Flamingo and the Uber-owned Jump launch in the capital today, with the city becoming New Zealand’s fifth to see shareable e-scooters
Eight months after the invasion of the Limes scandalised the previously 100% safe streets of Auckland, Wellington is to get its first taste of electric scooters, with two rival providers having received permits from Wellington City Council.
Jump will put 400 scooters in the city and suburbs, with another 400 coming from a locally owned company called Flamingo.
The trial is slated for 18 months, with an initial review at six months.
“The trial will let us discover how people might want to use this service in the context of Wellington, and how popular it is over time. It will also help us to determine the city’s policy around micro-mobility transport, which includes e-scooter and bike share schemes,” said the Wellington mayor, Justin Lester, in a statement.
The two successful trial companies (Lime was furious about being passed over) are a study in contrasts. Jump, which offers electric scooters and bikes in cities around the US, was last year acquired by Uber, the ride-hailing global giant. Flamingo is a locally owned, private-equity-funded company founded by two 21-year-olds. The cost of use will be the same for both, however: $1 per hire followed by 30 cents a minute.
Support for the scooter trial was not unanimous. Nine councillors on the city strategy committee voted in February to support the introduction based on an agreed code of practice, with five against. Concerns centred chiefly on safety.
Lime had its Auckland licence suspended earlier in the year after a run of injuries relating to a wheel-locking glitch.
Rachel Holt, Uber head of new mobility, said their bid for a permit had succeeded because safety was prioritised.
“I think there’s a reason that Jump was one of two companies awarded the permits,” she told the Spinoff at the Uber Elevate Summit in Washington DC – where the Spinoff was among more than 100 media organisations hosted by Uber last week.
“That was because we have followed a very different approach [to rivals] in New Zealand and globally. And that’s been one of partnering with local cities and governments following the permit processes, having a safety focused mindset … We do helmet giveaways, we do rider education.”
They would also look to take advantage of Uber’s existing network, she said.
“One of the things we’ve rolled out recently in the US is educating our own drivers of our vehicles, our Uber X vehicles, on how to share streets safely with bikes and scooters.
“For example, in-app you can now see if you’re getting out of an Uber car, and if you’re near a known bike lane or a place that we know there are a lot of bikes and scooters – because of course we have that data from our own product – it can tell you before you open the door make sure you look and check if there’s a bike or scooter coming.”
They were also “investing in some very futuristic technology to get much better understanding of exactly where someone is riding – are they on the street, are they on the sidewalk. How do we make sure we message and ultimately remove people who are not riding the product safely.”
Uber acquired the American startup Jump, which offers app-hire electric bikes and scooters, last year as part of its efforts to grow across the transport sector. The company, which underwent a tumultuous IPO last month, has also invested in rival electric scooter sharing company Lime.
Flamingo, a private-equity funded company founded by a pair of 21-year-old New Zealanders, say they too will be emphasising safety. They’re already operating in Auckland, and note that wirh Christchurch a few months away they’ll soon be the only operator in all three major cities.
Both companies have agreed to adhere to a set of rules, which include a ban on the scooters in the Courtenay Place area after 9pm from Friday to Sunday.
The Spinoff tried a Jump scooter at the event in Washington, but on a benign, flat surface. Were they capable of taking on the terrain?
“Uber is based in San Francisco so we know a few things about hills,” said Holt. The new devices being rolled out had handbrakes, “so when you’re going down hills if becomes a lot easier to feel you have a high degree of control of speed”.
But what about going up them? “I think it probably depends on how much the person weighs. And on the hill. They’re definitely designed to be able to withstand hills. But there’s always a couple.”
There are now e-scooters in operation in Auckland, Wellington, the Hutt Valley, Christchurch and Dunedin, with a range of conditions, price structures and permit fees to councils. Both Jump and Flamingo will have to pay Wellington City Council a licence fee of $615 plus $12.50 per scooter towards a public education campaign.
As of today, the app-based e-scooter programmes across New Zealand are as follows:
Auckland (trial to Oct 31)
Lime: 900 scooters – $1 plus 38 cents a minute
Flamingo: 525 – $1 + 30c/min
Wave: 400 – $1 + 30c/min
Lime: 600 – $1 + 38c/min (nb “seasonal pause” sees services suspended as of today)
Wellington (initial trial to Dec 18)
Jump: 400 – $1 + 30c/min
Flamingo: 400 – $1 + 30c/min
Lime: 1000 – $1 + 38c/min (permit to March 2019)
Beam: 300 (launch later this month; permit to February 2020)
Flamingo: 300 (launch Sept; permit to February 2020)
Lime: estimated 700 – $1 + 38c/min (no permit required, but Lime has signed an MOU with the Council)
Join The Spinoff Members for as little as $1 to help us continue our work and cover the stories that matter. Get a free Toby Morris-designed tea towel when you contribute $80 or more over a year.
The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed daily digest of New Zealand’s most important stories, delivered directly to your inbox each morning.