Recently the BBC reported on a motorised suitcase which airline passengers can sit on and ride around the airport. Can you imagine the departures hall, with people whizzing around, some dawdling, some seriously over packed, everyone behaving according to their personality types? Well mobility scooter users are a bit like that, have you noticed? All different types of people . . . .
Now, technology is a wonderful thing, and having used a powered wheelchair for some twenty five years I’m a big fan of mobility aids. Our ability to stay active in our families, our communities, and at work, is seriously enhanced by powered wheelchairs and scooters. Some of my best friends use mobility scooters and, okay, there’s no easy way to say this, but some motorised scooter users are a pain in the backside! There, I’ve committed the cardinal sin of criticising other disabled people.
But seriously, whilst the majority of scooter users are considerate, careful, and take account of other people some should be required to re-train or stay at home. In my mind I’ve taken to categorising and, yes, labelling scooter users, again probably unfairly for some, but bear with me . . .
The most obvious is the male menopause, chrome and wing mirrors rider: he (although there are some women) sees the motorised scooter as a way to regain his lost rebel years. He has polished accessories, go faster stripes, solid state baskets and a souped up motor. If he’s really keen he’ll ride on the road – technically, in the gutter, but hey – or terrorise the pavement. And oh yes, his scooter is BIG. His attitude to walking pedestrians is suitably dismissive.
And then there’s the zombie rider: sometimes these go in pairs, rarely looking where they are going, blithely and unconsciously cutting a swathe through the pedestrians, who stroll along at their peril. The zombie rider was probably an inconsiderate pedestrian before they became a scooter user, who bumped into people all the time, but that didn’t really matter or at least it didn’t really hurt anyone: not so now! Beware the zombie rider. . .
We’ve probably all seen the shopaholic, a kind of mobile version of the ‘bag lady’ with carrier bags and shopping bags hanging from every available part. Usually they’re trying to get through a space that is just too small, scraping past you and knocking to the floor anything that is untethered. They remain blissfully unaware that some spaces in shops and stores are too small for their machines but motor on regardless in their retail quest. Closely related to the shopaholic is the demolition man who has absolutely no spatial awareness, sense of responsibility or sense of personal space: this rider will back into you – accompanied by a loud beep, beep, beep – and run over your toes with alacrity. And if you get hurt? Well for some reason you find yourself apologising to them as you rub your foot!
The undecided rider is maybe to be sympathised with – leave the scooter outside or take it in? Go on the road or on the pavement? Leave the soft top up when you go in the supermarket or take it down? It’s as if they can’t decide whether they’re a pedestrian or not, and if they’re a pedestrian whether to run or walk.
A favourite of mine is the double, the ‘buy one, get one free’ that I’ve only seen used in Tenerife: this scooter has a longer wheelbase and two seats, one in front of the other. It’s always been used by a man and a woman, and the man always drives (and some wear a flat cap). It looks a bit like an old fashioned Sunday outing; I fondly imagine they have a picnic hamper and flask stashed away for when they find a nice spot to stop and look at the view.