Electric scooters are inspiring lazy people to get creativeOctober 21, 2018
The scooter craze sweeping the nation is now over a year old, which means its been around long enough to start producing its own distinct subcultures. There’s the subculture of scooter “juicers,” people who gather up the devices in the evening to charge them for the next day’s riders. There’s the teenagers who love riding scooters despite the rules prohibiting it. And then there’s the emerging subculture of scooter riders that I like to call “lazy geniuses.”
In order to ride an electric scooter, you need some familiarity with the activity known as standing. Much like the kick scooters of our youth, the e-scooters offered by companies like Bird and Lime require riders to grasp the handlebars whilst standing on a narrow platform attached to two motorized wheels. Unless, of course, you are the type of person who laughs at such societal norms and instead forges your own path — say by wedging your scooter under a LaZ-Boy recliner.
Look at this majestic animal. This chariot-rider of a man. Sure, he’ll go through all the tedious steps to rent the scooter: download the app, scan his driver’s license, and even input his credit card information. But why stand when you can sit? And why sit when we can sit comfortably, on a padded cushion. As Monty Burns would say, sitting is the great leveler. From the mightiest Pharaoh to the lowliest peasant, who doesn’t enjoy a good sit?
Other hacks I’ve seen involve egg crates or other plastic containers that are easy to find in urban settings and can be duct-taped together for a less-comfy-than-a-Barcalounger-but no-less-convenient seating option.
Having ridden a Bird scooter a couple times, I can attest to the fact that these things can be difficult to control from a standing position. It’s slightly terrifying trying to make a hard turn while whizzing along at 15 mph. Riding a bike feels much more secure, thanks to the added control you get from your leg muscles. I’m not saying that everyone should emulate these lazy geniuses. For those with a little money to spend, they may want to consider dropping $50 on a retractable seat attachment on eBay.
It isn’t just scooters, but the proliferation of rideable electric devices of all types — e-bikes, electric skateboards — that is inspiring this mobility renaissance.
Dude just cruised past me riding a lawn chair taped to an electric skateboard while vaping and blasting Jack Johnson. Now I’m questioning all my life choices. pic.twitter.com/VfFlJZKil4
— Smashley Ghoulish (@AshleyJPL) October 18, 2018
I wanted to know if this was truly a subculture, or merely a couple of isolated instances of scooter ingenuity, so I reached out to Michal Nakashimada, product manager at Ride Report, co-author of the excellent “Movements” micromobility newsletter, and knower of all things scooter. He confirmed that scooter hacking is totally a thing right now.
“I’ve witnessed a bunch of creative ways people have been modifying or retrofitting scooters to adapt to their lifestyle,” he said. “Simple things like people adding a basket, a cupholder or a cell phone holder to the scooter. I’ve seen folks use the scooters as a way to electrify their manual wheelchairs. Some people have made trailers that can attach to the back of a Bird scooter and haul things around. It’s part hilarious, a bit inspiring and somewhat concerning.”
Nakashimada thinks these scooter hackers may be giving us a glimpse into the future of scooter design. Bird recently rolled out its latest model, which emphasized tougher, more ruggedized parts to handle heavy fleet use. Who’s to say features like seats and baskets aren’t far behind? Two companies, Razor and Wheels, are already testing out seat attachments under the assumption that the ability to sit would open up the micromobility revolution to a wider audience.
My hope is that the availability of seats and other design upgrades won’t dampen the spirit of ingenuity that is springing up around the scooters. I want to see people duct-tape a bunch of scooters together to make an electric-powered pleasure barge for their whole family. Let’s make some pet scooters, so Whiskers and Precious can ride to their grooming appointments in style. I want to see scooters with spoilers and racing stripes. Scooter funerals. Scooter second lines.
But mostly, I want the growing popularity of dockless scooters to force cities to hack themselves, and build a hell of a lot more protected bikes lanes. Only then will people truly feel safe to let their freak scooter flags fly.