I can no longer drive a car, and for some time I’ve been considering the virtues of ploughing my DLA Mobility (currently paid to Motability for a car that’s lain idle since July), into taxi fares versus getting a mobility scooter on Motability (with the possibility of buying an electric bike also in the mix), once I can get my car lease terminated and my DLA maximised.
I’ve had scooters in the past, but these days, in the public’s mind – thanks to the Daily Mail and to the Jeremy Vine show, neither one averse to lying about scooters in an attempt to drum up paranoia – they are associated with elderly dingbats rather than the disabled. Anyway, a scooter would give me a range of some 20+ miles (the makers claim 38, but in the real world you can reduce that by at least 30%), at 8mph, and in comfort, whereas an electric bike wouldn’t have the comfort, but it would have a similar range (especially if I carried a spare battery), and a speed of 15mph – and in cold weather, the extra speed will make a huge difference.
Taxis are ferociously expensive these days, a round trip to the pub costing £14. I would, though, be more or less immune to whatever the weather could throw at me and, this summer, that’s been a hell of a lot of rain, and it’s rain, I believe, that will finally tip the balance. Electric scooters are not – bizarrely – weatherpoof, a criminal omission for an outdoor vehicle, but electric bikes, however are. In neither case, though, am I.
Previously, I would use my scooter no matter what the weather, but my health has deteriorated since then, and the thought of the 8-mile round trip to Sainsbury’s in torrential rain is a dismaying one, by scooter or bike, and rain seems to have rarely gone away these past 2 years.
I’ve recently been keeping a weather diary and, in August, we had only about 4 days on which it didn’t rain at all during the hours of daylight. September has yet to stop raining for more than an hour at a time, and the forecast is that it’s not going to any time soon!
Unless the weather reverts to normal, then – and with climate change tightening its grip remorselessly, I can’t see that happening – the only sensible choice is to put the money in to taxi fares. The higher rate of DLA mobility is a tad under £50 a week, which will buy a lot of taxi fares even if I went everywhere by taxi. True, it’s not cost-effective, but so very few things are, and if I worried about that I’d never buy anything, or ever go to the pub, surely the least cost-effective pastime! So, for now, at least, taxis have it.
For details of my choice of scooter, see this post.
However, next year I’ll be coming in to a little money, so I may well buy an electric bike, and I favour something cheap and cheerful, like the Powacycle Salisbury LPX or Windsor LPX, here (click image to see full size, use Back button to return – all other images are shown full size)
Either costs £600 (apart from the frame, they’re identical), currently, and with a spare battery, plus a trailer, I’d have my freedom back for around £1.000 – that’s £3,000 cheaper than the particular scooter I favour. While I’d prefer the Salisbury, (top), the step-through frame of the Windsor would be more arthritis-friendly. Some electric bikes, including these, will cope without any pedal assistance, other than when moving away from a standstill, but that will shorten their range. With gentle pedalling they have a claimed range of 37 miles per charge, and I think I could cope with that. Even without pedalling, and with a spare battery, I should get a round-trip range of over 20 miles, which is perfectly adequate for my needs.
These bikes, in common with many electric bikes these days, are powered by lithium-ion batteries, and in consequence are much lighter than bikes powered by old-style lead-acid batteries, like the Powabyke range, which are immensely heavy. Top-heavy, too, as they carry their batteries quite high, and forward of the rider. For information on prices, a few reviews and lots of electric bike links, check out A to B magazine
I’m also impressed with the eZee Sprint, more expensive at £1095, but a far more sophisticated beast with a better build quality:-
It’s very well reviewed by A to B magazine, though the idea of front-wheel drive is one that doesn’t impress me – the cheaper pair are rear-wheel drive. I’ve also considered a trike, the eZee Carro at £1495:-
Expensive, but its carrying capacity is built-in, so there’s a saving there and, of course, no matter how crappy I’m feeling, I can’t fall off. Definitely a contender as an alternative to a scooter. Claimed range with no pedalling at all is 25 miles so, as with the bikes, 1 spare battery should do me. Can I live with looking a bit of a prat? Yeah, probably! I can’t, even with this pic blown up 3 or 4 times, figure out where the battery lives, unless it’s the same place as the Sprint, and they forgot to fit it.
It’s worth mentioning, of course, that a bike or trike won’t make the persistent sodding rain any less wet, but compared to a scooter I’d be out in it for far less time and a little pedalling would keep my core temperature up – you can get quite chilled in adverse weather on a scooter. Even if rain doesn’t penetrate your waterproofs, it saps your body heat if you’re just sitting still.
The Raleigh Shetland trailer costs £119, though there are many variations, some far more expensive, on the theme of bike trailer:-
It would take a spare battery, or two, and all my birding gear. This is actually a child trailer which, for me, would perhaps be more versatile than a luggage trailer, like Edinburgh Bike Co-op’s Revolution Trailer, at £125, below. On the other hand this trailer is much narrower, and I could access places I couldn’t with the wider one (one of my favourite birding spots is accessed via a narrow, rickety, wooden bridge – the trailer above just wouldn’t fit, but this one would). Decisions, decisions:-
Footnote: Despite the foregoing, having been overtaken by events, it became necessary for me to get a new powerchair. See here.