The terms of Lime's extended trading licence in Auckland have just been made public.

Councillor Chris Darby, who chairs the planning committee that will be instrumental in deciding Lime's fate after March 31, highlighted to the Herald that the trial licence allows the scooter company to operate in every suburb in the city.

"I am keen to see more Lime e-scooters available in town centres and outer suburbs. This will offer a better understanding of wider-Auckland's appetite for e-scooters and not just focus on results from central areas," he said of the all-tier provision (which was in Lime's original trial licence, which expired on January 14, and carried over into its extended trial licence which runs through to March 31).

Darby is an enthusiastic Lime user himself, and has visited the company's headquarters in Kingsland (the same location as one of Lime's major investors, Uber).

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Be he's still making up his mind about how competing demands for new transport options and road safety should be balanced.

There have been 655 e-scooter ACC injury claims since the e-scooters launched in Auckland in October last year and later in Christchurch and the Hutt Valley. The cost of injuries to date is $228,364.

Mayor Phil Goff has floated the idea of a 10km/h speed limit (a Lime can do up to 27km/h on a flat) as a condition of Lime gaining a permanent trading licence.

Darby, says he's not convinced. If a Lime is ridden in a cycle lane, then 10km/h would be too slow, he said.

Many think it would be safer to have e-scooters in cycle lanes rather than weaving between pedestrians on footpaths - but riding an e-scooter in a cycle lane is actually illegal.

Goff wrote to Transport Minister Phil Twyford suggesting a law change.

Twyford's response was broadly supportive.

But even if the law is tweaked so e-scooters can legally ride in cycle lanes, that still leaves the problem that there are relatively few cycle lanes, and budgets are tight.

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Darby said one solution would be a levy charged on every Lime ride, with money from the e-scooter tax going into an infrastructure fund.

The North Shore ward representative said that model is already operational in several US cities.

"Lime indicated to me a willingness to consider paying a levy as part of any post-trial arrangement," he said. (The company did not immediately return a request for comment on that point, or when it will take advantage of its new ability to expand into outer suburbs.)

A Lime rider on the Auckland waterfront. Photo / Chris Keall.
A Lime rider on the Auckland waterfront. Photo / Chris Keall.

Today, only a token amount of money is coming in the door. Lime paid the council $3326 for its initial trial licence to January 14 and $2644 to extend it until March 31. The council does not receive any share of the company's income or profits.

Darby says his committee will consider reports currently being compiled by AT and council licensing staff once Lime's trial wraps up on March 31.

Mandatory helmets have also been tabled, and could be included in any law change initiated by Twyford. Darby says he is personally opposed to the idea, however. He said the Netherlands has the highest density of cyclists in the world, but also the lowest injury and death rate per thousand riders. Proper cycle lanes and awareness were the most important factors, he said.

15,000 Limes

Lime co-founder and chief executive Toby Sun has said his company targets a ratio of 1 e-bike or scooter for every hundred citizens in a city - implying 15,000 or 16,000 Limes for Auckland.

The US-based startup is allowed 1000 scooters under its trial licence. Would Darby be up for increasing that 15-fold? He said more information is needed. One possibility was a higher density of scooter in inner suburbs, where demand would likely be highest.

One thing he was sure of was that Lime scooters (and those from any competitors) should be parked in special corals rather than left anywhere.

He noted that one car park space on Auckland's Queen St could accommodate 10 Limes.

"We need to move quite quickly to reallocate some road space in favour of e-scooters," he said.