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Explainer: e-scooter research and regulation

Published: 30 October 2019

It’s been just over a year since Auckland joined dozens of cities around the world in trialling a new mode of transport in urban environments – e-scooters. 

During this time the council has run phase one and phase two of an e-scooter ride share trial, enabling our e-scooter project team to gather information and collect a range of data on e-scooters as a mode of micro-mobility.

Auckland Council’s Director of Regulatory Services, Craig Hobbs, says the past year has been a huge learning curve for the council with rental e-scooters, and he is impressed with how the ongoing evaluation has allowed for continuous improvement of licensing conditions.

“We’ve been confronted with the rapid emergence of a new mode of micro-mobility and that hasn’t been without its challenges. We’ve gone from barely having heard of e-scooters to having ride share schemes and private e-scooters on our streets,” says Mr Hobbs.

“As a result, we had to get up to speed quite quickly in order to develop responsible decision-making processes around licensing ride share operators. A big part of the evaluation process for the council was hence considering, as a whole, how e-scooters fit into our transport equation in this city.”

So, how exactly does the council license e-scooter ride share schemes and what has the evaluation process involved during the past year?

Demystifying regulation –  explaining the rules for operating e-scooters

In New Zealand, e-scooter use is regulated by NZTA, who classify the devices as a type of low powered vehicle – a ‘wheeled recreation device’ that doesn’t need to be registered or require a licence to operate – similar to power-assisted bikes and mobility devices. NZTA is responsible for setting the speed limit for e-scooters, the safety requirements for riders and deciding what public spaces e-scooters can operate in.

According to NZTA regulation, e-scooters can be operated on roads or footpaths but not in designated on-road cycle lanes, which are reserved solely for bicycles. Riders are not required by NZTA to wear helmets.

At a local level, this means that anyone who owns a private e-scooter must comply with the rules set out by NZTA. As for ride share schemes, because they are businesses, each local council has a slightly different ability to regulate what trading licence the business operators are given, based on the council’s legislation.

However, regardless of whether you’re on a private or a rental e-scooter, if you are out riding, you must still comply with the rules set out by NZTA – who is ultimately responsible for enforcing them.

In Auckland, regulation of rental e-scooter operators falls into the council and AT’s ‘Trading and Events in Public Places Bylaw 2015 (the bylaw)’. This bylaw requires the council to consider all applications from businesses wanting to trade from public places, including the road reserve.

Over the past year, and during the two trials, the council has worked on developing robust application criteria for ride share operators wishing to apply for a licence under this bylaw. This includes a Code of Practice (CoP) specific to rental e-scooters, which operators agree to adhere to if they are awarded a licence.

Research and Evaluation – assessing the impact of rental e-scooters

The trials of shared e-scooters have given the council time to gather data that helps our experts understand how a network of shared e-scooters could operate in Auckland going forward – and how to best shape the CoP in support of this.

As well as evaluating the operations by the current operators Lime, Wave and Flamingo, the evaluation process has also included connecting with stakeholder groups, conducting international research and public surveys, holding a national symposium on micro-mobility and looking at changes that the council can advocate to central Government.

Key elements of the evaluation include:

Conducting a Strategic Evaluation Report

As part of trial one, a strategic evaluation report was completed that offers insight into how e-scooters fit Auckland’s wider strategic goals, including:

  • Transport and access
  • The natural environment
  • Urban form and community
  • Economically successful city

Of note is the potential of e-scooters to better connect people, places, goods and services. According to the report, rental e-scooters have improved accessibility for the general population by providing an alternative to walking which is around 50-100 per cent quicker. The rental model, of having e-scooters readily available, also enables spur-of-the-moment trips.

“E-scooters appear to have improved accessibility, especially by non-car modes; increased travel choice; and served as a relatively efficient mode of transport.” – Strategic Evaluation Report

Connecting with key stakeholders

In September, Auckland Council in partnership with Auckland Transport and LGNZ hosted the first national Micro-mobility Symposium.

The symposium brought together experts from a range of areas impacted by micro-mobility, from both the public and private sectors. Policy and place makers, academics and futurists convened to discuss the range of opportunities and challenges from these new and emerging modes of transport. 

Key themes from the event included:

  • Future state - a look at micro-mobility experiences around the world, emerging trends, and future possibilities. The impact on our city’s design and how we respond to this new technology
  • NZ and international experience – comparing experiences and learnings from around the world
  • Safety and Public Health – discussing the safety, public health and risks associated with rideshare micro-mobility
  • Social and Community - emerging transport technologies and their integration into social life: perceptions and considerations

As well as getting micro-mobility experts together in person, more than 50 stakeholder groups – from disability advocates to technical experts - were invited to give feedback on e-scooters in Auckland via an online survey. The majority of respondents supported ongoing licensing of e-scooter rental operators.

A public opinion survey also complimented the stakeholder engagement data, ensuring that the general public is included as part of the decision-making process. More than half of all respondents said that when the current trial ends, they would like to see continued licensing of e-scooter share schemes in some capacity.

Key concerns raised by stakeholders which are included in the evaluation analysis include pedestrian and rider safety.

Advocating to central Government

Auckland Council continues to advocate to central Government on e-scooter safety and regulations provisions including speed and the use of e-scooters on roads and cycleways.

 

 

 

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