The use of public hire e-scooters continues to grow in popularity across the UK and around the world and will play a key role in smart cities of the future as a safe, green and socially-distanced way of getting from A to B. Riders so far are really enjoying the experience of trying a whole new way to travel, and are fully embracing efficient, sustainable, affordable multimodal journeys.
However, the nostalgic memory of childhood push scooters is perpetuating the perception that e-scooters are for the younger generation. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Whilst it gives that sense of joy, fun and freedom that we used to feel when we were younger, e-scooters are a convenient first and last-mile transport option for all.
Our riders in the UK, including Milton Keynes and six locations in Essex, represent every age group. They use our public hire e-scooters for their daily commute, or for running errands and leisure pursuits, regardless of their age. It might surprise you to learn that about a quarter of our riders are aged 45 or older in Essex, which we know from our regular rider surveys. We spoke to a couple of them to find out why they would encourage more people 45+ to give e-scooters a go.
With approximately two-thirds of the global population expected to live in cities by 2050, building more sustainable cities is crucial, so environmentally friendly transportation must be a part of the solution. As evidenced by our interviewees, e-scooters are a great travel option for short trips to reduce the congestion and pollution that comes with car journeys.
Supporting this notion, Cheryl, 59 from Chelmsford, calls for others to consider alternatives to car journeys: “Most of my journeys are short journeys, which are obviously bad for the environment. Getting from A to B, you've become used to using your car. Everybody just walks out the door and gets in the car and drives without thinking there are other options.”
Sue, 54 from Colchester is not only reducing her own car journeys but also exercising parental influence on the next generation to do so: “I'm doing my best to reduce my car journeys and my 21-year-old daughter yesterday said, ‘Mum can I have a ride to town?’ I said no, get on an e-scooter. And she did. She’s got to learn as well that we have got to reduce car journeys. A few weeks ago, she wanted a McDonalds and so, she and her friend got a scooter and went to the nearby McDonalds to get one. They would have got in their car otherwise.”
A lot of time and energy can be wasted on waiting for public transport, sitting in traffic, looking for parking and generally scrambling around a city. In contrast, e-scooters help people to move freely. Cheryl also highlighted the convenience of e-scooters: “Particularly now with COVID, you want to look after yourself. I wouldn't go and get on a bus. It's just not what I would use. I'd have to walk to get a bus, wait ten minutes to get on a bus and then walk to the other end, so I don't find that convenient. But you know, getting in my car, obviously, that's convenient, isn't it? Like everybody else, I think you've got to change your mindset. There's potentially another option. And, with e-scooters, you're much more in charge of your own time. You just get on them and off you go. You don't have to wait around for somebody else.”
This mirrors Andrew, 45 for Chelmsford’s experience: “If I want to meet friends for coffee or I've got a meeting to go to or something it just makes it easier. If I'm looking at going earlier at rush hour times it's better using cycle paths going to town. If I'm waiting for a bus service, they are quite unreliable around that time and turn up late because of the traffic, and I find them quite expensive to use. So, this for me was a cheaper and quicker way because normally I would walk. It's not that it's depriving me of exercise. It's more the fact that it's quicker. I still go out to walk as I have a dog as well.”
As lockdown restrictions ease and summer is in full swing, people are now starting to meet friends and family again, eat out, shop locally and use local amenities – reinvigorating the use of e-scooters for leisure and fun.
Sue, from Colchester emphasises the excitement she feels riding e-scooters: “It is great fun. You can't deny it. Going to a meeting on a scooter is brilliant fun. So much better than getting in the car… I know it sounds strange but you're taller on them because you're raised a few inches. You’ve got the wind in your hair. You are free. I know it sounds a bit crazy, but you can feel quite superior because you know you're not in your car.”
Another 50-year-old rider feels similar elation: “The first time I stepped on a scooter I felt like a kid again! I felt free! The wind blew gently in my face, and I felt a sense of adventure. It was fun!”
As for Cheryl in Chelmsford she advises learning with family and friends and experiencing the joy with them: “When we first tried them, I was with my children. Because I'm older I think they felt I needed some sort of lessons. My daughter and her partner were like ‘Come on we'll go out for a scooter ride!’ We found it great fun to go over towards the park and along the cycle lanes around the back of the park to build up my confidence.”
While a 46-year-old from Chelmsford has taken fun to the next level with a longer usage pass: “I've gone out, met a couple of friends and we've gone out for a ride around Chelmsford around a big loop. We did an hour-long Spin pass one day, and just went out and drove around.” And proving once again e-scooters aren’t just for young people, he added, “I have a friend who is 72 who rides Spin e-scooters.”
With e-scooter rides costing 0.20p per minute and in Essex locations with no “unlock” fee, it’s an affordable transport option that cuts the cost of parking as well. Paul, 47 from Colchester, commented: “Rather than park in the car park in town and pay £4 an hour, I park where it's free further out and then I scoot into town.”
Cheryl also added, “I can pick up quite a few e-scooters within a five-minute walk meaning I can go off into town and just pay my money to use one. You go for an hour in the office, two hours, whatever you want to do, and then you just get back on it and come home again. There are no more fees. You always know what you're paying. If you go in the town with a car, you've got to try and park… sometimes you can’t get a space and it’s such a hassle. Some parking charges are ridiculous too.”
It’s the future of our cities
I leave you in the capable hands of Andrew from Chelmsford to summarise: “Really, the main thing I would try and get across to people thinking about trying an e-scooter is don’t be put off by the perception you build up in your head. The reality is very different. E-scooters definitely aren’t just for younger people. Used sensibly they’re a legitimate way of getting around.”