E-scooters can be quick and convenient, but they are not without risk. Is it time for New Zealand to put the brakes on? Brittney Deguara reports.
Walking, skateboarding and cycling is old news. E-scooters are dominating the streets of New Zealand.
From international brands – American Lime, Australian Jump, Australian Wave and Singapore Beam – to local startups like the Flamingo, hundreds of motorized scooters can be seen in the major cities of the country. But are they safe?
On Monday, a 59-year-old man, who was cycling in central Auckland, died. Exactly what happened is still being investigated, but police said it is not believed to be suspect.
CONSULT MORE INFORMATION:
* How the NZ e-scooter options compare
* Man dies in incident with Auckland e-scooter
* ACC pays $ 740,000 for scooter-related injuries in five months
Lime Electric Scooter Company Addresses Safety Issues With Helmet Giveaways
* E-scooter regulations very vague: AA backs push for speed limit of 10 km / h
Since its debut in New Zealand, incidents involving e-scooters have cost the country $ 2.7 million.
More than eight months – from October 2018 to May 2019 – ACC received a total of 2,446 complaints – or about 10 complaints per day.
However, e-scooter claims are "very low compared to other activities such as major sports or accidents around the house," an ACC spokesman said.
For example, ACC paid $ 76 million for the year 2018 in 40,000 new or existing cycling and mountain biking injuries (on and off road).
Auckland had the highest claims rate with 1111 e-scooters between October 2018 and May 2019, followed by Canterbury and Otago with 686 and 265 claims, respectively.
Most of the accidents reported for ACC were due to a loss of balance or control. Lesions on the knees, hands, wrists, arms, ankles, face and head were more common.
A man was admitted to the hospital in December with a serious head injury after falling off an e-scooter in the Hutt Valley on the same day that Lime was released in the region.
These patterns of injuries are similar all over the world. A recent study – published in the American Journal of Otolaryngology – looked at 990 e-scooter related injuries and identified brain injuries and closed lacerations as the most common.
Why are these wounds happening?
There have been a number of problems highlighted with the vehicles, including a locking wheel fault and high speeds – but the lack of helmets drew particular attention.
The authors of the US study found that 66 percent of patients did not wear helmets when injured.
In New Zealand, helmet use on e-scooters is not mandatory, although it is encouraged, in accordance with the Road User Rule of the New Zealand Transportation Agency.
"The road user rule does not require e-scooter riders to wear a helmet, but the transport agency recommends that helmets be used for safety," a NZTA spokesman said.
"The rule states that pilots must walk carefully and carelessly, pass pedestrians and mobility devices, do not run at a speed that is a danger to other users and if you are on the road, walk as far as possible." "
Lime scooter company says it is committed to safety and wants to expand its operating area in Auckland.
The brake failure that affected the Lime scooters caused a considerable amount of damage before being corrected. A firmware problem caused the wheels to lock.
Auckland barista Chris St Bruno was on his first ride when the brakes locked, causing him to fly over the handlebars, resulting in a broken collarbone.
His first e-scooter ride "cost the country thousands of dollars," he said. "Hospital admission, ACC payments and now physical therapy."
The lime e-scooters were removed in Auckland until the fault was corrected.
MORNING REPORT / RNZ
One man died while riding an e-scooter in Auckland.
Should they be removed?
After her death in Auckland on Monday, counselor Christine Fletcher is urging e-scooters to be removed from our streets until an investigation is completed.
"I'm not calling for a permanent ban, but we have a duty of care and security," she said.
Several local councils had already suspended business licenses before the fatal incident.
The local council of Hutt Valley recently announced a "seasonal pause" of one week, and Auckland and Dunedin made similar moves in January.
But considering the number of new companies entering the market and starting the tests, it does not seem likely that e-scooters will disappear forever soon.
Some activists say attention should be given to providing safer passages for users and pedestrians.
"It makes sense to put things that are traveling at similar speeds together, doing things like ordinary bikes, e-bikes and e-scooters in unique lanes," said Congestion Free Wellington spokesman Tim Jones.
"Having e-scooters [that] go much faster than pedestrians on the trails, I guess, not a good idea. "
Jones believes the burden of security lies with the boards and companies that deliver the products.
"Government and councils need to take an active role [in regulating] and companies need to be acting responsibly, "he said.
The Ministry of Transport is currently developing Accessible Streets regulatory package that will examine how e-scooters can be used on trails, shared paths and bike paths along with other street users.
All e-scooter companies have security policies and procedures in place.
HOW OUR RULES COMPARE
Regulations surrounding the use of low-power vehicles in New Zealand remain relatively vague.
"You can use them on the trail, but only" at a speed that does not endanger other users of the trail "; a helmet is not legally required, but it is recommended … The sooner we have clear and unambiguous rules, the better , "AA senior advisor on infrastructure Barney Irvine said earlier Thing.
An NZTA spokesman said that additional regulations – including reduced speed limits and mandatory helmets – will only be considered after the individual scooter tests have been completed.
So what are the current regulations and how do they compare to other e-scooter tests around the world?
RAPIDITY: Some e-scooters can reach top speeds of 27 km / h in 48 km. But earlier this year, the government announced plans to impose a speed limit of 10km on the rails.
Politicians in Paris have recently been victorious in a similar battle. With about 20,000 e-scooters operating in the French city, the mayor asked companies to limit their speed to 20 km / h across the city and 8 km / h in pedestrian areas.
Both Lime and rival Bird chose to respond immediately to the mayor's request, reducing their limits.
"This rapid response to new measures announced by the mayor of Paris … demonstrates Lime's commitment to working with cities and meeting the needs of a growing number of Parisians," Lime said in a statement.
However, the calls from the New Zealand councils did not provoke the same rapid response from Lime or other companies.
LOCATION: In terms of where e-scooters can be used, New Zealand regulations are more relaxed than those in Australia.
Kiwi users can take e-scooters on trails and on the road, but not on designated cycle paths, as these clues are for the "exclusive use" of cyclists.
They can use the road but are advised to stay on the left and leave the main lane for cars.
In Australia, traffic rules for e-scooters differ by state, but in Queensland – the first Australian state to introduce e-scooters – cyclists can only use the trail, not the road or bike paths.
In New South Wales, Tasmania, ACT, Western Australia and South Australia, e-scooters can only be used on private land, with the exception of official licensed trials.
KNIGHT SAFETY: Some companies have taken responsibility for providing safety equipment for pilots, but the burden of wearing a helmet remains on the pilot.
Beam provides a helmet, though they are not safe for scooters, while Lime and Flamingo have proposed helmet pickups or hubs around cities.
Lime asked pilots around the world to make an online promise to "respect the ride" wearing high-visibility helmets and clothing. The company also pledged to distribute 250,000 helmets worldwide, but they are not yet required.
In California, adults over the age of 18 can use an e-scooter without a helmet, while some European Union countries only need to wear helmets for motorcyclists under the age of 15.
However, in Queensland, Australia, all riders are required by law to wear an approved helmet as well as cyclists.
There are also fines in force in the State of Florida – AU $ 130 (US $ 136) for incorrect use and AU $ 174 (US $ 182) for speeding. Between December 2018 and March 2019, about 300 people were fined by the Queensland Police for non-compliance, according to ABC.