E-scooters: a letter to the Mayor

The Oriental Bay Residents Association has sent the following letter to the Mayor of Wellington, Justin Lester:

19 February 2019
Mayor Justin Lester,
Wellington City Council,
cc. Cr Sarah Free, Cr Iona Pannett, Cr Nicola Young.

 Dear Justin Lester,

Shared access of footpaths and cycleways

Members of the Executive Committee of the Oriental Bay Residents Association (OBRA) have received expressions of concern from some residents regarding the growing diversity of use of footpaths and the implications this has for the safety of pedestrians. 

This issue is of course not peculiar to our region. However, it is perhaps more acute for the Oriental Bay area than for many other parts of the Wellington region. In addition to the dense residential population, you will appreciate that the Bay is a popular recreational area for residents from across Wellington and for tourists from outside Wellington. It is also a corridor between the city and the eastern suburbs of Wellington for cyclists, pedestrians and people using emerging alternative forms of commuting such as electric scooters and electric skateboards. Oriental Bay is also a busy corridor for motorists. The roads and footpaths in Oriental Bay can become very congested during certain times of the day and particularly during summer weekends. 

The demographic profile of the residents of Oriental Bay is another factor that has prompted the Committee to raise this issue with you. The suburb has a relatively high proportion of residents in the older age range. According to the 2013 Census, 25.8 per cent of Oriental Bay residents were aged 65 years or older. This compares with 9.5 per cent for the entire Wellington City. The proportion may be even higher today. The percentage of the Oriental Bay residents falling within this age range increased faster between 2006 and 2013 than the average for Wellington City. The equivalent percentage in the 2006 Census was 19.6 for Oriental Bay compared to 8.4 per cent for Wellington City.

The recently completed cycleway (access-way dedicated to cyclists) between the Freyberg Pool complex and Waitangi Park appears to be successfully diverting cyclists from the footpath and separating cyclists and pedestrians along this stretch of the waterfront. Further, the sharing of the pathway east of the Freyberg complex to date generally seems to have operated without major incident. However, the growing popularity of electric scooters and skateboards and their use on footpaths raises further concerns for the safety of pedestrians. Evidently, electric scooters and skateboards are permitted on cycleways (such as the Oriental  Bay cycleway). But there remain congested areas of the Oriental Bay where a single pathway caters for cycles, electric scooters, skateboards, crocodile-bikes and pedestrians. 

We have been advised that the Ministry of Transport has been asked by the Government to develop terms of reference for a possible national inquiry into the shared use of footpaths and making streets accessible for multiple forms of transport. We also understand that some local body councils may be taking their own initiative. A recent news item suggested that the Wellington City Council will be reviewing a report proposing an electric scooter trial, but that the use of electric scooters would be restricted from use on the city's “Golden Mile” or Botanic Gardens

The purpose of this letter is to open a dialogue with you and the Wellington City Council regarding the shared use of footpaths and cycleways in the Oriental Bay area. We are conscious of the need to accommodate a range of interests, including the growing popularity of alternative modes of commuting, and recognise the growing popularity of bicycles and more recently the use of electric scooters and electric skateboards. As representatives of Oriental Bay residents and in the interests of improving the use and safety of footpaths and cycleways in the area, we would like to raise the following points regarding the Oriental Bay area: 

  1. We invite yourself and members of the Wellington City Council to consult with the OBRA executive committee and residents of Oriental Bay regarding the shared use of pathways in the Oriental Bay area by pedestrians, cyclists, electric scooters, etc, and appraise us and residents of the  proposed trial of electric scooters in the region. 

  2. It would be appreciated if this appraisal and consultation could include discussion of the issues pertaining to shared pathways and/or dedicated pedestrian pathways and cycleways east of the Freyberg Pool complex, including along the waterfront and beyond Carlton Gore Road. We encourage the Council to take into consideration the already congested use of the Oriental Bay footpaths, particularly where there are no dedicated cycleways. 

  3. Although there have been frequent reports of incidents involving electric scooters overseas, it is difficult to assess the risks to pedestrians of unregulated shared pathways. We note nevertheless there are instances in some cities (such as Sydney and Vancouver) where there are speed limits applying to shared pathways and wealso note that electrical scooters are illegal on British roads and pavements.We would encourage the Council to look at the experience overseas, and where cycles, electric scooters, etc, are entitled to share footpaths, consideration be given to the safety of pedestrians in the Oriental Bay region, particularly in view of the congestion of the footpaths and the demographic profile of the area.

  4. We think there may be merit in a suitable speed limit for cycles, electronic scooters and similar devices on shared footpaths, one that is consistent with ensuring safety for all users of the pathways. We appreciate that monitoring and ensuring compliance with speed-limits may be difficult to enforce. We understand the NZ Automobile Association has suggested a limit of 10 km/h. These speed limits may have the effect of providing a clear signal of expected behaviour. Education of the shared use of footpaths may also have merit.

Thank you for your consideration of these issues.
We look forward to your response.

Kind regards,
Ann Mallinson and Jackie Pope
Oriental Bay Residents Association (Incorporated),