The one where I cancel e-scooters

Monday 1st July – Issue #11

Kia ora whānau,

What’s this? Another newsletter, one week later? By George, he’s finally done it! Not much of a preamble this week. Let’s get into it.

My E-Scooter Dilemma

E-scooters are cancelled! Needless to say, I have some complicated feelings about electric scooters. What might seem like harmless fun and good for the environment isn’t so cut and dry. I’ll outline my main concerns in this 100-page essay. I don’t know how we as a society solve this particular issue especially as scooters have taken over countries, literally overnight, dropped off in the cover of darkness, often in unsuspecting cities.

New Zealand city councils have at least had a say in their deployment but the majority are still run by American start-ups. Flamingo, started by two NZ university students, follows in the shadow of e-scooter competitors like Uber’s Jump, which curiously is competing with Flamingo in Wellington for a trial run. I don’t know what happens after that, whether we pick one or continue to offer both. Lime was not happy to be excluded and unrelatedly, due to vandalism of their scooters have actually removed their scooters from my hometown of Upper Hutt and later, a “seasonal pause” from the Hutt Valley.

Safety
Firstly, the death on an e-scooter in Auckland recently is tragic and should be investigated thoroughly. But there is a risk with any mode of transport. This risk should be reduced wherever possible. Obviously, don’t drink and scoot. Of course, helmets are the starting point. Flamingo offers free helmets at $10 shipping with a delay. But it’s not convenient to carry around a helmet all the time on the off chance it might be a fine day. So the first step is to make helmets accessible. Of course, bicycle sharing company, Onzo, tried this by placing helmets on their e-bikes, but the helmets often went missing. I don’t know if there’s some kind of locking mechanism you could have to lock it to a scooter when you’re done but obviously, that’s a costly endeavour and could make the helmet ineffective.

These start-ups do have control over the max speed of their scooters but I’m not sure if they are advanced enough to adjust depending on your geolocation… yet. And, as far as I’m aware it’s not possible to tell whether you are riding on a road or footpath. Speeds are easy enough to bypass like the guy I saw racing along Willis Street by peddling an e-scooter for an extra boost. In the Flamingo app it actually covered a number of ground rules specifically for Wellington like you must go 10km per hour on the waterfront. But it’s difficult to read the speedometer on these things as Felix Desmarais from Stuff notes. Plus, who is going to enforce that?

Footpaths
Ideally, we would have bike lanes everywhere and drivers would treat e-scooter riders with respect like they do with cyclists. But as we all know, that doesn’t always happen. And truth be told I’m terrified of riding a bike in town much less an electric scooter. Although they have lights front and back, at 6.30am on a frosty Wellington morning there’s no way I’m hopping on a scooter in that darkness. 

So of course, the majority ride their scooters on the footpath, weaving in and out of pedestrians. There’s a reason we don’t allow bikes on the footpath. It’s a hazard. And then there are all the places people consider safe enough to place their scooter when they’re done, like right in the middle of a walkway. 

Waste
According to this video from The Verge, Bird scooters last less than 6 months before they are discarded. They are working on designs to make sturdier longer-lasting scooters but even then this only extends the life cycle by a short amount. Now just multiply this across e-scooter companies, across countries. And if this whole scooter sharing industry falls to the wayside, guess where the rest of these scooters are going to end up? The landfill. This whole production of scooters combined with gathering them up to charge them might negate the fact they run on electricity and not fossil fuels. Let’s not even get into whether or not renewable energy on the grid is being used to charge the scooters.

The Gig Economy
As a union delegate, I despise the gig economy. Ride-sharing companies like Uber exploit their workers. I’ve spent time as a temp and a fixed-term employee and as precarious as those positions were, I still held more rights than someone in the gig economy; health and safety, employment rights and a minimum wage. These e-scooters we use and the next day they’re fully charged. It’s not magic. People actually have to go and fetch these things and take them home to charge. Lime calls them “juicers”. They’re not employed by Lime. They get the gear required to charge and then they’re on their own. It’s competitive too. You want to get to a scooter before another juicer or tough luck, no money for you.

Cost
These e-scooters are not an affordable mode of transport, often a $1 unlock and 30c a minute to ride. If you commute to your work, as I do, it’s still cheaper to catch a bus. The cost relegates this to a fun activity you might do every now and then for kicks. Considering all the points above, is it really worth it?

So there we have it. All my thoughts and feelings about the simple economy of e-scooters. That all being said, the longer these scooters sit on our footpaths, the more likely I’ll cave and ride one, just to “try it”. Either that or I’ll just grow increasingly bitter at every scooter that zooms past me as I hurriedly drag my feet to the train station.

Review: Rocketman

I was not a fan of Bohemian Rhapsody. Putting aside the fact the director is an accused rapist it’s still a by the numbers biopic with a narrative about Freddie Mercury controlled by the remaining members of Queen. I enjoyed some of it sure, and I’m not knocking it if you loved it. But we’re not here to talk about that movie. We’re here to talk about another movie about a music legend where we’ve stopped with film titles like ‘Mercury’ and ‘Elton’, and instead, gone with the titles of songs performed by them. I mean it’s a slightly more creative choice, sure.

Let’s start with the fact Elton John played himself in a Kingsman movie where he was kidnapped by the film’s villain only to be rescued by Taron Egerton who now plays him in his own biopic. What a fascinating turn of events.

What makes Rocketman interesting is that at any moment it could turn into a musical with any of the characters bursting into song. We’re not tied to just Egerton trying to replicate Elton’s iconic voice. Sure he does a lot of that and it does end up becoming a straightforward musical biopic about navigating the music industry with arsehole managers. But then we have the fantasy elements, from Egerton floating on the piano, to soaring into space or going on a drug-filled bender, with a huge cast of backing dancers. The songs worm their way into the narrative and the film isn’t so concerned with when these particular songs came out.

I don’t know how many more of these musical biopic films I can keep going to but sure, throw me one on U2.

Engaging

  • Local body elections aren’t exciting and it is disappointing because councils can have a large impact on your life. The voting booklet comes out and it’s often a stab in the dark to figure out who to vote for. Two young progressive candidates, I follow on Twitter, have thrown their hats into the ring: Louise Hutt for Mayor & Hamilton West and Asher Goldman for Kāpiti Coast. Please vote in the coming months and consider getting young, diverse voices into your local council. 
  • When the NZ Herald put up a paywall over its content I did feel like the drawbridge went up. It meant missing out on important stories and a few opinion columns I liked such as the one by David Cormack. And despite some awful commentators *cough Mike Hosking, Rachel Stewart *cough*, some of their journalists, like Kirsty Johnston, do put out good work.

    Instead of a ‘Premium’ paywall, The Spinoff is going the way of membership. Stories are still free for anyone to view. Like being a union member, it benefits all. Yes, there are some bonuses to membership and I’m interested in seeing how they take our story suggestions on board. We will get more in-depth coverage of important social issues in New Zealand and I’m excited about them considering hiring a climate change reporter.
     
  • And on that note, The Environment Select Committee is now accepting submissions for the Zero Carbon Bill or Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment BillGeneration Zero has a useful guide of what you can submit to make the act stronger than its current form. For instance, setting clearer targets and timeframes and having a stronger stance on methane. Submissions close July 16th.

Watching

  • Both Auckland and Wellington have released their programmes for the New Zealand International Film Festival from the end of July to early August. Other cities will have theirs slightly later. Wellington tickets go on sale on July 4th and if it’s anything like the last few years, it’s going to be a headache to book in the first few hours. I tend to get the 10-trip and even then it’s hard to whittle down my list. Now with a baby, it’s going to prove even more difficult. Here are 10 films I would like to see if the stars align. More on stars in a bit. In no particular order, but The Farewell is my number one pick.
  1. The Farewell – Awkwafina learns her grandmother is dying but as often practised in Chinese culture they are keeping it a secret from her.
  2. High Life – Director Claire Denis with Robert Pattinson (we like him now) in a sci-fi space epic.
  3. Under the Silver Lake – It Follows director, David Robert Mitchell, and one of the Spider-Men, Andrew Garfield. It sounds delightfully bizarre.
  4. The Nightingale – From Jennifer Kent, director of the hit horror flick, The Babadook. Set in Tasmania in the 1800s, it’s a revenge film about colonial violence.  
  5. The Day Shall Come – the director of black comedy Four Lions is back with a satirical take on the FBI with Anna Kendrick as a bumbling agent.
  6. The Art of Self-Defense – stars Jesse Eisenberg in a black comedy about toxic masculinity. This greedy guy has two films in the fest by the way.
  7. Apollo 11 – a documentary with restored 65mm footage detailing the first landing on the moon.
  8. Helen Kelly – Together – a documentary about the late Helen Kelly, former president of the Council of Trade Unions and champion of workers across NZ.
  9. Births, Deaths, and Marriages – a family gathering in Upper Hutt in the ’90s. Nuff said.
  10. Bellbird – a Northland farmer loses his wife and has to teach his useless son how to farm. It looks very similar to the first half hour of Hunt for the Wilderpeople. It even has Rachel House.

Update 04/07/2019: I ended up swapping the last two for Vivarium and Apocalypse Now Final Edit. I’m a bad kiwi.


Listening

  • The stars are out and Matariki is upon us. If it seems like Māori New Year came out of nowhere in the last five years, its because like a lot of te ao Māori (the Māori world), it has been diminished because of colonisation. Only now is it in the wider public consciousness and reclaimed by Māori. The Te Wānanga o Aotearoa podcast, Taringa, had the author of Matariki: Star of the Year, Dr Maataamua, on to discuss Matariki practices and I really like the idea of acknowledging those who have passed in the last year, looking ahead and relating back to nature. On Saturday we planted a lemon tree for our baby’s first Matariki. Here’s hoping life gives us lemons.
     
  • When I was into learning screenwriting I was a big fan of The Scriptnotes podcast, from screenwriters John August (Big Fish, Aladdin (2019)) and Craig Mazin (Identity Thief, Chernobyl). Every now and then I check out an episode and recently they had Rachel Bloom on. Rachel Bloom created and starred in the TV musical comedy, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which finished its last season this year. Of course, in New Zealand, we may be waiting some time for it to show up on Netflix.

    On this episode, Bloom talks about how sex is portrayed on our screens; often hidden and when it is shown, ultimately falsely, which has an effect on how we treat sex in real life. This is a very frank discussion and Bloom talks about the ways she had to get around censors on a network television show. Right now Bloom and fellow cast members are touring America with a set of songs from the television show. You can listen to a live recording here but it’ll probably make more sense if you’ve seen the show or a few of the music videos. Maybe start with I’m a Good Person.

That’s where you come in

Inspired by Alex Braae from The Spinoff newsletter, The Bulletin, I am now asking you, my dear reader, for your input. If you have any further information on the topics I cover I’d be glad to hear it. Just reply to this email.

For this week; Have you ridden an e-scooter? How was your experience? Or else, what are your opinions on e-scooters and their impact on our communities? How would you make them better? I’ll pop them into my next newsletter.

If you enjoyed this newsletter, sing it to the tune of Your Song.

*clangs e-scooter helmets together*

Michael