be the key. Separate carriageways where not really needed until the speed of modern cars required it.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Q5Nur642BU

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