The sudden proliferation of e-scooters has drawn stark warnings from two safety advocates, both of whom want a number of changes to road rules.
"Someone is going to die if we don't see changes," workplace safety campaigner Lance Wiggs says.
Veteran motoring writer Clive Matthew-Wilson adds: "I predict multiple injuries and probable deaths in the near future".
"E-scooter riders are allowed to ride without helmets and share the footpath with vulnerable pedestrians, such as old people and young children. Inevitably there are going to be horrific collisions."
On September 24 there was the first reported e-scooter death in the US. An SUV hit 20-year-old Carlos Sanchez-Martin as he rode a rented Lime e-scooter along a Washington DC street.
According to the Associated Press, the SUV dragged Sanchez-Martin about 20 yards, pinning him beneath the vehicle. He died at a hospital shortly afterwards.
A Lime rider also died on September 1 in Dallas, though the exact cause of his death is not clear.
A class action lawsuit has just been filed in LA, where it is alleged careless practices by e-scooter ride-sharing companies have led to multiple injuries.
Here, there has been a crash on Auckland's Tamaki Dr, requiring an X-ray after cuts and bruises were suffered. ACC says it has fielded 14 e-scooter claims in the eight days since Lime was launched in NZ.
Matthew-Wilson says he is 'shocked' that the government has allowed e-scooters to be used without much thought for the consequences.
"These scooters are capable of 25kp/h, which is fast enough to kill a pedestrian in a collision. It's also fast enough to kill the person riding the scooter. It staggers me that helmets are not required."
A number of members of the public have begun to regard e-scooters as a menace. Last night an AUT staffer told the Herald that she and other pedestrians had to jump out of the way as a Lime rider careered down Queen St. "He just didn't care," she said. Numerous other readers have been in contact with near-miss stories.
Matthew-Wilson wants an e-scooter speed limit of 15kp/h imposed and riders forced off footpaths.
Wiggs wants New Zealand to follow the system used in parts of Europe, where e-scooter riders are speed-restricted until they have clocked a certain number of hours. He also wants the speed limit lowered for mixed-use areas.
He would like to see e-scooter riders required to wear helmets when on 50km/h roads, but not when on footpaths or necessarily on cycleways. He says there is research that indicates helmet use actually increases fatalities in mixed-used areas because drivers think a rider is protected to use less care around them.
Wiggs says he is pro e-scooter. "They take cars off roads and they put a smile on people's faces," he says. But he adds there will be guaranteed grief if Auckland Transport, ACC and WorkSafe don't work together on a set of e-scooter rules. He has appealed to WorkSafe to initiate the process.
On October 14, US company Lime (which launched in its home country in July last year) put 1000 hire-by-the-minute e-scooters onto New Zealand roads, most of them in Auckland. Rival Onzo, which already has 1541 e-bikes in Auckland, is on the verge of releasing 2500 e-scooters into our largest city, also rented via a smartphone app.
A helmet is not supplied with a Lime e-scooter. A Lime instructional video tells riders to "follow local helmet regulations."
NZTA says, "A helmet is not legally required to be worn when using an e-scooter, but is recommended."
And although it has become a common sight to see an e-scooter rider barrelling down a cycle lane, that is not, in fact, allowed.
"E-scooters can be used on the footpath or the road – except in designated cycle lanes that are part of the road, which were designed for the sole use of cyclists," NZTA says.
Matthew-Wilson says "e-scooter riders should be forced off the footpath, preferably into bike lanes."
He also wants e-scooter riders banned from wearing headphones and using smartphones while in motion.
"In a world of vulnerable humans and fast-moving cars, you can't safely concentrate on two things at once. Sooner or later, distraction always ends in tears," he says.
The Herald has put Wiggs and Matthew-Wilson's suggestions to Associate Transport Minister James Shaw, who is responsible for road safety issues.
A spokeswoman for Lime told the Herald: "Rider safety is Lime's top priority, which is why we encourage riders to practice safe riding not only for their own protection, but also for the safety of the larger community. All our users must abide by all the same city and state laws as if they were operating their own cars, bikes or scooters. This includes laws surrounding the use of mobile phones while travelling. While Lime's scooters can reach 25km per hour, it is up to the rider to deem what speed is reasonable based off of their surroundings.
"Lime urges riders to practice safe riding by wearing helmets both through notifications on the app and on the actual scooter. In order to unlock a Lime scooter for the first time, all riders must first complete in-app tutorials that provide guidelines on helmet safety."