Hundreds more e-scooters have rolled out on to Auckland streets while key safety, legal and infrastructure issues remain unresolved.
Over the past week, hundreds of new e-scooters have been deployed on the city's streets from newcomers Jump by Uber, Beam and Neuron as part of a six-month licensing period that runs through until June 3 - for which Auckland Council has raised its cap on total rideshare e-scooters from 1875 to 3200.
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The council made safety one of its key criteria for selecting its latest lineup of operators.
Lime and Australian minnow Wave did not make the cut . Jump by Uber, Beam, Neuron and the home-grown Flamingo (the sole survivor from the trial licence period) were judged to each have a better "safety profile".
Since Lime became the rideshare rental operator to launch here in October 2018, ACC has racked up more than $4.3m in e-scooter-related clams.
The accident insurer has paid out for more than 2000 e-scooter-related claims (more than 1271 of them in Auckland) for injuries ranging from skull fractures to broken jaws and broken arms and legs.
And ACC's bill excludes accident and emergency and surgery costs. Auckland University researchers looked at acute operations at Auckland City Hospital between Lime's October 15, 2018 launch and February 22, 2019, when the company's trial license was temporarily suspended over safety concerns.
It found there were 98 acute orthopaedic operations related to wheeled vehicles (excluding cars) during the period: Twenty-three for e-scooter riders, 34 for bicycles, 20 for motorbikes, 11 for skateboards and 10 for mopeds. The bill for the e-scooter operations over the four-month period was $360,557 .
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So Auckland Council's focus on safety was quite understandable.
But it's also difficult to understand why the council has allowed so many more e-scooters on to city streets when central government has yet to address e-scooters and (as returning commuters will be keenly aware) efforts to expand e-scooter-friendly dedicated cycle lanes around the CBD are still in their early stages. The cart is before the horse.
The council can - and has - asked e-scooter operators to adhere to voluntary 15km/h speed limits in built-up areas (an e-scooter can hit 27km/h on a flat or 40km/h or faster downhill) and 11pm to 5am de- activation curfews in areas such as Ponsonby, Downtown, Parnell and Ponsonby.
But legally-enforced speed limits, efforts to get scooters off pavements or enforce mandatory helmets use could only happen via a central government law change.
The law also needs to be cleaned up. Currently, it's technically illegal for an e-scooter to be ridden on a shared cycleway (that is, one with painted lines rather than barriers) even though that is by any measure a safer avenue than a pavement or road (both of which are legal for e-scooter use at this point).
Road safety advocates have been calling for action on that front since October 2018. This week, Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter said she expected a paper would go to cabinet "soon". It would be followed by public discussion.
Change is coming, but it's in the slow lane - and, meanwhile, the council has raced ahead.