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The vehicle equivalent of the smartphone

Jan 07, 2024

Until not so long time ago, if you were a kid who wanted to move yourself on wheels, the most obvious and sometimes only choice was the bicycle, this beautiful human-propelled vehicle that can take many sizes and forms and ride through almost any terrain. Some would never ride a bike again when they grow up, but many will use it as a medium of transportation, some as a way to exercise, to explore the outdoors, and even the world. Maybe even become a professional athlete.

I’ve been noticing the electric scooter taking the place of the bicycle. This device will take you places at considerable speeds with the push of a button while you stand up on a floorboard. I think it has one of the most stupid form factors among vehicles, being less rigid than other two-wheeled vehicles and having terrible handling and turning angle.

Despite it can be fun and practical—I’ve ridden and had fun with it a few times—it is more like a toy that moves. It won’t take you longer distances, the small wheels struggle even within the city, the body is not very extensible and it lacks balance and stability for more intense applications.

I cannot deny that, in the bigger picture, there’s a lot of overlap between electric scooters and bicycles, especially on the subject of urban mobility. It’s still debatable though whether they are sustainable and reliable in the long term, due to their reliance on lithium batteries and possibly worse maintainability due to lack of a mature ecosystem for parts and service.

One thing in particular that got me slightly concerned is that some kids could skip the bike completely for the electric scooter. If anything, they will grow up to become inactive adults who drive a car, or even worse, a motor scooter, which is the most ridiculous kind of two-wheeled motor vehicle.

This is more of a comic rant, but as a grown-up who was introduced to a bike when younger, and had it unfold into this ever-fascinating thing that provided me with such rich and unique experiences, I feel bad when I see young folks standing up on a flat platform moving around with the push of a button.