Councillors want Lime to front up as company apologises over incidents

NZ Herald, Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Monday, 25 February 2019, 10:34AM
An Aucklander riding a Lime e-scooter around the city. (Photo / Greg Bowker)
An Aucklander riding a Lime e-scooter around the city. (Photo / Greg Bowker)

Lime has apologised to its riders and says it is working hard to earn the trust of New Zealanders, but councillors want the company to front up over the conflict. 

The e-scooter company, which was banned from the streets of Auckland and Dunedin on Friday because of the safety issues, says it is committed to providing "reliable affordable clean transportation options that are - above all - safe".

Its licences were temporarily revoked by Auckland and then Dunedin councils amid growing safety concerns following a number of incidents in which the front wheels on the e-scooters unexpectedly locked.

On Friday, Auckland Council said it had been advised by Lime that it had identified 155 reported irregular braking incidents which may have been caused by the unexpected locking issue - 92 of which were in Auckland, and of those 30 resulted in injury.

This week, Christchurch councillors are due to vote on whether to give Lime a one-year city permit.

The company had teams "working around the clock to rigorously assess our fleet while working to pinpoint the cause of this issue and rectify it swiftly", Mitchell Price, Lime's director of government affairs and strategy said in an op-ed article published in Stuff.

"We hired a world-renowned, engineering and scientific consulting firm to act as an independent expert to determine the cause of the problem," he wrote.

Those experts identified a "firmware issue impacting the electrical subsystems in some scooters", he said.

A series of updates had been developed and he was "confident in their efficacy".

"We have already rolled out some of the firmware fixes, which immediately resulted in a reduction of occurrences."

These had already been installed across all Lime scooters in New Zealand, Price said.

Admitting the company had got it wrong, Price said: "A prevailing truth about innovation also applies to us: things don't always go as planned, we have mis-steps, and we have to find out why mistakes happen so we can fix them, learn and adjust to them, ultimately to provide a better service."

He added: "While we remain confident in the safety of our service, we understand that Lime scooters will never become as ubiquitous as innovations like the automobile if the community doesn't share that confidence.

"We apologise to our riders and the Auckland community for this issue and the disruption in service and remain vigilant to earn the community's trust."

He vowed to continue to work closely with the "forward-thinking Auckland Council", and reiterated the company's "highest priority" was rider and community safety.

However, it may be the trust of councillors they have to win over.

In response to the ban, Lime encouraged fans to send emails to councillors to voice their support for the scooters.

Auckland councillors have received more than two thousand emails, while Christchurch councillors have received several hundred, template-driven emails.

One of them, Deon Swiggs, believes the email drive isn't helping.

"It's just going to raise a whole lot of questions through a lot of questions through some of the councillors about what Lime's real motivation here. There's a number of questions that could come out of what's happening in Auckland, and now it's just putting more spotlight on the issue."

Swiggs says it would be better if Lime instead come to Thursday's meeting and answered questions.

"If they're worried about something in Christchurch and they are worried about their position within the market, come and talk to us. We don't need several hundred emails from customers in this way."

However, Christchurch City Council Transport chair Pauline Cotter says they have a great relationship with Lime.

"We haven't had these issues come to the forefront with Lime, so I don't know what's happening in Auckland Dunedin that's different from here."

More than 185,000 riders have taken nearly one million trips on Lime scooters in Auckland alone since its launch in October. The San Francisco-based company estimated it has prevented more than 300,000 vehicle trips.

But it was the growing number of injuries that spurred Auckland Council to ban them from city streets. On Friday, the council took the steps to revoke Lime's operating licence, saying "safety is not negotiable".

Liam Thompson broke his jaw when the front wheel of the Lime scooter he was riding locked, sending him flying over the handlebar and into concrete.

Mohsen Ansari was speeding down Parnell Rise on a Lime scooter on Tuesday morning when the front wheel locked up and sent him sprawling forwards, rupturing the meniscus in his knee.

A report is due to be handed in to council today, and a further decision made on Lime's suspension.


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