Oh, I get some interesting reactions when I bike to a function in a shirt and tie or even a suit. “Is this a joke or something, like is there a camera somewhere?” someone called out to me as I biked by on the way to a formal event dressed to the nines. Yeah, my city isn’t like New York… we’re still getting used to the bike as a legitimate means of transit, especially while dressed for work and social events.
But biking for transportation, while not always understood or respected, is not a new thing, especially now as our cities become more bike friendly.
However, there is another last-mile transportation option that makes incredible sense but may never be employed strictly because of the social stigma… it’s the kick scooter.
This favorite mobility option for young American children could not be a more practical, inexpensive, lightweight and portable option for those looking to connect a transit stop to work, or a trip to meet friends at a nearby restaurant in our cities.
While bike culture continues to be infused with more options and infrastructure in our urban communities, the bike is still a relatively heavy, large and frankly, theft-prone piece of personal transit. A kick scooter, on the other hand, can weigh as little as 5-6 pounds. They can fold up and fit easily in the corner of any office or cubicle. While slower than bikes, they’re faster than walking and allow for tremendous personal flexibility. Have to catch an Uber? With a bike you have to lock to a rack and come back for it later… with a scooter, you fold up an bring it with you.
Electric scooters, like ebikes, are beginning to hit the scene as well. Companies like Micro Kickboard and Ecoreco have engineered some high-quality machines, some of which are lightweight and easy to carry. A few cities are also beginning to see electric scooters built in to their bike share networks.
Getting back to the practical, affordable kick scooter, why aren’t we seeing more of these on our streets? Because as much as the general population might make negative assumptions about someone commuting by bike, the kick scooter takes these assumptions to another level. The sight of an adult on a kick scooter in the absence of any children is not exactly one you see every day, and certainly not something people hold back their comments about.
“Hey little boy, need a ride?” A car of laughing girls shouted to me on the street one time as I rode my Micro White adult scooter (pictured above) down the streets of Rochester wearing a jacket and tie. Of course I smiled, laughed and played along… I get it, it’s funny to see a guy dressed up on a scooter. And that was far from the only encounter. “Somewhere there’s a 7-year-old missing his toy…” and so forth.
The popularity of Razor scooters with children and even early teens today is likely the best chance for scooters to lose their social stigma and become a legitimate option for adults in the next 15 years. Even then, it will take a tremendously creative marketing plan by several companies to create a country-wide level of acceptance.
Until then, there is an extreme social stigma around riding anything that doesn’t have pedals. The bike has become the acceptable “alternative” mode of transit, to some extent anyway. But unless you’re from a big city where new ideas and expressions tend to be more palatable, the kick scooter will continue to be something that, as a means of mobility, is so stigmatized that no one dares to make the leap.
I’ve done it, and will continue to do it when it’s practical. But the truth is, even I get rattled by the laughs and the eyes of judgement. The kick scooter has the ability to be a tremendous tool, but it’s going to take a drastic shift in the way we view urban mobility for them to reach the extremely high potential for success that I truly believe they have.