A trio of e-scooters – why there’ll be no scoot-by shootings – why I’m now less gung-ho about e-scooters than I was

So there I was, standing near the top end of Victoria Street, with two things on my mind and being photoed by me. There was Pavlova, and there was the fact that the road junction at the top end of Victoria Street is as muddled and meaningless and shapeless as the magnificent (Parliament) Square at the other end is clear and meaningful and shapely. Seriously, they’ve been hacking away at this place for the last decade, redoing Victoria Tube and much else besides. When you look at it all at ground level, you think: Why did they bother? What a missed opportunity to bookend Victoria Street with something almost as good as what happens at the other! But no, it a mess.

At which point, into this meaningless muddle there came these three persons, on their three e-machines:

That’s right, a small flock of e-scooters, driven by young persons. I knew I’d encounter such a site in circumstances that would enable me to photo it sooner or later, and that moment had arrived. The photos are not great, as photos. But, they do the job.

I vividly recall encountering my first flock of cyclists driven by young persons in hoods, and thinking: It’s only a matter of time before we are all reading about bike-by shootings. Because that was the atmosphere exuded by that cyclist flock. It is a minor but definite regret of mine that I did not record this prophecy before it was fulfilled, as fulfilled it very soon was.

However, I don’t believe that there are going to be any scoot-by shootings any time soon. E-scooters, in fact scooters of both kinds, are fundamentally different from bikes. Bikes work more safely if you keep your hands on the handlebars, but you don’t have to keep your hands on the handlebars. You can steer a bike using only your arse and your feet. You can therefore ride a bike and deploy a weapon, should you be inclined. However, it is my clear understanding that if you take both your hands off the handlebars of an e-scooter, you come an immediate cropper. Even taking one hand off one handlebar would severely endanger you.

Any assassin gang able to get their hands and feet on e-scooters can also obtain bikes, so bikes will continue to be the means of transport of choice for assassin gangs who can’t or don’t want to use a motor vehicle. (Remember, bike gangs can easily split up after they’ve done their evil deeds, and individual bikes can go places cars can’t.)

In general, e-scooters are just not as “empowering” as bikes. They are more unstable, more vulnerable, not least to bikes. I got the chance to interrogate a couple of e-scooter guys, a few days before I photoed the above photos, and this was what they told me. It wasn’t easy to explain, they said. You’ll have to actually do it to get what we’re saying, they said. But, e-scooters are kind of dangerous, they said.

This conversation is the first one I’ve had that made me less gung-ho than I have been lately about e-scooters than more. E-scooters may not be about to conquer the world after all.

I continue to see a steady and slightly increasing number of e-scooters in my local area, every time I venture out into it, and I do mean every time. But maybe this is a temporary phenomenon made possible by Lockdown and the consequent reduction in the number of threats to e-scooters. Maybe when business-as-usual resumes on all of London’s roads, as it surely soon will even as business as a whole in London takes a big hit, then maybe the e-scooters will retreat, instead of becoming ever more numerous.

What e-scooters probably need is dedicated e-scooter pathways. I have seen enough non-hooded, middle class e-scooters, and even a couple of e-scooter family flocks, to suggest that the political clout to contrive such pathways might materialise. But it will take its time, I think.

Get ready for electric scooter racing

It seems that my current obsession with e-scooters is quite widely shared. That being why I am obsessed with them.

As of now, e-scooters are only borderline legal. In some primitive places e-scooters are illegal in all public places.

Elsewhere, such as in London, well, as it says here:

Electric scooters have long been something of a grey area, ..

You can hire them and ride them, but you can’t own them and ride them. Or something.

Meanwhile, yesterday, I was out for a bit, and spotted three more e-scooters scooting by. The people are fast making up their minds. The regulators need to catch up, or they’ll start looking very silly.

See also, Michael’s comment on an earlier posting here, about how the path is being cleared by cyclists for e-scooters. The regulators are creating e-scooter paths, which they now call “cycle lanes”.

So, cyclists are smoothing the ride for e-scooters. I seem to recall once upon a time reading that cyclists, way back when, did something rather similar for cars. They created a demand for flatter and better roads. Which the cars then proceeded to dominate, until now, in places like London, where so many of the cyclists are members of the regulating classes. E-scooters are more evenly matched against cyclists. Perhaps because of that, expect battles. Maybe the e-scooters, like cars, will get kitted out with bumpers at the front.

Today I did Something (and saw five e-scooters (which are cool))

Typically, for the last few months, I have days and days of doing nothing other than whatever I feel inclined to do. On such days, doing two, three or even four blog postings here is doable. But give me a Something that I have to do, and there goes about two thirds of the day.

Once again, I think this is one of the many symptoms of getting old, for poor old me, anyway. Being old, I now need an hour or more to get myself worked up into a sufficiently active state to do the Something in question, and then when it’s done, I need a couple more hours to recover my wits. On a day like that, me doing three or four blog postings is a lot less likely. Today, if you include this one, I will have done three postings. But the first two were very perfunctory, more like tweets done on a blog than your actual blog postings. This one is a bit longer, but that’s just because it’s a ramble.

The silly thing is, the Something I did today was all done and dusted within about one hour. I stepped outside, went to my nearby bank, did my bank business, and then, because the weather was rather filthy, I just went straight home again. But even that made a big dent in my day.

The reason I mention all this is to make that same e-scooter point I’ve been obsessing about here lately, to the effect that e-scooters are about to conquer the world, aka London. Every time I go out, even just to the shops and back, I see several e-scooters. Today, the e-scooter count was: five. That’s a personal record. Five. In the space of less than an hour. I didn’t even try to photo any of them. Like I say, the weather was filthy, and cameras and rain do not mix well. Also, e-scooters are fast and are gone before I can photo them. That they’re fast is why they catching on so fast.

Maybe I should stop this posting now, but here’s another e-scooter thing. A friend with whom I recently discussed my current fascination with e-scooters said: You may be right about why e-scooters make sense. Trouble is: They’re naff. The people who ride on them are twats. E-scooters are not cool.

This friend, however, although far younger than me, is nevertheless no longer of the age where she gets to decide these things. It is teenagers and twenties who determine the coolness of lack of it of things like e-scooters. All my e-scooter sightings today were of teenagers or twenties. Clearly, these teenagers and twenties think that e-scooters are cool enough for them to allow themselves to be seen on them in public, given the advantages to them, in such things as speed and convenience. What old codgers think is only of concern to them if they can be doing something that the codgers disapprove of. If the old codgers, under the delusional impression that they think they can decide such things, think that e-scooters are not cool, so what? That’s just their old codger way of saying they don’t approve. Good. That’s a feature, not a bug. Bring on the e-scooters!

I am still not fully recovered from doing all that tedious Something I did earlier today. So, I reserve the right to go through this tomorrow morning and do whatever grammatical tidying and spell-checking is necessary. As of now, I’m too knackered to bother. I trust it still makes sense, despite whatever communicational blunders now afflict it.

Bulgarian Parliament adopts rules on electric scooter use

Here. The fact that the Parliament of a Brand-X Eastern European nation reckons it worth spending its time wondering how to regulate e-scooters tells you something about the spread of e-scooters just now. And that something is: E-scooters are spreading just now.

The e-scooter has already been designed. It looks like this. No need for any more clever variations, which actually aren’t. The standard design just needs a year or two of incremental improvement, and a thinning out of all the losers so that choosing one gets easy for normal people.

1916 motorised scooter

London commuter Lady Florence Norman:

Interesting thread.

As so often, events now throw new light on the past. Incomprehensible and/or insignificant past events suddenly become more comprehensible and/or significant, because of the history happening now.

LATER: More about these early motorised scooters here.

Skateboards with one big fat wheel will never catch on

Photoed by me, next to the River, earlier this month:

Here is another Micklethwait’s Law to offer to the world, in the process of being perfected. It goes roughly thus: No form of transport which makes you want to put on knee-cap protectors will ever catch on with regular people.

I am now seeing at least two e-scooter users every time I go out my front door, and I do mean every time. I now never don’t see e-scooters speeding by. My point here is that these people typically do not wear knee-cap protectors. These are regular people who feel very safe on their e-scooters. Will this change?

E-tricycle with dog compartment

Michael Jennings reckoned I’d like this vehicle. …:

… and he is not wrong.

Although, a lot of the value of this e-trike is lost because of the presence of the dog compartment. That makes it bulky, and hard to fold up and hard to carry and store, thus losing one of the major features of smaller e-scooters. So, this thing may not catch on widely. The cost of it – £1,426.75 from Amazon – also seems excessive.

Besides which, most dogs of my acquaintance are obsessed with physical exercise, to the point where they themselves could surely be used as a power source.

Cats, on the other hand …

An even more portable e-scooter

This, the WalkCar, looks promising:

Promising because it is so very portable.

WalkCar is a small wheeled plate that is fitted with four wheels and an electric motor that takes the ship forward. It weighs only 2.9 kg and is about the size of a small 13-inch laptop PC, giving it the portability to fit in a bag. It is therefore very easily transportable anywhere. Besides, the vehicle height is just 74mm above the ground (about the width of a smartphone); its flat and square standing surface allows you to step off instantly in any direction safely.

This device is not at all cheap. $1,800. Which is much too much. But if this gadget catches on, as it surely might, that price will fall.

As with the regular e-scooter, the WalkCar will take a bit of getting used to, by other WalkCar users and by the rest of us. But, one to watch.

I have already speculated here that the end point of this story will be when shoes double up as transport. When not using these (I am, for now, calling them PowShoos), you can carry them on your feet! WalkCar has the look, to me, of a big stride in that direction.

As of now, this WalkCar is much slower that regular e-scooters, and has much less of a range. But again, those variables will surely improve. The lack of speed may even aid its acceptance by other road users, most especially pedestrians, who are already now tormented by lawless cyclists.

I’ll say it again. This is the big transport story now, not robot cars. Think of it as the motorisation and miniaturisation of Shanks’s Pony.

A rather clumsy attempted solution to the unprotected bike problem

In my various earlier postings about e-scooters, I mentioned the fundamental problem of bikes for getting around on. Because bikes are so big and clumsy to take with you everywhere, bikers must constantly leave their bikes unattended, which means they regularly get damaged and/or stolen.

This afternoon, while out-and-about out in south-east London, I encountered and photoed a very partial answer to the bike protection problem:

I’m guessing that how this works is that you have a special key that lets you into this contraption, to insert or remove your bike.

Setting aside the sheer bother and expense of this thing, the bigger problem is that your bike problem is not typically confined to one spot. The problem follows you. Wherever you go, you may want to get shot of your bike for a while, and bam, sooner or later it gets wrecked or nicked. At least with hired bikes, there is a choice of places to abandon the bike. With this thing, you need to hire a whole new metal tend for each spot you might want to stop at. No. Comments telling me otherwise would be most welcome, but as of now, I just don’t think this works.

If, despite my grumbles, you want to investigate further, I took (see the photo on the right of the above three) a photo-note of the website to go to.

E-scooters will be personally owned – not hired or shared

At present, The Plague and The Riots loom large. But when historians look back on 2020, will they instead talk about e-scooters? I am now betting so. E-scooters, historians will say, were a crucial step in the development of PowShoos. You know, Power Shoes, the ones you put on, which make you immediately able to (a) stand almost still, but yet (b) travel at a hundred miles an hour without hitting anyone.

Back in the time of now, living as we now do at this historic moment in transport history, we have to make do with our clunky old e-scooters, and here is another thought from me on e-scooters, along with all these thoughts.

Google is starting to send me emails with links to articles about e-scooter hiring and e-scooter sharing. But if you google these subjects, you also find pieces saying that these ideas are already failing, in places where this is being attempted. This makes perfect sense to me, because what I now say is that shared e-scooter services make little sense.

The only big reason for hiring or sharing an e-scooter now is to find out if you’d like to own one. As soon as e-scooters become at all widely owned, as they are about to in London, we’ll all have friends who can lend us theirs to have a go on, to see if we’d like to own one also. Actual e-scooter sharing will be huge, informally. But it won’t be an organised “service”, public or private, because it won’t need to be. And anyway, as soon as you even see an e-scooter in action, you can see if an e-scooter would suit you. It’s not complicated. What you see is what you’ll get.

Consider the current domination of laptop computers. That likewise spread owner-to-owner. There were never any big laptop sharing or hiring services. There didn’t need to be.

As I explained in my last e-scooter posting, a huge attraction of e-scooters is that you can cling onto them when travelling but not actually riding on them. You can carry them, and as the video adverts for e-scooters that Google is now attaching to my internet reading are explaining, you can put an e-scooter into the boot of a car, which you cannot do easily with a bike, unless you are something freakish like a member of a sports bike racing team. You can even put an e-scooter into the boot of a taxi. All of which makes e-scooters very appealing compared to their big competitors, biking or walking. Biking is too cumbersome. (What do you do with the damn bike when you aren’t biking?) Walking is too slow and can’t do longer distances.

Bike hiring is the answer to the problem of what you do with a bike once you get off it and need then to abandon it. E-scooter hiring, on the other hand, is the answer to a problem which does not exist. When you get off your e-scooter, you hang on to it. Until you get to work, where you store it, or until you get home, ditto. Otherwise, you keep it with you.

To put it another way, the e-scooter is, above all, personal. You will own your personal e-scooter. Or, like me, you won’t, but will note with interest that millions of others are doing this.

Bike sharing schemes required a massive amount of cumbersome politics to get established, which was endured because bike sharing schemes solve an actual problem. But all plans for e-scooter sharing schemes will be overwhelmed by the simple process of e-scooter people just buying their own e-scooters. All that is needed, politically, is for e-scooters to be allowed.

As of right now, e-scooters are very expensive. E-Scooter Man, whom I recently met and talked with, twice, paid the best part of a a thousand quid for his. Soon, e-scooters will plunge in price to nearer a hundred quid. They will also get a lot less heavy and less bulky, even than they are now, what with their portability being such a big deal.

Then, watch them fly off the shelves.