Andrea Midgen: Two-wheelers are getting in the way of free and fair spaces.

7 June 2024


E-scooters parked next to a pedestrian crossing. One is lying on its side, blocking a footpath.

On 6 June 2024, the NZ Herald newspaper published this opinion piece by Blind Low Vision NZ Chief Executive, Andrea Midgen. It has been reproduced below as it appeared on the NZ Herald website, behind a paywallPDF version of this article also available here

Blind Low Vision NZ believes that a safe, accessible society benefits every individual, regardless of whether they are living with a disability. It also makes economic sense! What can you do today to help make our walkways safer and more accessible?


Are you tired of tripping over discarded e-scooters, navigating road signs to make it to the bus stop, and climbing over discarded rubbish and furniture that encroach on the neighbourhood footpaths? Imagine what this is like for people who are blind, deafblind, have low vision and those who are elderly.

Public spaces that are inaccessible cannot accurately be described as “public”. There’s not a week that goes by that one of the team at Blind Low Vision NZ, or other agencies working with clients to ensure accessibility, doesn’t hear someone say “I broke my white cane and fell over navigating a discarded scooter on the footpath,” or “I stumbled when an e-bike came whizzing past me without any indication,” or “I missed the bus because there were road signs placed in front of the bus stop.” These are just some of the growing challenges faced by pedestrians in navigating shared spaces and footpaths. And it’s not only our clients with blindness, low vision, and deafness.

There is a proliferation of obstacles and hazards on our footpaths that poses significant risks to the safety and accessibility of these public areas.

Despite regulations and conversations with e-scooter companies, the problem persists. Interestingly, an article in the NZ Herald about e-scooters notes that both retailers and road users say the laws and regulations on the speeds of these are “out of date, confusing and lacks common sense”. These e-scooters are reaching speeds of up to and beyond 50km/h and they can’t legally use cycleways so ride on the footpaths — this is purely negligent and an accident waiting to happen. Where’s the common sense? Why is NZTA Waka Kotahi not acting on the increasing number of micromobility vehicles and e-transport and putting in place more rigorous regulations to ensure the safety of all?

It’s unjust that certain groups of people are forced to avoid shared spaces due to concerns about their safety. Public spaces should be precisely that — public — and accessible to all. However, when they become inaccessible to certain members of society, they cease to fulfil their purpose.

We need to advocate and collaborate on a more inclusive approach to urban planning. I’d like to see clear signage, detectable physical barriers, and enforceable built-environment standards that prioritise the safety and independence of pedestrians, especially those living with disabilities. Rules that rely solely on courteous behaviour offer no real protection to our clients. Instead, we need tangible measures that ensure safe navigation for everyone.

Creating inclusive public spaces is a collective responsibility. Responsibility lies not only with individuals, but with the Government, councils, and e-scooter companies.

Collectively, we need to enforce regulations and educate the public on the proper use and disposal of e-scooters, rubbish, art installations, roadwork signs, and the riders of bicycles. Disregarding and ignoring the needs of vulnerable pedestrians for the sake of convenience is simply unacceptable.

Written signage and painted markings alone are insufficient. Pedestrians with vision loss need clear indications when they enter shared pathways. E-scooters and other obstacles left haphazardly on footpaths create unnecessary barriers, hindering independence and safety. These devices must be properly parked in designated areas rather than abandoned thoughtlessly.

Let’s prioritise the safety and accessibility of shared spaces and footpaths for everyone. Together, through awareness and enforcement, we can ensure everyone can navigate public spaces with ease and independence.


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