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Scoot, scoot: Auckland and Christchurch to get e-scooters, but will the public take to them?

Scooters have long been known as a convenient option to zip around town in, but now, there’s a new kind of scooter on the rise: the electric scooter. What’s more, Auckland Transport and Christchurch Council have ordered a batch from the US to test them out on the streets.

The scooters, which will be provided by US scooter sharing company Lime Bikes, are going through a permit process in Christchurch, while in Auckland, the transport-sharing framework is already there thanks to the Onzo Bikes scheme.

Once they’re in place by the end of this month, there’ll be 700 up for grabs in a three-month trial in Christchurch and 1000 in Auckland. The bikes cost $1 to unlock and 30c per minute to hire (which adds up to $18 an hour) and have 300W motors helping them hit a top speed of 27 kilometres an hour.

A phone app alerts users to where the e-scooters can be collected from and unlocks them, then the scooters are left at the rider’s destination instead of at specific stands, collected up and recharged overnight.

Riders also don't have to wear a helmet with them, which has caused a bit of an uproar in the Stuff comments section – as has the fact that they’re meant to be driven on the footpaths.

Sector leader of smart mobility at global infrastructure firm WSP Opus Louise Baker says given the speed of the e-scooters, it’s tempting to say they shouldn’t be allowed where pedestrians are.

“However, just as we class people on bicycles and on foot as vulnerable road users, people on scooters – including e-scooters - are also vulnerable, and we certainly don’t want them in with cars and trucks,” Baker says.

“This is another example of electromobility demanding that we re-think infrastructure and ensure that regulations are agile, so that our towns and cities are future ready.”

E-scooters have already been rolled out in several US cities, but have been running into a few teething problems. They were removed from the streets of Indianapolis, Milwaukee and San Francisco, while in Singapore, a petition has been made to get rid of them as they’ve been dubbed a danger to pedestrians.

In contrast, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is betting big on e-scooters, saying he wants customers to use them and e-bikes for short trips around the city rather than cars.

“During rush hour, it is very inefficient for a one-tonne hulk of metal to take one person 10 blocks,” he told the Financial Times. “We're able to shape behaviour in a way that's a win for the user. It's a win for the city.”

 Common problems include users have leaving them sprawled in public transport station entrances, as well as blocking doorways and footpaths. 

RCG's Andy Florkowski reports back from the front lines of Los Angeles where e-scooter use is rife.

But WSP Opus' Baker says as with other free-floating shared vehicles, such as the Onzo bikes that have debuted in Auckland, it’s vital to get basic rider etiquette down pat.

“It’s important to make sure they don’t clutter up our streets by being left in the middle of footpaths, or across entranceways, and that people know how to use them safely,” she says.

As well as this, she says people need to know clearly what the rules are for where and how to ride them.

“There are challenges ahead as shared- e-scooters and e-bikes find their place in our transport mix and on our streets,” Baker says.

Christchurch Council strategy and transformation GM Brendan Anstiss says the organisation expects the ride share scheme will integrate well with public transport options in place, allowing people to close the gap between their work or home to a bus.

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