Blind Low Vision NZ (formerly Blind Foundation) shares the sentiment of its fellow members in the Footpaths4Feet Coalition following the release of NZTA’s accessible streets package on Monday 9 March 2020.

Blind Low Vision NZ Chief Executive John Mulka says, “The Accessible Streets package has been highly anticipated over the past year. Its name indicates it should contain good news for all citizens including those who are more vulnerable, but instead it largely represents a regression in accessibility of our streets. This impacts greatly on people who are blind or have low vision, who are not the drivers of private vehicles clogging our roads.

“We have been particularly vocal about our concerns around the hasty introduction of e-scooters into our communities over the past 18 months. Over this time accidents and fear continues to grow. Our clients who are blind or have low vision have overwhelmingly told us they don’t support e-scooters on footpaths and that they feel unsafe sharing the space with them.”

Blind Low Vision NZ’s Access and Awareness Advisor Chris Orr says, “While we acknowledge progress in allowing e-scooters on cycle lanes, it is not progress to be enabling cyclists onto the footpaths or to continue allowing e-scooters on footpaths under any conditions. A law that says users simply must exercise courteous behaviour offers no protection or reassurances to us.”

Blind Low Vision NZ will be providing detailed feedback as part of the Accessible Streets package consultation to outline:

  • Objection to e-scooters and cyclists being given legal status to be allowed on footpaths.
  • Concern that the proposed speed limits of e-scooters on footpaths are too fast for pedestrian spaces.
  • Concern that the rules designed to support pedestrian safety such as vehicle users behaving in a courteous and considerate manner, cannot be implemented.
  • Support for including powered wheelchairs as legal footpath users.

Mulka says: “Blind Low Vision NZ is broadly supportive of the overall objective of the accessible streets package in enabling people to safely use more active modes of transport. However, it must not be at the detriment of the safety and confidence of footpath users who may not have the same luxury in choice of their mode of transport.

“If pedestrian spaces are changed to support the safety of cyclists and e-scooter riders, what options are left to support the safety of pedestrians?”