Posted on: November 26, 2019 at 2:44 PM    

There are some spaces where the mixing of pedestrians and wheeled devices travelling at speed just doesn’t work.

A recent trip to Brisbane really drove that home for me. Some spaces had signs asking people to walk their wheels, let’s call them Walk Your Wheels (WYW) zones. These spaces included the Queensland University of Technology campus and plaza type areas along the river front where people were walking out of cafes and restaurants and there wasn’t enough space. Coming from Christchurch where we haven’t quite got the mass of users in any one place yet, the volume of e-scooters and bikes weaving through people walking in Brisbane was an eye opener and at times scary.

University of Otago has created a WYW zone within their campus - “The University has been designed for pedestrian and wheelchair use and this campaign reiterates the safe use of our campus.” They want the central campus to be as pedestrian-friendly as possible so that people using personal transport devices such as bicycles, scooters, skateboards, push scooters and roller blades, need to walk their wheels on the central campus. There are also WYW zones being used as part of temporary traffic management, for example in Auckland.

Ideally, we would have spaces allocated to active modes that reflect the speed differential - we can work towards that, but it will take a while. In the meantime, WYW zones might be a good solution for spaces where mixing these modes isn’t working. But will Councils and others in control of outdoor public spaces embrace WYW zones and will people walk their wheels in these areas? Will they see that their higher speed is intimidating and may cause an accident? And will people call them out for not walking their wheels?

I observed people in Brisbane complaining to their companions but not the wheeled perpetrator. If a bylaw supports the WYW zone who will enforce it - parking wardens?

These are lots of questions but ultimately it comes down to courtesy and respect, and neither are well engrained in our transport culture. Ideally we need to start with our children, as an example of this, I quite like the Montessori “5 ways to raise kids” model applied to transport:

  1. You first – set an example by being courteous to others on paths etc.
  2. Turn up the tolerance – show them that differences are OK, it doesn’t matter if someone is walking slowly and you can’t pass right away.
  3. Read the signs – help them to recognise when someone walking looks uncertain and fearful and to then pass slowly.
  4. Mind your manners – teach them good old-fashioned P's and Q's, say Hi and be nice!
  5. Lend a helping hand – teach them to notice if someone less mobile needs help navigating a space or crossing the road and not be scared to go and help.

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Blog written by Jeanette Ward, Technical Director, Transportation

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