Are you getting charged up about electric scooters?

Cat James

The unacceptable killing of George Floyd sparked the #BlackLivesMatter protest movement across the world. The call for nations to respect and accept diversity in all its forms is once again on the agenda – if, indeed, it had ever gone away.

You’d hope that there wouldn’t be many mono-culturalists left who quiver with incandescent rage at the adage ‘variety is the spice of life’. However, in the comments sections and letters pages of this newspaper I have found evidence that people are falling over themselves to promulgate their knee-jerk prejudices.

I’m not going to tackle racial disharmony (that will take far more than my allotted five hundred words), but the frankly embarrassing negativity around the Island’s Beryl electric scooter trial.

The main arguments against seem to be from folks whose noses are put out of joint by young people, electric vehicles and fun – their affront intensified by a combination of all three.

Can someone “riding aimlessly” really provoke ire? Why is M Hurst of Shanklin so aerated that the scooters have “no luggage-carrying feature”? Heck, even the vehicles’ turquoise livery comes under fire. “Snot-coloured junkheaps”? What does this say about the health of your nasal mucus, B Beszinski?

Let’s unpick the matter. Consider cross-Solent options. When I visit my father in Southsea, I’ll travel by hovercraft then walk the other side. If I’m heading further afield, I might start on the catamaran before boarding a train from Portsmouth Harbour. Maybe I’ll take my car; disembarking at Southampton before driving north. Horses for courses, innit? Heck, there’s a thought – what if people actually rode horses to get about?

Well, I have news for you: they do. And cars, bicycles and – yes – pavement electric mobility scooters. We can even spurn the dominion of the oil industry by walking. Here’s the big reveal: not every journey needs a car.

Of course, as Colin James (no relation) says, “it can only be a matter of time before there is a serious accident”. Imagine how his jaw will fall agape when he discovers how dangerous cars are, and how many people are killed and seriously injured by drivers EVERY DAY. How cars might be uninsured, unroadworthy and driven under the influence and over the speed limit. How cars pose far more of a threat to a scooterist – and other vulnerable road users – than the other way round.

We all know about the climate emergency; to do our bit to mitigate we need to rethink how we get about. Therefore it is great that we can sample simple-to-access entry-level pool vehicles; electric ones at that. Easy-peasy transport we can use at our convenience for our micro journeys. Those scorned young riders might decide never to own a car; discovering through the Beryl trial that personal transportation doesn’t need to mean personal ownership.

As I glided on my electric scooter, I met a chap on a unicycle. While we “aimlessly” pootled up Ryde Pier, I wondered if anyone really wants to kneel on the throat of transport diversity?

This article first appeared in print in the Isle of Wight County Press on 12 March 2021 and also online.

Cat James

Graphic designer, creative director of Pinkeye Graphics, Isle of Wight County Press columnist, Cat out of Matt and Cat

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