February 27, 2022 7.00 am

E-scooter test: ‘A handy option… but not for travelling to a job interview!’

Are they the future of town centre transport?

By Local Democracy Reporter

E-scooters are an illegal, unregulated and dangerous menace – or at least they are in most of the country.

In Scunthorpe, they could be the safe, cheap future of public transport.

Electric scooters for hire allow users to zip around town on their own schedule (at the sensible speed of 11mph) for a matter of pennies.

I took a trip with the scheme, one of a handful that company Ginger is running in towns.

First I downloaded the app which is used to hire and pay for rides.

The map showed me a herd (a gaggle? A swarm?) of e-scooters waiting in Central Park’s car park.

Where you can hire Ginger e-scooters in Scunthorpe? | Photo: Ginger

After scanning a scooter’s QR code, I was asked to verify myself with a picture of my driving licence and a selfie. (These are roadworthy vehicles after all.)

Honestly, I didn’t expect the verification to work, but it promptly approved me as fit to ride.

The scooters charge £2 for 20 minutes’ ride, and there’s also 20 minutes free before midday throughout February.

I set up my account, added money to the app’s wallet and put on my trusty helmet.

There were several anxious learner drivers having lessons nearby, and I know how they felt as I climbed onto the scooter.

There is a bicycle-style brake and a button to accelerate, along with a handy bell.

The instructions said to push off like a normal scooter and accelerate. I did – and it lurched forward in a sudden burst of speed.

It was probably only travelling a few miles per hour, but it feels lot faster when there’s nothing between you and a nasty meeting with the concrete.

After a few test trips around the car park, I had got my bearings.

I pushed onto the Kingsway – and instantly panicked and couldn’t get the scooter going.

Once the traffic had swerved around me, I had another go and was soon smoothly cruising down the road with a broad grin and a mild sense of terror.

You might see illegal e-scooters swerving along pavements or pedestrian areas, but regulated ones are only allowed on roads.

My first test as an e-scooter commuter was a busy roundabout. Thankfully, the cars were pretty respectful and kept their distance.

The dial on top of the scooter told me my speed, which was capped to around 11mph for safety reasons.

It sounded eye-wateringly fast at first, but long stretches soon started to drag.

Cars were soon overtaking, leaving me with only the smugness that my transport was environmentally-friendly while theirs was belching out pollution.

Travelling by e-scooter certainly wouldn’t be for everyone or for every occasion.

You’re completely open to the elements on wet or windy days, and I wouldn’t rent one if I was heading to a job interview, for example.

But I really liked how flexible it was, able to pick up and drop off at 31 different parking bays around Central Park, the colleges, the Pods and the town centre.

If you want to get somewhere quickly and don’t feel like waiting for the bus, it is a handy option, particularly for students and young people who don’t have their own transport.

Travelling all the way to the high street myself proved to be a bit ambitious given how long I had rented it for.

Instead, I pulled into a parking bay when my time was nearly up.

The app asked me to send a picture to prove I’d dropped it off there.

I had expected the scooters to be a fun novelty but I could see myself hiring one if I needed to navigate the town centre for a day on reporting duties, like Lewis Hamilton with a notepad.