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.
You can find Powacycle here (anything below these two bikes in price isn’t really worth having, apparently), and these guys are a mine of information – they sell electric bikes, too.
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.