Previously in Rome, I tried a bike-sharing scheme. It wasn’t the success I had hoped for:
Similar bike schemes have failed in many places. The scheme in Manchester was one of the most epic failures. The mere idea that there could be anything public you could share, provided for you at low cost, and maintained for you, to make your life easier, is so laughable to people who have grown up with a me, me, me culture. An obsession with private ownership of everything and desperate underfunding of public services means we have private luxury and public squalor. How do you teach adults to share when their entire lives have been without?
I’m always up for new experiences, so these rental scooters in Rome were immediately attractive to me, despite my bicycle experience:
I think electric short-range transport is the future. We need simple ways of getting around the place which don’t involve taking a tonne of metal on four wheels, burning vast quantities of fossil fuels, and polluting the atmosphere. In the UK 40,000 people a year meet an early death because of atmospheric pollution.
Downloading the app was a doddle and adding a payment method straightforward. Scanning the QR code quickly identified my two-wheeler and it was unlocked and all mine, for a fee per minute. The result? They’re amazingly fast, and bone-shatteringly dangerous on roads full of cars, but a real thrill. The only problems I had were firstly, trying to stop my teeth from chattering as I zoomed over the sampietrini; those tiny cobbles at speed really do jar right up and down your spine. And secondly, the scooters are geofenced so you can’t use them on the cycle-track or pavement along the River Tevere. I have to go in the middle of the car traffic, coughing on fumes, to get anywhere. You need a critical mass to create the explosion of usage.
Would I use one again? Yes, but only on those roads where it’s quicker to use one in the traffic than simply walking on the pavement. That rules out many of Rome’s jammed-up main roads. Plus if I’m going in traffic I’d feel the need to dress myself up like a Christmas tree.
You’ll see me coming; I’ll be the one wearing fairy lights.