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Photo illustration by Madeline Bilis | Red and black scooter photos via iStock.com/pioneer111 | Background via iStock.com/ExpressIPhoto
Pretty much out of nowhere, dockless e-scooters have swept the nation, popping up in cities coast to coast with mixed results. Debate has raged over whether the motorized devices are a panacea or a curse—a tech-fueled antidote to gridlock or an unwelcome infestation that warrants vigilante justice. That discussion played out in Boston this summer when Bird, a California-based startup, plunked hundreds of them in Cambridge and Somerville without asking, an experiment that ended when mayors abruptly banished them. But that won’t be the end of it. Whether cities like them or not, e-scooting is primed to become a $37 billion industry by 2024, according to one market research company’s estimate, and it’s just a matter of time until their inevitable return.
In all this recent hubbub, though, we’ve lost sight of transportation’s most promising and under-appreciated technology: The kick scooter.
Yeah, the kick scooter. If you’re my age, you might have ridden one as a kid in the late 90s or early 2000s, when they were all the rage and a Razor was the hottest brand around. Two decades later, as e-scooter mania has reached new heights, I can’t help but think back to the old-school, no frills, no-batteries-required O.G. Stripped of both an electric motor and all the controversy that follows Bird and its ilk whenever they attempt another city takeover, the kick scooter is a perfectly good alternative, but somehow no one is talking about it. How could that be? Why are we fighting passionate (and in some cases disgusting) wars over e-scooters when kick scooters have been right under our noses this whole time?
The most obvious reason, which you’ve probably been thinking since you opened this tab, is that kick scooters are extremely not cool. “I’m trying to think of a diplomatic way to say it: They’re not for everyone,” says Ben Smart, manager at Cambridge Bicycle in Kendall Square, which last year became one of the few shops carrying human-propelled scooters in the area. “I would say it has a similar tinge to rollerblading. It’s one of those things that could be perceived by someone as maybe not having an edginess or cool factor.” People like to think that they’re cool, and starting your morning commute like your 12-year-old self is a pretty fast way to puncture that notion.
Unlike their electric cousins, which are trendy and exotic and controversial, kick scooters are more or less taboo by the time you graduate high school. Progress on this front has been slow, and only the bravest amongst us have embraced them for the transit solution I know in my heart they can be.
Because of this stigma, many of the scooter-curious are still stuck in the closet. “I have a buddy in Seattle who says, ‘Don’t make fun of me, but I’ve been using them with my kids,'” says Andrew Prescott, who owns Urban Cycles by the North End Waterfront. His shop doesn’t sell scooters and its sister bike tour and rental store, Urban Adventours, doesn’t loan them out either, but that’s not because he harbors any anti-scooter bias. Prescott says he just doesn’t get asked about them very often. At least not yet. “I think it’s just a matter of somebody hitting the nail on the head with the right branding, somehow.”
Companies that sell them are definitely trying to do just that. “Both of those are concerns that we hear from people: that they feel childish riding a scooter or it’s sort of a nerdy thing. But they are becoming more accepted” says Jamie Rau, vice president of marketing for Micro Kickboard, a brand based in Michigan that sells scooters for adults and kids and advertises relentlessly in Boston. “Twenty years ago, it was a toy,” she adds. “Now we find adults that are very serious about their scooters and very passionate about them. It’s really more of a lifestyle now.”
The all-new Micro Eazy scooter is here! It’s the perfect option for those of you walking to work and want to get there quicker! (Y’know.. so you can get 10 more minutes of zzz’s in the morning!) The Eazy features a foot-engaged folding mechanism which allows for quick, effortless folding so you can pull it behind or stow under a seat/desk. Yes, please!