Cheap, sustainable transport can only be a good thing surely? Well I have found it generally all depends on who is on that scooter.
On a trip to Lisbon (when we were all allowed to do that sort of thing) I was struck by just how many scooters there were about the place, stacked up along roadsides waiting to be picked up by the next person, or roaring along the riverfront, weaving between the electric bikes and pedestrians. On a sunny summer afternoon the thought of hopping on a scooter and feeling the wind in my hair looked like a genuinely good idea and the perfect way to move around the city but I decided to hold off on the endeavour.
I can ride a bike, although I haven’t actually done this since I was about 14 years old except the times I have ill advisedly tried to show the children just how easy it is to do, however I am under no illusions when it comes to knowing my limitations on balance. A trip to the little temporary ice rink in Silves (again when we could do those sort of things) proved my theory right – I was not designed to be on anything other than terra firma and with my soles firmly planted there. It was because of my previous experiences and those weak ankles that I decided in Lisbon to hold off on the scooters while I took my time to scope out exactly how everything worked.
It turns out that renting one of these scooters is very easy. Download the app and fill in the details then get going. There are various different companies operating in Lisbon, each with slightly different pricing policies but all follow a similar premise an no sooner have you pressed “confirm payment” you can be on one of these green machines.
But would you want to?
Lisbon is famously built on seven hills and I can assure you that a scooter would not be able to propel itself up one of the notorious hills with my weight on the back of it. Equally I would expect only those looking for an adrenalin packed experience would want to hurtle downwards. Actually the scooter rental companies don’t even advise you to use them on the hills, so that leaves you with only the riverside area to really explore, granted this is a large area but when I am looking for a mode of transport I would expect it to be able to handle the hills.
My next problem with the scooters is not the scooters themselves but those who are on them. Again, the rental companies have tried to cover themselves by advising that you wear a helmet, do not ride on pavements, stick to bike lanes and only ride alone - but where is the fun in all of that! It seems it is far more exhilarating to try and pile as many people onto a scooter as possible and then play human ten pin bowling with the unsuspecting people enjoying a stroll in the sunshine.
I am no Oliver Cromwell and enjoy my fair share of shenanigans but these scooters can go as fast as 25 kilometres per hour and when they are being manned by a couple of teenagers balanced precariously on the back, then my thoughts instantly turn to disaster. I have two teenagers and they honestly struggle to get into the back of a car with a backpack and coordinate their limbs in the process and the thought of giving them anything they could operate with speed fills me with abject horror. And I know I would never be able to force them into a helmet if it was going to affect their hair but when you are whizzing along at speed a helmet does look like a decent idea – perhaps even more so for those unsuspecting pedestrians.
But as I said, I am not adverse to a bit of fun myself and the prevalence of these scooters abandoned around every city I seemed to visit spurred me on to see what all of the fuss was about. This experiment took place under the cover of darkness (to protect my dignity) and in Spain (to protect my anonymity). Perhaps the couple of beverages for Dutch courage were a mistake and the adverse weather conditions - that really fine rain that Peter Kay notes soaks you through – but the app was downloaded, scooters were mounted.
I could almost hear my mother muttering “this will only end in tears” as we began to power up these green machines, but on we went. I was too nervous to let the motor kick in so for me this was simply a rather arduous task of me essentially just pushing a heavy scooter at a slight trot along a straight bit of the road because as soon as it went into motor mode I jumped off. For my more adventurous partner, his experience was far better as he zoomed along like a pro, stopping only to allow me to film him before he hit a damp patch and crumpled to the floor, resulting in a nightpost fracture of the arm and a concussion.
So are these scooters a good or bad thing? As I said, It is not the scooters that are the problem but the riders…