Watch out there is an Eco-Menace about!

Nowadays we are constantly being bombarded by environmental concerns.  Our oceans are full of plastic and global warming is running out of control.  Some would argue that unless we make significant changes to arrest these rising temperatures, the world will reach an unrecoverable tipping point in the next decade or so.

On the positive side things are changing, even if slowly.  Renewables are becoming more and more available all the time and cheaper to produce.  I was pleasantly surprised to hear that one third of Britain’s energy now comes from renewables (BBC Look North, East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, broadcast on 15th August 2019) and indeed recent years have seen a massive increase in the numbers of electricity producing wind turbines, both on land and out at sea.  Image of Lincs Windfarm near Skegness on the Lincolnshire coast.

However in the midst of all this good news a new menace is lurking.

Yet it was hailed as the future of urban transport.  It is electric, which is generally understood to mean clean and efficient, although this depends on how the electricity that powers it was originally produced.  It will replace the car as the item of choice for commuting around the city, even if it won’t replace it completely on shopping trips or journeys that cover greater distances.  In the city streets it is faster than a conventional bicycle and they are becoming more readily available all the time.

So what is this amazing new means of getting around?

It is of course the electric scooter!

Forget the hype and forget the glowing endorsement in the paragraph above.  These are a menace, a danger and a threat to life itself.  It is like a great white shark swimming offshore.  It doesn’t mean it will attack you, but if you get into the environment with it then there is a good chance that you are likely to be bitten!

I know I may be coming across as a bit of a dinosaur, doomed to extinction, because I seem unable to change.  Just give me a chance to explain my reasoning.

  1. No training or certification is required before using one so riders are often inexperienced or lack understanding of how to control them properly.
  2. With small wheels and a high centre of gravity they are inherently unstable and are capable of speeds of up to 30 mph (almost 50 kph), although most are limited to 10-18 mph (16-29 kph). They are unstable at low speeds but also high speeds amplify this instability.
  3. They are quite rightly banned in Britain, other than on private roads, but this legislation is largely unknown or ignored. ‘Scooterists’ therefore ride in cycle lanes on the roads or even on pavements.  Prominent UK YouTuber, Emily Hartridge was killed in July 2019 in a collision when she was on a scooter and while I am sympathetic and feel for her family’s loss and am not attaching any blame to her (I am unaware of the exact circumstances and it would be judgmental anyway) if they simply were banned this tragedy would never have occurred.
  4. In Poland the law is confused and downright dangerous.  Scooters are legally banned from cycle lanes and roads, but no such law bans them from the pavements. Consequently they fly by at high speed and pedestrians have to take their lives into their own hands.  There has even been a case in Warsaw when a pedestrian was fined after a collision with a ‘scooterist’ as the pedestrian was deemed as being at fault for moving in the way while unaware of the scooter which was approaching from behind (see for example Polsat News Report [in Polish]).  It isn’t normal or expected to be charged down by a scooter on a pavement and I wouldn’t have been looking out for it either.
  5. It would seem logical that such scooters belong in the cycle lanes or on the cycle paths, but their instability too makes this a dangerous proposition. There is no existing scooter infra-structure.

So there you go, the electric scooter needs a complete rethink, or alternatively to be banned altogether.

Let’s consider another example.  In early August 2019 French inventor Franky Zapata made a powered flight across the English Channel on a jet powered platform; so he proved it possible.  So maybe we should all go out and buy one.  Can you imagine the chaos?  Just because something can be done it doesn’t mean it should be made available to the masses.

As a final thought, why not invest in electric bicycles?  They are more stable and safer (who thought anyone would ever write that about a bicycle!) and there is already infra-structure – which is getting better all the time – in place.

It is time to ban the electric scooter before more tragedies follow.

© Richard Horton, Omega Support Services 2019

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