Palmerston North City Council has issued permits to four companies. The permits allow operators to launch in the city from Monday 1 November. Three operators will be launching initially – Beam, Lime and Flamingo. A fourth operator – Blip Scooters – is planning to launch early in 2022.
Chief Customer Officer Chris Dyhrberg says the Council has been watching how other New Zealand cities have approached the emergence of e-scooters to assess the best approach to take.
“We’re excited to see how micro-mobility, such as e-scooters, enhances our innovative, growing and vibrant city. This type of transport choice is part of an integrated, multiple-option transport network that connects people with their destinations,” Dyhrberg says.
“Palmy is a flat city, making it easy to get around, so it’s about having more transport choices. We expect many will use e-scooters to make a walking trip quicker or travel further.”
Safety has been Council’s key focus for e-scooter permits. The Council has built a number of conditions in the operator permits to ensure a high safety standard is imposed right from the start, Dyhrberg says.
The permits outline expected operational parameters, including minimum requirements when deploying e-scooters to ensure footpaths are unimpeded.
“A key element of our approach is our ability to regularly review the permit and conditions, and to call it in where there are serious or emergency concerns and make changes as necessary,” Dyhrberg says.
Discussions have been held with key stakeholder groups, such as the Disability Reference Group, the Safety Advisory Board, MidCentral Health and ACC, about how they might be affected by e-scooters coming to Palmy. This was to help Council understand the issues that might arise and what should be include in the permits to operate a fleet in the city.
“We’re aware of the concerns that some might have about safety, especially when e-scooters are used on footpaths. We’ve listened to those concerns and built in a range of safety-oriented conditions. We’ll be monitoring scooters very closely and will make changes or adjustments as necessary to ensure that e-scooters are used safely.”
What to expect
The operation and management of e-scooter fleets is the responsibility of the company running them. The Council’s role is to issue the permits and monitor that the rules are being followed.
For this initial stage of e-scooter permits for Palmy, we’re limiting fleet sizes to 200 e-scooters per operator. That doesn’t mean you’ll see a whole bunch of e-scooters hit Palmy streets at once. It is expected the numbers will slowly increase based on user demand.
Hours of operation will be between 6am and 9pm, Monday to Sunday. We’ll be watching this closely in the first few weeks, and plan to review the hours of operation as the activity settles in.
There’ll be preferred parking areas and people will be encouraged to collect and drop-off an e-scooter from these points. The preferred parking areas will be places in the city marked in operators’ digital apps. We’ll be monitoring the effects of parked scooters in the city and will make adjustments as necessary.
There will be various ways to get in touch about e-scooters – either directly to the operators, or through the Council. If you have a complaint or a concern about a specific type of e-scooter, you can contact the operator directly. Their contact details will be on our website or you can find them on the scooter.
If you have general concerns about e-scooters in Palmy, you can contact us. We’ll be monitoring this feedback closely over the initial weeks and months and may use this information to help us make changes as necessary.
Safety, safety, safety
The permits outline slow speed zones within the City Centre and areas of Memorial Park. In these areas, operators will need to make sure that their e-scooters cannot go faster than 15 kmh. E-scooter users won’t be able to override this. They will not be able to operate in parts of Victoria Esplanade near the playground and Junior Road Safety Park. Outside these GPS-confined zones, where spaces are less crowded, e-scooters will be able to go a little faster, up to 25kmh.
Each e-scooter must also have a working bell, a rear-facing red light and headlight that can be clearly seen at distance at night, and a sensor that detects when the e-scooter has tipped over and sends a notification to the operation. They must also comply with all applicable New Zealand standards.
Each operator is also able to set age limits for use of their e-scooters.
Dyhrberg says riders can look after their own safety too. While a helmet isn’t compulsory when riding an e-scooter, they are recommended. Some operators may provide a helmet, or you can provide your own. If you scooter regularly, investing in a good-quality, well-fitting helmet may be a good idea.
“We expect people will use their common sense when sharing footpaths – be respectful and remember people of all abilities use these spaces.”
Operators have also agreed to regular education campaigns about the safe use of scooters.
Planning for the future
Council has done a lot of work to ensure that e-scooters can launch in Palmerston North safely, but we know there is more work to be done. We’ll be monitoring the way e-scooters are used in our city very closely, and we’re ready to make changes and improvements to ensure our city remains a vibrant and exciting, yet safe place.
We’re also working on longer-term improvements, including developing a code of practice of e-scooter operators, and amending our Signs and Use of Public Places Bylaw to include provisions specific to e-scooters and other forms of micro-mobility. We’ll be consulting early in 2022 on proposed amendments to our bylaw, to put in place a more specific regulatory system for e-scooters from November 2022, when the current permits expire.