Listening To: Only Death Is Fatal Comp

A bit of a personal challenge this last summer. To drive as little as possible. Most urban trips seems to be less than 30km in length and as it happened, electric scooters had become “legal” through a local pilot program.

Bicycles are great. And as mentioned previously, the electrified truck cargo bike (the “Stanleymobile”) has proven fantastic long distance transport over the last decade, even for inter-city commuting. As are the many road bikes present on Vancouver’s streets.

The appeal of e-scooters may be an obvious one. Convenient, quiet and reasonable safe. Lightweight rapid transport on a moment’s notice.

One was purchased this spring. A mid-range model, the OKAI Neon ES20.

Speed: Approx 24 kilometers/hour. While that may seem slow by car standards, the ability to quickly move down bike routes with a minimum of traffic interruptions has meant that overall it’s as quick as a car in an urban setting. It does have three maximum speed settings (call them walking, jogging and sprinting) although I did not find a use for the two slower ones in practice as the throttle was sensitive enough to moderate speed for rough stretches or when carrying a bag (more on that below).

Safety: As exposed as a bicycle and subject to similar dangers. Namely vehicle traffic. After a bit of practice it has proved both stable and nimble. The smaller front wheel is a bit more susceptible to the many potholes that appear but, with the low top speed, they have been avoidable. Would I want one of the many faster scooters available? No. “Save that for the track” in motorcycle parlance.

Cost: ~$800(CAN) is what I paid and given the price of gas this summer, it’s easily paid for itself. Perhaps twice over. I did measure the electrical consumption with a Kill-O-Watt and at the median hydro rate, a full charge cost about $0.04. Four cents. For up to twenty five kilometers of travel (the lower speeds settings are more economical and may allow for longer trips).

Convenience: Popping on a helmet and gloves, the scooter takes just a couple of seconds to start up and you’re off. The handle does fold allowing it to be carried indoors where allowable. A cable lock secures the back wheel for short trips into shops. A “U” lock could be used over the diagonal portion of the shaft if one was willing to carry such a weight. A full charge can, however, take six hours. If I had to change one thing it would be a fast charging battery system. I understand it would add significantly to the cost but being able to go the full range would greatly extend the scooter’s usefulness (beach time!).

Carrying capacity: Practically and safely: whatever you can fit on your body (backpack, sling etc). There is a bag hook but it will not secure a load over rough back roads. And any significant weight there (or over one wrist) significantly affects driving safety. I did fit on a couple of velcro strap cup holders onto the main column which have worked well. Carrying my travel coffee cup, a small water bottle and the thin cable lock. $20. If somebody nicks them it’s not much of a loss.

Durability: Generally good. I did have the back fender strut crack and break after several months of daily use. Perhaps something impacted the fender (there is a warning sticker about putting your weight on it) or it some metal fatigue happened. Otherwise it’s been solid and used five or six times a week.

Rain: Of course, this is Vancouver. The scooter is rated IPX 4/5. Which seems to mean a bit of a sprinkle will not affect it. Have been through many with no issue. Would I ride during a heavy downpour? No. But mostly because driver visibility is so greatly reduced that doing so would not be safe.

And it’s that last bit which may detract adoption of this more environmental form of personal transportation. Very little basic traffic safety enforcement is visible here. And it shows in driver habits with cars regularly running stop signs and red lights, even on speed controlled bike commuter routes.

Somebody should fix that.