eScooters in the UK Could be Quite Good, But They Would Rely on Everyone Behaving

By Tom Pritchard on at

After a lot of umm-ing and ahh-ing, it seems the government is ready to give escooters a proper try, after having announced it would be bringing the long-awaited trial run of the devices forwards. Now instead of hitting British streets from next year, escooters will now be in use from next month. Some people will be happy, others might be horrified, but they do have some potential to work - assuming everyone can actually behave themselves. That includes, scooterers, drivers, canal-chuckers, and even a few pedestrians.

Because escooters have always been on the wrong side of the list of good and bad vehicles, they're basically non-existent here. People still use them in defiance (or ignorance) of the law, but they're usually in the hands of people who do not give a fuck, like teenagers and general idiots who think it's okay to do tricks on the pavement at 15 miles an hour when there's a crowd of people around. And that could go a long way towards explaining why they have such a bad rep.

I wasn't a huge fan of escooters for that reason, and the prospect of bringing them over here felt like an invitation to give idiots a new method of injuring themselves, other people, and generally make a nuisance of themselves. It still does, because I have very little faith in the common sense of human beings, but I've also used escooters in the centre of Berlin, a place where everyone was able to not be completely fucking stupid about them.

This was at IFA last year, and my choices were either walk several miles after already spending long days inside the Messe Berlin complex looking at stuff and getting lost; use the U-bahn which wouldn't take me the entire way (and cost money); or give the various escooter rental services a try. That also cost me money, but it also happened to be the fastest option and the kindest on my already sore feet. It was a surprising experience, to be honest.

Maybe it's a Berlin thing, or maybe it's because escooters have been in the city so long (and in such frequent numbers) everyone knows how to react to them, but things ended up running rather smoothly. For starters, despite my fears, the local drivers were not lead-footed knobs who resented having to share the roadspace with something much slower and smaller than their car. Some of the lanes are narrow over there, especially with parked traffic, but when they got stuck behind me, drivers just waited until they could get past. What's more, the number of people using escooters meant I ended up joining several miniature convoys of people going around, so even if I had come across an angry driver or two they'd have had to contend with a big group rather than just the one slightly-wobbly two wheeler.

The thing about that experience is that I can't really see it being translated in Britain. Certainly not very quickly, anyway. The drivers didn't fuck about when there were scooters around, but crucially the scooterers didn't either. They just got to it and went where they were going. Was this representative of the typical German escooting experience? Possibly not, considering there was a big-ass tech show in town and the city was swarming with visitors that needed cheap ways to get around. But it did show how escooters could work, so long as everyone is on board and doesn't fuck things up out of malice, incompetence, or both.

My deeply-ingrained (and often not unjustified) cynicism tells me that things are not going to be that smooth here. Not after the escooting trial begins next month, or perhaps a significant amount of time afterwards. For starters there's that whole thing about the drivers who resent sharing road space with anything that isn't bigger than they are – be it cyclists, motorbikes, or as it may turn out, scooters. Then you have the legions of idiots who will exploit the newly-allowed vehicles to be complete idiots. Like those teenagers that do wheelies in the middle of the road, for reasons I'm apparently far too old to understand. Plus there's the woefully incompetent amongst us who can't grasp this new kind of transport. Like the cyclists who think red lights don't apply to them, or pedestrians who wander into the road without looking to see if they're about to be squashed by a bus.

That's not even getting started on the people who will start trashing rental scooters once those companies start popping up on public roads. Because that's guaranteed to happen given how many idiots and canals there are out in the world, and it's already caused multiple ebike rental companies to completely give up on the idea.

Who knows, maybe things will work out better than my head thinks. Despite this misanthropic mini-rant, I have experience how escooters could work if everyone acted with a scrap of common sense and didn't try to cause mayhem for the heck of it. And it would be nice to have some sort of transport that sits between walking and cycling, because what is there right now? Maybe a regular scooter, but that's a bit of a bummer when hills get involved. Suddenly you have to walk and lug this metal contraption up with you. Yeah, exactly.

But I won't hold my breath on that semi-utopian transport love fest happening in the UK anytime soon.