Pensioner builds his own mobility scooter

Where there is a wheel, there is a way.

Lately, 89-year-old Gerard Oskam has been starting to feel his age and have a few falls.

So rather than just sit in his armchair all day, the former engineer has built his own mobility scooter from scrap metal, several batteries and some bicycle wheels.

He said he could have bought a scooter, but he felt they were too high off the ground and he was worried his balance issues would cause him to fall off it.

Gerard Oskam takes his home-built mobility trike for a test run on the Otago Harbour cycleway...
Gerard Oskam takes his home-built mobility trike for a test run on the Otago Harbour cycleway yesterday. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
"You sit so high on them, so I started thinking, ‘I could do better than that’ — make a bike that I sit lower and keep my feet still on the ground.

"I live fairly handy to a scrap dealer and I got all the scrap bits to make the bike from there."

Mr Oskam said he had been an engineer all his working life, at places such as Fisher & Paykel, Shacklocks, Methvens, the Roxburgh hydro dam project, Fletcher Steel, and J and AP Scott.

So building his own mobility trike, with a little help from his son Daniel, was a good opportunity to have some fun.

"I’ve got a wonderful workshop. It’s got all the toys that I needed.

"It’s been good to use what few marbles I have left."

The trike doubled as a walking frame, with a seat that could fold up and out of the way.

He said the main inspiration for the engineering project was to find a way for him to collect his Otago Daily Times in the morning from his steep Dunedin driveway, without falling over.

"When I started making the bike, it had one powered wheel and it only got me to the letter box.

"Then I put another one on it and it got me halfway up the drive.

"So I managed to get another one and that got me all the way back."

It goes about 20km/h and he estimated it had enough battery to travel up to 30km.

The trike has front and back lights and indicators, a horn, GPS, a speedo and a place to put his walking stick.

Also — a word of warning for anyone who takes a fancy to his trike and tries to steal it — it is fitted with an alarm.

Yesterday, he put the trike’s performance specs to the test and rode it on the cycleway from Vauxhall out to Macandrew Bay and back without any trouble.

"I’ve always wanted to ride on the cycleway. That is my bucket list."

He was tearful at the end of the ride. For him, it was a major achievement and a dream come true.

"It’s quite emotional. All the people cheering me on, it was great."