Suddenly the city seems invaded by scooters. Not the child's little scooter that never went away, these are bigger, battery powered conveyances suddenly all the rage with adults up to a certain age. They are another wonder of the internet, available for hire by phone.

They can be left anywhere and the hire company's app will locate them for the next customer in the vicinity. Like cars that can be hired and unlocked online, and the bicycles for hire in many cities of the world today, e-scooters could be here to stay.

Which means, some rules may need to be agreed. Unlike cars and bikes, scooters are not designed for the road. Though they can reach the speeds of 25km/h or more their wheels are small and they will be wobbly. So they are using the footpath, much to the alarm of quite a number of older pedestrians.

Complaints are coming in to newspapers, to councils, to transport authorities and no doubt to MPs with accounts of accidents or near accidents. Auckland Councillor Christine Fletcher was one shaken survivor this week. Mayor Phil Goff is concerned and has engaged Transport Minister Phil Twyford in a discussion of possible regulation.


Twyford shares the concern but thinks, "we don't want to be too nanny state about it". He is right. The scooters for hire were put around the streets of Auckland and Christchurch only a week ago. It is too soon to be slapping regulations on them that could be difficult to enforce in any case.

It is not as though scooters are the first wheeled hazard pedestrians have faced on footpaths. Skateboards have been around for decades and bicycles have never kept entirely to the road.

In recent years cyclists have been given shared use of many footpaths and collisions with pedestrians are rare. Scooters should certainly be permitted to be where bikes can be, and that includes dedicated cycleways. If present regulations forbid any other vehicles on cycleways an exemption must be made for scooters.

Concerns are also being raised for the safety of scooter riders since they are not required to wear helmets. But so long as scooters are not on the road helmets should not be required. Those intending to hire a scooter should be able to decide for themselves whether they are likely to go fast enough to risk a head injury.

The company that has introduced hire scooters to New Zealand, Lime, has a commercial interest in making them as safe as possible for riders and other users of the footpaths. It says it is talking to traffic authorities in Auckland and Christchurch and the NZ Transport Agency, and plans to hold a "rider safety summit" within the week. It ought to stress that when the scooters are ridden on a footpath the law gives pedestrians right of way.

That law applies even if they have seen the scooter and decline to move out of the way. It is the scooter that must avoid them or stop if necessary. The same applies to wheelchairs and other vehicles for the disabled. They have right of way. And already it is an offence to operate a scooter in a careless or inconsiderate manner, and at speeds that could be hazardous to other people. What more rules are needed?

Scooters should be welcomed as a fairly quick and climate-friendly way of moving around the city. So long as riders are responsible and pedestrians are prepared to trust them, everyone should be fine.