Scooters have become the symbol of a modern metropolis. Scooters are not new, we all had one as children, just the way they are being used is. Without room in the city for cars, and reliance on public transport, a scooter provides an easy way to hop around the city and cover short distances. Canberra is a bit different, and scooters are welcoming people, who have never cycled before, to active travel .
In other cities scooter hire companies have flooded the market and, just as quickly, most of them have gone bust. City officials have struggled with the many scooters dumped underfoot. Just like shopping trolleys in Canberra, scooters have ended up in the most unlikely of places. The hire scooters are electric without on-street charging stations, resulting in a flood of gig-workers driving around the streets in vans collecting them. As a consequence the carbon footprint of scooters has not been positive.
Scooters have been kept small and simple. This works for children’s toys but has been detrimental as a transport device. In urban environments with cars and pedestrians coming at you, good brakes are essential. The scooters are used night and day, so lights are needed, too. The pavement in cities may be sealed but the quality is often very poor, and paths are often not kept clear or clean. Scooters with small wheels do not roll over obstacles well and get caught (physics applies). Riders lose balance and can fall. Riding in traffic is tricky at the best of times. Many people are using scooters for the first time and have no experience riding in traffic and therefore underestimate the dangers. Riding in heels is not a good idea! Put them one once you’re in the office.
Symbol of city living
The scooter below is a modern design but not something that would be suitable for commuting in Canberra but rather for short hops, combined with public transport. Scooters are a symbol of city living.
Recreation and play
Learning from other’s mistakes
Canberra is late to introduce scooters as a means of transport. The process was started last year by Minister Shane Rattenbury. Scooters are a mobility device and their rider is an active traveller. A scooter can be used on the community paths throughout Canberra – with a helmet. Essentially, they are treated as a cyclist would be. More on the legal side another time.
Scooter hire could be seen in Canberra, and Canberra can learn from international experience. Scooters need to be safe, tough and the electric ones docked on charging stations. A safe scooter has big wheels, good tyres, brakes front and rear, lights and handlebars of adjustable and suitable height, as you would find on a bike. Batteries need to be recharged upon redocking otherwise the scooters lie useless with flat batteries and litter the streets. Batteries need to be large if the scooter is to have any great range. Successful hire companies do this. Other cities’ experiences teach us that without regulation, this is not going to happen.
Buying a scooter
The design of a scooter depends on the purpose for which it is to be used. Some are used in skateboard parks in spectacular ways. This is recreation. Commuting to works requires quite a different scooter. Canberra is a city that is fairly spread out. Getting to the suburbs from the city will require a high ride speed and a 30 minute or more ride. Riding to and from work is twice the distance. We will only have one scooter so it better be a good one. The requirements are those mentioned above: big wheels, good tyres, front and rear brakes, lights, and handlebars of adjustable and suitable height. For the scooter to have good range it will require a large capacity battery as you would find on an electric bike. It is not surprising, considering the similarities between a good scooter and an electric bike, that they may cost the same.
Scooters are cyclists
What makes a good scooter for commuting is no different to the characteristics that make an electric bike suitable for commuting. When our bike or scooter becomes an active transport device, we mean business. We will be reliant on the thing and get very fond of it.
Scooter are welcome to the cycling scene as they bring many people to become active travellers. Scooters use the same infrastructure as bikes and have the same limitations as bikes. Riding to work on a scooter is a good thing. Due to the many similarities, they will fit in well with the cycling community. I doubt enthusiastic bike lovers will buy a scooter but they are already active travellers. Scooters appeal to new riders.