Mobility scooters: A world of full-throttle thrills?

Otago Daily Times reporter Shawn McAvinue gives a mobility scooter a whirl in South Dunedin yesterday. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Otago Daily Times reporter Shawn McAvinue gives a mobility scooter a whirl in South Dunedin yesterday. Photo by Craig Baxter.

Mobility scooters have been given a bad rap lately. Reporter Shawn McAvinue slipped on a high-visibility vest yesterday and tried to find out why.

'Nervously sucking on a barley sugar, I turned the speed dial from tortoise to hare, grabbed the heated steering grips and reached for the accelerator.

Was I about to discover a world of full-throttle thrills?

The power engaged and I silently weaved my way past the dawdling South Dunedin pedestrians.

A texting woman was given a courtesy blast on the horn, saving her from being collected by the bumper bar and front basket at 12kmh.

With the scooter's high windshield and glances of admiration from passersby, I felt like Ponch from the 1980s California Highway Patrol television show CHiPs.

I'm sure I could re-enact a climactic crash scene by sliding the scooter between the wheels of a parked truck at full speed.

Mobility scooter riding is a way of life, but like the dart boards that line the walls of the South Dunedin Community Hall, where the mobility scooter awareness day was held yesterday, we are also targets.

We may live each day with the wind in our hair and the sun on our back, but our high-visibility vest is a ''gang patch'', signalling us as outsiders to those who unfairly criticise us as ''evil'' and ''dangerous'' racers, riding our silent machines and hogging the footpaths.

At the meeting, I find solace in fellow rider Tania ''Speedy'' Fallowfield (42), of St Kilda, the rider of a ''beaten-up'' scooter which provides her freedom.

''I've given it a hard time. She may moan and groan and squeak, but I love my baby girl,''she says.

Then she sneaks an envious glance at my $6500 machine.

''I'd love one [like that] but I'd have to sell a kidney.''

The policeman at the meeting tells the riders to slow down.

''There's no rush. We don't have to be there yesterday.''

But officer, what if there is no tomorrow?

- shawn.mcavinue@odt.co.nz

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