~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, July 26th 2013
My brother-in-law recently bought himself a Ducati motorbike for £20,000, but you have to cut your midlife-crisis transport according to your financial cloth, so this spring I spent £140 on a scooter. Not a motor scooter, either, but a push-yourself-along-with-one-leg scooter, as owned by every single child under the age of five but no one over the age of nine who isn’t zipping around the groovy open-plan offices of Google or Pixar.
To the uninitiated, I admit, adult scooter-riding must come across as an embarrassingly ill-judged attempt to be quirky, but my reasons for buying it were purely practical. I’m too old to master skateboarding, and a week rarely goes by without the Evening Standard memorialising another poor cyclist who has been hit by a lorry, so when I decided to speed up my journeys around London, a scooter seemed to be the answer. It’s a vehicle with all the eco-friendly, health-conscious appeal of a bike, but you’re allowed to stay on the pavement—and you can fold it up into a bag when you get where you’re going.
Not that a scooter is anywhere near as fast as a bike. Based on my ability to overtake joggers, I'd estimate that my scooting speed is about the same as my sprinting speed, the difference being that I can’t sprint for more than a minute without crumpling into an agonised heap. My commute from East London to the West End takes a little over an hour when I’m walking, and 40 minutes when I’m scooting. It’s fun, too. I’m now so devoted to my new toy that it’s even undermined my sentimental attachment to historic cobbled streets. Give me a creamy-smooth stretch of tarmac any day.
Still, there’s no denying the one major disadvantage, and that’s the ever-present assumption that people are laughing at you and making remarks about Owen Wilson’s character in "Zoolander". In May, the Daily Mail ran a photograph of Hugh Jackman (above) on a scooter, which I hoped might encourage a few fellow travellers (scooterers?) to come out of the closet and onto the pavement. But the accompanying caption undid all of Jackman’s good work: "Only the guy who plays Wolverine could make riding a scooter look cool."
Nicholas Barber is a film critic for the Independent on Sunday and the film previewer for Intelligent Life. His recent posts for the Editors' Blog include A genuinely terrible pop song and This is 40? Not for me, it isn't