Sometimes we change our behaviour because you cannot walk two feet without hearing about something you absolutely must do if you are to remain a paid-up member of the human race. At the millennium year there were probably two vegans in the country, keeping their heads down. They hid away at Christmas rather than admit to the error of their ways. Today you cannot sit down at a table without encountering a vegan, vegetarian or a flexitarian. It has caught the mood of the times and, while many have not gone the whole hog, there has been a massive move in the direction of plant-based meals.
So too with electric vehicles. I am a carbon criminal. I drive a perfect, but ageing, diesel-guzzling car that is probably worth nothing by now and costs a mortgage to tax but has nothing wrong with it. The 'green' club that I belong to does not approve of waste. I cannot scrap a perfectly good car to buy an overpriced electric car that still won't get me to the end of the country and back without anxiety. Plus I will get on a plane as often as I can because I am a citizen of the world and want to see a lot of it. Sorry, but I love airmiles.
So, crippled with carbon guilt and with no intention of becoming a vegan, I did what little I could. I bought an e-scooter, and it is magic. I can save the planet while enjoying myself. I keep it in the boot of the car. It is ideal for going to meetings around town. I live in Kilkenny and I can also travel to Dublin on the train, go to all my city-centre meetings on the scooter, and return home. There are big savings on diesel and parking, and obvious environmental benefits.
But, while I could change my diet without breaking any laws, that may not be the case with my new toy. The Private Members Bill to amend the Road Traffic Act of 1961 is now on the Dail dissolution scrapheap. While this legal limbo continues I see a photo on Twitter of the gardai blocking a cycle lane in Dublin and stopping four e-scooters. For what reason I know not. There are plenty of cities in the world that have shared e-scooter systems just like we have with bicycles. Here they seem to be treated with suspicion despite the zeitgeist. Riding around, I feel like I am on pirate radio in the years before the law caught up.
My experience is that the e-scooter is a lot safer than a bicycle. You have much more control. The brakes are good. You can get out of the way much quicker in an emergency. The max speed is 25kph and it is much more controllable than a bicycle. There have been a few fatalities, including one in Barcelona, and, you've guessed it, the rider was on the phone when they hit an unfortunate 90-year-old walker. I have a motorbike licence and am an experienced biker. So I regularly do my 'lifesaver' over-the-shoulder look. Observation is important and many people do just look straight ahead. So do cyclists. It would make sense to have a test that incorporated the main principles of motorbike riding, which centre on observation, control, speed, position on road/lane, cornering, control at slow speed etc.
Like any behaviour change there is the law of unintended consequences. I am getting great use out of my scooter but I notice that for every kilometre I used to walk, and use up about 80 calories, I am now burning zero. And if there is anything that has taken up semi-permanent residence in the zeitgeist, it is that putting on weight is a cardinal sin. Can you go green and not get fat? Suggestions please.