E-scooters absolutely bombing doon pavements, rallying through pedestrians, scattering the elderly like pigeons before a cat.
They are an increasingly common sight in Dundee.
They are also illegal, and about as welcome an addition to the city’s already unsafe pavements as a headless rider is to Sleepy Hollow.
Which is annoying cause I really want one.
They look like the future.
And if I get my way, they certainly will be.
Round where I stay, I’ll often be out jogging and get scorched past by a young guy – I’ve yet to see a woman on one – on an e-scooter.
They seem clean, fast, efficient. The best way to move A to B in a crowded urban space.
But we just dinnae have a place for them to be.
You read newsflashes fairly often, fae Scotland and abroad, that implicate e-scooters in incidents.
Sometimes, as in Dundee this year, it’s a pedestrian getting clattered and hospitalised off a scooter, whose driver then sped off.
At other times it’s e-scooters getting knocked over by drivers.
There is an ongoing friction, and a vibe of danger around them.
E-scooters everywhere but what’s the legality? And what’s the reality?
Doing my Christmas shopping this year, I saw hunners of them on sale in perfectly legitimate businesses, bike shops and the like.
So I presume as we head into the new year there will be loads more of them buzzing aboot the place.
The polis are clearly rattled.
Just a couple of days before Christmas, they released a message to the press and stuck it out on all channels, stating that “The use of e-scooters in a public place in Scotland is illegal.”
I needed some first-hand evidence. So for the last week, I’ve had by eyes peeled for an accostable rider.
I became an urban hunter, eyes keen for the silhouette of a silent e-scooter scything through the city.
Down getting a doughnut at my brother’s van at the V&A, I spotted prey approach. A solo scooterist boosting along the waterfront.
I stepped out in front of him and flagged him down.
E-scooters may be popular Christmas presents this year, but make sure you know the laws and implications before purchasing.
Using an e-scooter in a public place is illegal and users need a valid driving licence and insurance.
— Police Scotland (@PoliceScotland) December 10, 2021
The guy was wrapped up against the winter chill; gloves, tammy and scarf birled about his face.
His eyes looked at me, a bitty suspicious.
“Hey pal, I’m thinking about getting a scooter for Christmas,” I lied. “Can I ask you about it?”
All you ever wanted to know about e-scooters but were too afraid to ask
He told me he loved it. Really raved about how handy it was.
You pop to a pals across town, takes no time and costs nothing.
New, they’re 300 quid but he picked his up for a lot less.
Speed? About 18mph.
Range? About 60 miles.
Pleasantries out the way, I got to the real questions.
“Are they legal?”
“Ummm,” he says. “I’m no actually that sure. Some folk say they arnae.”
“What do the polis do when ye pass them?”
“Aye ye dae see the polis kind of look at ye when ye pass them like. But if you’re no goin mental speed or that they dinnae seem tae mind…”
Fair enough. A legal grey area that mibbie the average polis in Dundee cannae quite be bothered to explore too deeply.
“Do ye not frighten pedestrians?” I cracked on, playing the hard-nosed detective journalist.
“Ach. No really. Ye dinnae go fast if there’s folk about,” he lied.
He’d been racing along a busy waterfront at night wi nae lights on to save battery before I flagged him down.
My questions answered, he sped off darkly into the night.
E-scooters – a problem and an opportunity
The issue as I see it is this: e-scooters are too fast and too dangerous for users to go on the pavement in any numbers.
Ones and twos is fine, but if they really blossom in popularity then it’ll become a real hassle and a hazard.
“now treating more and more e-scooter riders, many with “life changing head injuries”. One London-based neurosurgeon said the severity of e-scooter riders’ injuries were “more similar to those of motorcyclists than pedal cyclists” https://t.co/5gtRijY7sT
— Michael Warhurst (@mwarhurst) December 24, 2021
But on the other hand, the roads around Dundee are just too dangerous for scooters to go on.
And herein I smell an opportunity for a collaboration.
I love cycling.
Every Scottish city, village and town I’ve lived in, I’ve relied on my bike. Newbigging, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Elgin, Carnoustie.
Now I’m in Dundee, I’ve had to give it up as a commuter machine.
The drivers here are too careless, the roads too broken up and dangerous and the cycle lanes simply non existent.
Now I just walk or drive, and the bike sits unused.
There is some pressure to make Dundee a better city to cycle in, but progress is not currently transformational.
If we cyclists team up with the new generation of e-scooterists, we could really get some momentum going.
Together, pushing for safe spaces for two-wheeled vehicles, we could win the argument.
Safe space for scooters and cyclists, clearer roads for the rest
Drivers at the moment simply don’t like cyclists and resent giving up so much as an inch to them.
Many people don’t want to or can’t take up cycling either, for health, age or mobility reasons.
Both of these large groups could easily become e-scooterists.
If we strung some meaningful cycle routes through the town, with separation between the carriageway, the pavement and the bipedellers, congestion would fall, road noise would fall, the stinking air that sits like a poison over the streets would be thinned.
The Dutch invest €595 million annually on urban biking, resulting in €19 BILLION saved in public health care costs alone. That’s how smart govts do the math on investing in better mobility.
— Brent Toderian (@BrentToderian) December 7, 2021
E-scooters could blast at top speed along these paths safely, making short urban journeys easy and cheap.
Cyclists like me could enjoy safe and healthy commutes and journeys.
Those who do rely on cars or vans for life or work would benefit from reduced traffic.
E-Scooters right now are a low-key plague, currently working alongside dug mess, parked cars and broken glass to make our pavements an unpleasant environment for everyone.
But with a wee jigging of the streets, they could scoot us into a more mobile, healthier future.