Invasion of the Silly Scooters

13 Nov|Tom Hodgkinson

The bicycle: a sensible, tried and tested piece of technology

The latest craze to come out of Silicon Valley is just another useless alternative to an already established and successful invention, writes Tom Hodgkinson

The latest pointless, absurd craze to come over to Europe from Silicon Valley is rental scooters. Investors have been pouring millions into this idea. Their plan is to pollute the world’s cities with these devices and make millions or billions for themselves in the process.

The scooter craze is led by two companies, Bird (geddit?) and Lime, each of which have already been valued at billions of dollars. They are being hotly pursued by another e-scooter start-up called Spin, recently acquired by none other than Ford.

The scooters can move pretty quickly, up to 15mph, meaning that they are dangerous. They cost a pound to unlock and 20p per minute to run. That’s £13 per hour.

But I mean, AAAAAARGHH! Have they not heard of bicycles and walking? Do you really need to jump on a scooter to travel the last half mile to a meeting? And why all this rushing about? Slow down people!

And sorry to be mean-minded, but surely the oodles of investment cash that has been poured into these completely unnecessary items would be better spent on solving the homeless and opiate addiction problem in San Francisco and other American cities?

So far the UK has resisted allowing the scooters on the public streets, as we consider them to be unsafe. However, I would expect that to change as the scooter companies pour millions into lobbying, as Uber did before them. Legislators will be accused of being “Luddite” and “anti-progress”.

Bird have launched a trial run of scooters in the Olympic Park, which is private land, and London’s Evening Standard ran a very friendly story about them. It read like an ad for Bird. It gave readers an offer code for their first ride and added a complaint about the meddling authorities:

“If you try to take [a scooter] across the park boundary and off private land, they will power down and stop working. Unfortunately, this is down to some strict laws imposed by the UK’s driving authority, the DVLA. The DVLA won’t allow scooters to be driven on the roads, which has held back the likes of Bird, and its competitor Lime, from introducing scooters into the UK.”

Pesky DVLA, trying to save people’s lives, and holding back the freedom for gigantic American investment funds to squeeze cash out of gullible commuters!

And no, I do not believe that scooters are good for idlers. We already have two excellent pieces of technology for getting around cities and they are the above-mentioned walking and bicycling. London’s own “Boris bike” scheme is excellent and I personally love zipping around town on my bicycle and not giving more money to Silicon Valley.



These comments were mailed to us at [email protected] after the above piece was sent as a newsletter. We like to publish a selection and reserve the right to edit them for clarity. Feel free to drop us a line with your views.

Scoot Fast and Break Things
I live in the Bay Area, near Berkeley, California, and am surrounded by the “early adopters” and “disrupters” zooming around on their scooters, leaving them every-which-way on the sidewalks. It’s irritating and unsafe, but mostly ridiculous to see able-bodied young adults (more often than not dressed in business casual) standing still on a moving platform, slacks flapping in the breeze, when they could just as easily walk. Sure it saves them five minutes to scoot, but really, come on. Sigh.
– Anne

Mods and Rockers 
As an old Rocker who still rides his Triumph, I can wholeheartedly support stopping this. The last thing we want is more bloody Mods on the road
– Rob

Silly Bikers 
Interesting discussion. I appreciate what you have to say but I have a different opinion of scooters. I live in the Redwoods of Northern CA and love them. Around here on these curvy roads, many more bicycles get run over by cars than do scooters.  The scooters are able to keep up with the cars and they also save money above what it costs to run a car. Of course, the scooters can be dangerous but there are many more flyers up in coffee shops about people who are in hospital due to a biking accident. Also, I’ve met more rude bicyclists who refuse to share the road.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a biker too and I love riding my bike. I just see a place for the scooter and hope that anyone who rents one would appreciate following the rules of the road.
– Oliver