Scootering Around

September 25, 2013 4:32 pm Last Updated: September 25, 2013 10:11 pm

Living in the city, New Yorkers walk everywhere: to and from work, the subway, the gym, the grocery store, crosstown, uptown, and downtown—and they try to get things done as quickly as possible. For New Yorkers, trying to shave time is itself an occupation.

Enter the humble kick scooter.

They have long been known as children’s toys, but in Europe, kick scooters are much more of a visible presence in the city landscape than they are here.

Edgar Villongco, owner of Urban Motion in the East Village, specializes in kick scooters.

Before he opened his shop, Villongco had a two-hour commute between Manhattan and Princeton, N.J.—involving driving, a train, and walking.

He weighed his options for the pre- and post-train portions: a bike wasn’t practical as he had to drive his car once in Princeton, and would also have had to schlep the bike up and down the escalator at Penn Station and into the train.

Getting a kick scooter was a revelation. It cut out half an hour from his daily commute each way. But more than that, it was easy to fold it up, putting it over his shoulders or stashing it in his car when needed.

Unlike a subway, or a taxi, or Citibike, there is one distinct benefit to using a kick scooter. “It will go to the last inch. A lot of people have to drop off their Citibike at that station and still walk four blocks. With a scooter you scoot point A to point B, literally doorstep to doorstep, and there’s not a lot of transport that can do that.”

Testing the Scooter

I borrowed a scooter from Villongco for a week.

For someone like me who has perpetual bad luck on wheels (rollerblading down steep hills, car accidents, and landing a motorbike in someone’s front yard), I found safety an added bonus. Being so low to the ground, it’s easy to just step off.

During my first day testing the scooter, movers walked out of a building with a huge board. Rather than crashing into it cartoon-style, I simply jumped off the scooter. Hospital trip averted.

Villongco had told me that at a leisurely pace, I could shave a third to a half off my travel time, compared to walking.

He was right—it halved my travel time. Little errands or shopping trips, which I used to put off due to the time they took, were no big deal anymore. And more than that, they became fun.

There is a real joy and exhilaration in riding kick scooters, gliding past buildings and people with just a few kicks. I found it better than my normal caffeine fix in the mornings. The kick scooter unearthed my inner child.

“People walk out of here, saying, ‘This is the best thing ever. Why didn’t I do it before?’” Villongco had told me. Now I could see why.

Scooters for Kids

Villongco said kick scooters almost revolutionize family mobility. Children as young as 2 years old intuitively take to them. “Even before they can walk really well, you put them one of those and within a few days, they are cruising. And they are going at their parents’ stride.”

This helps cut down on time spent getting to school or running around during errands.

Just as often, parents can’t keep up with their children and will get a scooter of their own. In Europe it’s a common sight to see whole families on outings on scooters, Villongco said.

Rob Morea, owner of Great Jones Fitness in the East Village, got a kick scooter for his 4-year-old son about two years ago. Now they both have scooters.

“I bought one because my son loves his.”

Health Benefits

Morea said the scooter is a great fitness tool for him. Kick scooters are beneficial in developing unilateral leg strength, which you can’t get from bicycling, he said. The key is switching sides. You work your quads, glutes, and “every time you push it’s amazing for hip power.”

It strengthens the core each time you glide and also encourages good balance. If you a kick scooter more intensely, you can get a cardio workout.

It’s essential to use proper technique. “When I teach somebody to run I listen to how they strike the ground. Be nice to your body,” Morea said. It’s the same with using a scooter. “When you’re pushing, use your core and glutes, and push through the ground.”

Unlike bikes, there is no back or shoulder strain, and you arrive at your destination more likely than not, with your clothes in pristine condition and a healthy glow inside and out.

CitiBike versus Kick Scooter

Here at Epoch Times, we’re great fans of CitiBike and many of us have grabbed a CitiBike to travel to appointments or just blow off some steam for a break. So we were interested in comparing the convenience of CitiBikes and kick scooters. Time for a face-off!

We decided on a route that would be inconvenient for the subway and a longish walk, from our office near the Fashion Institute of Technology down to the High Line Hotel, about two avenues west and seven streets south.

We agreed to go at leisurely pace and follow the traffic rules. We parted ways and I immediately zipped westward on my kick scooter, while my colleague Charlotte had to walk east to the nearest Citibike dock.

We saw each other again at the intersection of 10th Avenue and 21st Street, close to the hotel, where I had spent a good two minutes fumbling for the address (which I hadn’t noted). Finally, when I realized which building the hotel was, I set off for it, while Charlotte had to bike in the opposite direction to find a docking station.

Final time: about 11 minutes for the scooter, including trying to find my bearings for a couple of minutes. Charlotte arrived about 4 minutes later. Unforeseen time-killer: no free spaces at the bike dock, so she had to wait for someone to take out a bike. The scooter would have won even if a dock were free.

On the way back, out of curiosity, we tested walking versus the kick scooter. The scooter shaved the travel time about half, at 16 minutes versus 8 minutes.

Final verdict: kick scooter wins, especially for taking its rider from door to door, without the hassle of finding a dock, and also for being able to ride on sidewalks and bike paths alike.

Of course for longer distances, there’s no question that a bike, or even the subway, would be faster. But for these shorter distances where it can be a hassle to walk or take CitiBike, these little scooters win. Plus, it was fun as anything to glide past pedestrians and coast along with no kicking on the slight downhill parts.