Auckland Council sued in High Court again: e-scooters endanger and intimidate pedestrians

Auckland Council is being sued in the High Court for the second time this year over its management of city streets – this time over e-scooters on footpaths “endangering” pedestrians.

A judicial review was served to Auckland Council and Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) this morning in the High Court opposing the legality of “large numbers of e-scooters being used on the city’s footpaths”.

Pedestrian advocacy group Living Streets Aotearoa filed the legal proceedings arguing NZTA and Auckland Council failed to properly consult and breached national road laws when they decided e-scooters “were not motor vehicles”.

“The principal case against Auckland Council is that it licensed the operation of hire e-scooter businesses for use on Auckland footpaths when they did not meet the conditions for lawful use on footpaths and similarly failed to consult with affected parties,” Living Streets Aotearoa executive Chris Teo-Sherrell said.

“Riding, and leaving, e-scooters on footpaths endangers and intimidates many pedestrians who range in age from infants in prams to elders in their 80s and above.”

Auckland Council confirmed to the Herald it was served with the legal proceedings this morning and was “currently considering them”.

“As the matter is now before the courts, council does not intend to comment further at this time,” a council spokesperson said.

In April this year, Auckland Council was also sued in the High Court over its Queen Street pedestrian trial by a group of property owners and small businesses.

Council eventually settled the High Court action over the plastic bollards that had reduced Queen St to two lanes for over a year – removing them from much of the city thoroughfare, and spending $1.1 million to upgrade the existing street furniture.

However, this settlement was not before hundreds of thousands of dollars was spent by both the Save the Queen Street business group and Auckland Council on the High Court proceedings.

Living Streets Aotearoa said in a statement today that it is seeking a declaration that e-scooters for hire in Auckland don’t come within the terms of the exemptions granted in the Notice and the Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004.

“The essence of the case against NZTA is that it failed to consult with parties likely to be affected by the decision when it issued a Notice declaring that e-scooters meeting certain criteria were not motor vehicles,” Teo-Sherrell said.

“Also, it failed to consider some important implications of the decision to issue the Notice, including whether the e-scooters, the hiring of large numbers of which it intended to facilitate, met the statutory requirements for lawful use on footpaths.

“Pedestrians also include people with a wide range of sensory and cognitive disabilities including the inability to see where e-scooters are. These people all have a right to be safe and to feel safe on the footpath.”

Living Streets Aotearoa is also advocating for e-scooters to be allocated dedicated road space so that “riders can also be and feel safe”.

“These devices are ideal for many trips currently undertaken by people driving alone in cars,” Teo-Sherrell said.

“Providing a safe, pleasant place for them to be used should encourage more people to ditch the drive and go for the ride.”

Wilson Harle partner and barrister Chris Browne is representing Living Streets Aotearoa in the High Court.

Auckland Council also highlighted the existing licensing and regulation rules publicly available about micromobility – including e-scooters and e-bikes.

Living Streets Aotearoa describes itself as New Zealand’s primary advocacy organisation for people on foot and was established in 1998.

A study by Auckland City Hospital earlier this year found that e-scooters were four times more dangerous than bikes based on hospitalisation rates.

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