In this sprawling metropolis, it’s not often you notice the same person twice outside of your normal routine. But nearly every morning I see this same chap: well groomed, early 30s, nicely cut suit – you know the type.
In fact you might even be him, or umpteen others like him. He wouldn’t stand out among the hubbub if it weren’t for one glaring anomaly. No, he’s not wearing brown shoes. He rides a scooter to work.
It’s not like a Jamie Oliver style mid-life crisis Vespa, or the fold-up type you often see mothers wrestling with on the school run, but a full blown, adult-sized, push along scooter with what appears to be a small motor on the back.
Imagine the reaction he received on its maiden voyage to his workplace. He probably strolled in nonchalantly, grinning as if he were wearing novelty-sized sunglasses. The second day would be akin to a joke that had already been told, a heckle to get off stage perhaps.
Days three, four and five would be the the “no, I’m actually serious” stage. He skips denial, isolation and anger, and moves straight onto bargaining. Someone makes a facetious comment; he laughs it off, justifying the benefits of scooter travel like a vegan explaining cruelty-free cheese.
Adults riding scooters isn’t a new phenomenon by any reach – supposedly German traders have been gliding between meetings on these vehicles in Frankfurt since the late 90s. But not here in sensible Britain. The influx in this country only started a couple of years ago, and in a country where fads come and go like Labour party leaders, this one has stuck.
It’s clear why they’ve become so popular in such a short space of time. It’s quicker than walking, cheaper than the Tube, TfL strike-proof, and burns up to 300 calories an hour.
So much so that London employers, from MediaCom to Buckingham Palace, have reportedly embraced the benefits scooting can bring for their staff.
According to the biggest manufacturer of adult scooters, Micro, “over the last two years the demand for adult scooters has grown exponentially. We are continuing to see huge growth in adult scooter sales... this year we believe adult scooter sales will account for around 10 per cent of our business. Five years ago it was less than 3 per cent.”
At that rate of growth, it looks like they’re here to stay. Envision London 2020: Sadiq-Scooters replace Boris Bikes; the Scooter-Superhighway is built to ease the swelling pavements; 90s German popstar Scooter makes a comeback.
Of course, all of that isn’t going to happen, despite what scooter aficionados may wish. Undoubtedly they will remain popular with mums on the school run and ironic Shoreditch hipsters, but for those, especially in the City, who want to be taken seriously, the fad will probably die out.
A study yesterday from the Social Mobility Commission noted the importance of an individual’s appearance when it comes to applying for a job in the City. Brown shoes and “loud” ties were identified by some as no-go areas for potential employees, which leads you to wonder what impression arriving on a scooter might give your colleagues.
It’s the “adult-sized” prefix. Riding something that is, let’s face it, designed for a child, is a statement that you’re lucky enough to avoid growing up. Discussing adults riding scooters with friends and colleagues, the reply is a collective “urgh”.
It’s not necessarily a personal affront against those who ride scooters, it’s just hard to take someone seriously who shares the same transport method as a four-year-old.
When trying to succeed in an industry where wearing brown shoes is frowned upon, it seems like self-sabotage to accessorise with a child’s toy.