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The fight on the footpaths

by Kate Spencer
Wellington city is to have a trial of e-scooters. It’s happening a lot, where the private sector acts on a market niche and drags governments into action. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not ¬ but what’s clear is that in their discussions Wellington city councillors have been staunchly ignoring the elephant in the room.

The elephant: Our streets have been allowed to become the kingdom of the machines. The footpath, that narrow little strip, is the only safe space for what walking guru Rodney Tolley calls “fresh humans”.

“Canned humans” do fine, protected by vehicle chasses, but also locked away from the life and experiences of the street (and, if they’re in their own cars, needing to park before they can become fresh humans again.

Micromobility – essentially small wheely things which enable “fresh humans” to go faster than we can on foot – is a good thing. People need more options to get around, and if it’s the gateway drug to leaving the car at home or not Ubering to the café for lunch, that’s great!

But it mustn’t come at the expense of the last refuge we’ve been left to enjoy streets as places, to walk or wheel if you’re impaired, or just to have a chilled out conversation.

So instead of pearl-clutching about e-scooters and other micromobility solutions, let’s push back the thing that’s making this bizarre hunger games of the street. Let’s reclaim some aspects of streets from traffic, so people can use micromobility as enthusiastically as we’re starting to, AND do so safely for all fresh humans.

1. Rori iti on larger roads

2. Traffic calming on smaller roads so everyone, everyone is going at most 30km, making eye contact, and mixing

3. Dedicated parking spots that support, not undermine, footpaths as destinations and places to hang out.

So why aren’t doing this?

Even if LGWM is “going to sort it all out” (an excuse for failing to improve our city centre which, after 15 years, is wearing thin) why don’t we do some popup “rori iti” with cones and see how they fly? See if the world comes crashing down… or doesn’t?

First published by Talk Wellington.

7 comments:

  1. Geoffrey Horne, 18. February 2019, 22:59

    I can’t believe how much media attention these green scooters have got. There are plenty of plain coloured e-scooters around town. A marketing triumph. The Lime company must be delighted and readying containers to send the profits to the US

     
  2. Jonny Utzone, 19. February 2019, 9:05

    What profits? If its anything like Chinese bike hire, most of the scooters will end up in a scrap heap.

     
  3. michael, 19. February 2019, 10:31

    I guess the problem may be that an extra 600-800 e-scooters may cause a lot more problems – especially as people riding them might not have a lot of experience compared with those who own their scooter?

     
  4. greywarbler, 19. February 2019, 12:21

    Getting back to the point. Walking is an important part of being an active human. When you can’t it limits you. Our society is taking away our opportunity to walk, relax, enjoy our surroundings, do the Green Prescription, tone up and get fit. Instead it presents us with the constant stress of avoiding traffic, of warnings of approaching machines; the elderly with the possibility of accidents, collisions and falls which are bad for older people who don’t heal well. Just because you are old, doesn’t mean that you are finished as a thinking, vital person! We need our Foot-paths back and the pleasure of taking a walk and getting fit, and refreshed mentally by looking at trees, gardens, interesting surroundings.

    It is the love of machines, novelty and complexity that is ruling today, and ruining today at every juncture, for everyone. But tell that to the young ones, and they won’t believe you! (Today’s allusion from Python The Four Yorkshiremen).

     
  5. Peter Kerr, 19. February 2019, 13:01

    Correct greywarbler. Footpaths are just that. Councils are too afraid to enforce the regulations around them. Too many cyclists use footpaths on the assumption that they have a right to do so. The introduction of hired bikes and powered scooters presents riders with further opportunities to invade the space needed for walking.
    The provision of road reserve space for wheeled vehicles needs be reconfigured, but not to the disadvantage of pedestrians. It will be a difficult process to reclaim the footpath. Local councilors dare not tackle anything that might upset public slavishness to the next new thing on the block.

     
  6. Citizen Joe, 19. February 2019, 13:19

    Grey Gerygone (aka grey warbler) – you are on to something with your post. Yes, fad technology is ruining every junction of life. No longer the unfettered walk for the pedestrian but a mobile obstacle course. Watch out for the predator free movement too as they could have you in their sights – you being insectivorous predating on insects and all. How could you be a predator!

     
  7. TrevorH, 23. February 2019, 12:56

    The Council allows cycles and powered scooters on our footpaths and sets conditions they are powerless to implement and indeed show no interest in enforcing. That is the definition of irresponsibility. People will be injured because of these decisions; Councillors should be personally liable.