Wellington Scoop

Rori iti: how little roads can help


by Kate Spencer
When I’m walking I hate slower pedestrians who hold me up and make me pass. Move, people! Don’t you know I have places to be? I also hate those who walk that much faster than I do, and bustle past me. Where are you going in such a hurry? Honestly. Chill out!

But worse than the sluggish or speedy folks on foot are the true sidewalk sinners: people speedily skateboarding, scooting, and cycling who zip past your elbow without a sound.

Aargh! Oi! Mate! Ride on the road!

When I’m cycling, I’m still somewhat scared of Wellington roads.

I wouldn’t dream of riding on the footpath (the clue is in the name), but I do understand – to an extent – why people are cycling on them instead of the road. It’s dangerous! Buses are enormous. Drivers are impatient, distracted. Blind spots are a thing – and people driving tend to check only for things big enough to damage their car.

With nothing but your own body’s padding to protect you if you get hit cycling on the road, injury is a legitimate concern. Plus, of the Onzos that are still functioning, a number of them don’t have helmets any more (#wherehavetheygone?). It’s unsurprising that many feel their safest option is to ride on the footpath.

Jessica Rose of Women in Urbanism has a suggestion: the little road or rori iti. It’s not a cycleway, it’s a space for fresh humans who go quickly.

Pedestrians can manage up to 6km/hr if they’re fit and healthy. But there’s also the more vulnerable footpath users – the ones in prams, the elderly, the differently abled – and they need to be protected. Urban spaces are already problematic for those with mobility issues.

Cars, buses, taxis, motorbikes, fast confident cyclists and other vehicles that go over 30km/hr have their roads.

They can keep them.

Let’s give better space to the people on unenclosed wheels – fresh humans whizzing along at up to 30km/hr need a safe place to whiz. At present all fresh humans are obliged to fight for the tiny scrap of space left to us – the Hunger Games of the street – yet we have as much right as anyone else to get along at the speed which suits us and doesn’t harm others.

(Perhaps more, because while I’m getting around the city on a bike, on foot or scooting I’m costing society much less than if I was driving!)

Let’s forget the c-word; rori iti FTW!

Many people seem to get riled by the mere word “cycle lane” – and fascinating research shows that some of the angst is simply from the fact that “cycle lanes” are seen as “for cyclists”. (Other “hatey” people just feed on conflict.)

But the rori iti is not just for those nasty c-words – it’s for everyone going around as a fresh human on wheels. So the Little Road may be a lovely breakthrough – it’s for all people going a bit faster.

The Lime Scooters were dropped in the Hutt last week and it’s super exciting. They’re such a convenient option! You can go from travelling to shopping / talking / coffee to moving again in a heartbeat. No finding a hugely inefficient parking space!

(I love Limes because I’ve had people nab “my” parked Onzo while I’m in a shop, but Limes are portable enough to take with you, hang your purchases from the bars, and be on your merry way to the next place on your to-do list. Perfect!)

Anyway, back to who gets to go where… People will always get riled up about fast wheely things on footpaths. We’ve talked about it before.

But will Lime Scooters mean ever more crowded pavements, frustrated pedestrians being squeezed further towards the walls? I’d like to think not, if we do things properly.

We’re a diverse bunch of people, all trying to get around. We have to share the space we have, surely we should all be catered for. Those of us who are outside of our tin cans – the ones who are interacting with other people, making eye contact, doing that hilarious and beautifully human “which-way-are-you-going-ah-ok-sorry” dance when we cross paths – we’re the ones who deserve the best, most thought out areas to do our thing.

The kingdom of the machines should not be how our cities feel. They should be for people – fresh humans, getting around slowly, fast and everything in between.

So let’s stop snarking about cycleway this and e-scooter menace that, and just get on with making us rori iti!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to practise what I preach and work on my pavement rage.

First published on the Talk Wellington website.


  1. Manny, 22. December 2018, 11:18

    Yip no problem with space, it’s humanity’s devolution into the little me that does not want to consider others or share. The footpath rage/road rage is the same problem – it’s just impatience and anger that takes over drivers/pedestrians. Many people seem to have ADD and can’t seem to practice being kind and compassionate. We seem to have a compassion and love crisis. “Fast on road, slow on footpath”.

  2. luke, 22. December 2018, 15:39

    We currently prioritize the movement and storage of cars over all else. This needs to change.

  3. Jonny Utzone, 23. December 2018, 6:35

    Dedicated cycleways don’t always work. Check how Stevenage’s dedicated cycleways flopped.

  4. Mike Mellor, 23. December 2018, 12:11

    JU: yes, there’s always an exception to every general trend. Here’s a more typical result, at the opposite end of the spectrum.

  5. Tami Simon, 23. December 2018, 13:19

    Its Madness to “prioritize movement and parking of cars over all else”. You can see whats wrong with people when they start to prioritize the wrong things.

  6. Paulo, 24. December 2018, 20:08

    Concerning motorcycles. It’s a shame Wellington councillors have stated that they have “no interest in promoting an inherently dangerous mode of transport” when all evidence from well researched european studies proves that two wheel motorized transport is part of the solution not the problem. So they actively removed motorcycle parking to the point that many riders I know have started taking their cars as all the available motorcycle parking is gone by 8am. The completely bodged bus system is no longer a viable option yet they allow these scooters on the road without helmets or any form of protection. I had a young woman pull out in front of me on a Lime scooter when I was in Christchurch. Fortunately for her I attend regular advanced riding courses and practice emergency braking.

  7. luke, 24. December 2018, 22:55

    I’d much rather be hit by a lime scooter than somebody on a motorbike or car. Lime riders are really only going to hurt themselves.

  8. Henry Filth, 25. December 2018, 6:02

    “But will Lime Scooters mean ever more crowded pavements, frustrated pedestrians being squeezed further towards the walls?”

    Yes. Yes it has. The bl**dy things are worse than dog-walkers.

  9. Ross Clark, 7. January 2019, 23:08

    Jonny. The example of Stevenage is best explained by the remark in the article, that at the same time as they were improving their cycle capacity, they were also improving their road capacity. People will only choose other modes, including public transport, when (a) their generally preferred mode, the car, is restricted in some way and (b) the alternative modes are improved significantly. Improving the “other” options will not work if roads are being improved as well.

    Back in the day, people like Dave Watson used to go on, a lot, about the need for “balanced” transport policies. But he knew all too well that a policy which would really improve PT and cycling use – improve the facilities, but also restrict car use, say by parking control – was politically impossible at a regional level, and possibly a national one as well.