Scootering Kids Replace Car Drop-Offs in London!

Hey Readers — Here’s one of those game-changers: A new, light, 3-wheeled scooter called the Mini Micro is suddenly so popular in England that kids are abandoning their cars (well, their parents’ cars) and getting to school on kid-power instead.  As reports The Economist:

The devices and their proliferating cheaper imitations have drawbacks. At school-run times, some London pavements resemble racing tracks, as tiny speedsters weave and zoom…. But the benign impact on traffic and carbon emissions may offset such annoyances.

At Oxford Gardens, a diverse primary school in the inner-London borough of Kensington and Chelsea, the number of scooting pupils has risen from fewer than one in 100 in 2005 to almost one in seven—while the proportion of children arriving by car has fallen from 20% to 16%. Half a dozen schools in the borough report scooter-commuting rates of over 30%.

Pretty cool for a previously obscure mode of transport. And I think the idea of a third wheel is so blindingly brilliant — not to mention stabilizing — that I wish I’d thought of it! Scoot on! — Lenore

44 Responses

  1. I actually noticed this last week when I was in London, a *lot* of kids have these things. They are annoying (sidewalks are for walking, folks) but it is good to see people getting better about human-powered transport

  2. @Kaszeta – Would you prefer that they be in the street? I like anything that maximizes mobility in urban settings (hint: cars do, but only to a point, and they suffer diminishing returns for short distances of less than a few miles due to parking constraints), but I keep hearing the same arguments over and over again about what’s appropriate on sidewalks and what’s not (even from ignorant Pentagon police.) The fact is, most non-motorized transport is perfectly allowable on sidewalks, unless there are specific laws against them, such as in Washington, DC’s Central Business District, where bikes are relegated to the streets. Why can’t this conversation be more along the lines of “how do we make the sidewalks safer for both pedestrians and those with wheeled transport such as bicycles, scooters, skateboards and skates?”

  3. Living in Switzerland (where these originated), I can attest to the daredevil acrobatics that little kids as young as 2 years old can accomplish on these things. They are definitely a favourite mode of transportation for the little kids at school, and the older kids graduate to the 2 wheel version that can conveniently fold and be brought into the school with them. My 15 month old already knows the basics as he experiments with any scooter left unattended at the park.

  4. @Kaszeta – I understand your point, I have often cringed at some of the weaving these kids do in and out of pedestrian traffic, but I have to say I have never seen a collision. Better than I can say for the road traffic…

  5. […] Visit link: Scootering Kids Replace Car Drop-Offs in London! « FreeRangeKids […]

  6. Yay! Some of the photos on the company web site show kids not wearing helmets.

    I have become something of an anti-helmet activist in situations where there is no advantage to a helmet.

  7. These are all over NYC as well. My almost 3yo has one as do many of her friends. They’re cute and the small wheels prevent them from building up more speed than a tot can handle. Fun and much easier to store than a trike or a bike here in the city.

  8. @Scott – Yeah, I can’t see much benefit to helmets at such low speeds, especially if these aren’t intended for street use. If you’re going to rocket down the street along with the cars, a helmet is going to be pretty useful in case of an accident.

  9. These seem to be the replacement fad for the wheeled shoes that all the kids were wearing a couple of years ago. I’ve been thinking about getting these for my kids. I’m a bit cautious because I see plenty of mums pushing buggies with a kid in and the scooter hung over the handle bar and I’m really looking for something that will lighten my load! I expect they would pay off eventually though.

    I get a bit annoyed at the idea that kids shouldn’t use wheels on the sidewalk. Sure, they should use them with some common sense and there are plenty of times they don’t. But I see way more kids get hit by grown ups who just walk right into them because they didn’t see them than grown ups get hit by kids on scooters/bikes/etc.

  10. I think they are a great idea. It’s up to the parent to teach the child that other people walking have the right of way, and that they must be aware of where they are going. That’s just common sense, and people who don’t bother to do that are the problem, not the scooters.

    A lot of them fold up, and so are not too much of a burden to take back home, even if you have a buggy – unlike small bikes.

    I’ve even seen mums and kids coming in together, both on scooters. One mum said she needed to keep up with the kids, so had to get her own!

  11. Back in 1999, I saw a lot of 20-somethings in Spain riding those Razor scooters or carrying them on the metro. When we got back from our vacation, my husband ordered one for me for my birthday (they were $100 back then and hard to find outside NYC and SoCal). I worked downtown and hated my job, but I loved scooting around the corner to the bus stop, and after the bus got me downtown, scooting the few blocks to my office.

    I also love that the scooter website has adults scooting! I highly recommend scoot-commuting for big “kids” too.

  12. @Natalie – I’ve never used one, but they look interesting. What kinds of distances are reasonable for them? Right now I use a folding bike to cover the 3 miles between my express bus drop-off and my office (it takes me 20 minutes usually), but that same distance seems daunting on a scooter.

  13. They’re very popular here! My nieces love theirs, 10 & 6 respectively. Another child used the siblings scooter when he get hold of it. It’s fun to roll back and forth. I’ve never tried one but kids really love it.

  14. a two-wheeled scooter is what finally taught my daughter to ride a bike. She was so afraid of falling she just froze. But the scooter, closer to the ground, worked well for her and one day, after watching her turn and curve and be beautiful on the thing, we told her, you do realize you’re doing just what you need to do for your bike…balance on two wheels and steer. Add pedaling and you’re riding a bike…ten minutes later, she was riding her bike. 🙂

    Scooters are awesome. If kids are getting themselves to school, getting exercise in the process, and fewer cars spitting out CO, all the better!

  15. I’m just wondering how these scooters differ from bicycles for those schools that have a “no biking to school” policy? Meaning, for these schools, if they allow these scooters, why not allow biking to school?

  16. @EricS Are there really schools out there that have “no biking to school policies”? One would think that with the current level of understanding of carbon emissions leading to climate change, times would be mature for a “no driving to school policy”.

  17. EricS – do you know of any schools that have a policy against bikes but allow scooters?

    I could see a reasonable school that didn’t have bike racks allowing the fold up scooters but not letting kids keep their bikes at school. But here in the UK what I normally see is parents walking their scootering kids to school and then taking the scooter home with them.

  18. Isn’t there something wrong with this picture? Outlaw biking on sidewalks because “accidents happen,” but refuse to apply that same principle to motor vehicles on roads? Last time I looked, there were a lot more serious accidents and fatalities on roads than on sidewalks.

  19. I like the idea of this. Anything to put kids in the “driver’s seat” as it were, while still being accountable to their parents (but don’t helicopter, parents!) and giving their parents some relief in the process, it can only be a GOOD thing.


  20. Scott – Not sure why anyone would be an anti helmet activist. Both of my kids have taken pretty nasty spills on their scooters. The problem is not absolute speed, but the speed at which their head hits the ground. Without getting into the physics of it, that is dependent on a lot of factors, but their height and the rapidity at which their feet go out from under them are the biggest factors.

    Head injuries are, for me, one of those things which happen and are very scary. The “cost” of wearing a helmet are basically cool points.

    But maybe I’m wrong about this. Do you have any science that shows that wearing helmets cause problems? Any that shows that they don’t actually protect us (and our kids) from actual dangers? (I’m not being sarcastic, I’m actually looking for data)

  21. I haven’t seenany one scootering to school (maybe they haven’t reached here yet). But I see plenty of young children walking with and without grown ups . And high school age ones bussing on public transport.

  22. They’ve actually been around for a few years now, after being a big hit with adults for a brief period over 5 years ago (I think). But I have seen them picking up popularity for the school run in London.

    And I can understand it; once my daughter’s too big for a buggy but still too small to keep up with adult walking pace, I’d certainly consider getting her one so that walks of 10-15 minutes don’t have to turn into epic treks! It makes quite a lot of sense.

  23. The Economist article headline said:

    “Scooters are taking over London’s pavements”

    I hope it’s true, but I wonder why there was no photo to document this “take-over?”

  24. @BrianJ: This is one of those areas in which I thought I was well versed. I looked for the data you were seeking, and was poignantly reminded of the need to question otherwise unassailable assertions. The prevailing wisdom is that helmets decrease the occurrence and/or severity of head injuries in bicycle accidents (some 92% are, not surprisingly, with cars). What I found is that there is considerable disagreement and there are no reliable studies to examine; any studies conducted to date are weak on methodology (biased, contain confounding factors, or show correlation without establishing causation). When it comes down to it, helmets may be useless at doing what they are intended to do, instead providing little more than a false sense of security. As for negative effects, the risk to bikers may increase as fewer bikers take to the roads (safety in numbers), which is one possible result of mandated bike helmets.

    Needless to say, I don’t think there’s enough good evidence to suggest that wearing a helmet is better than not. What does remain is the risk involved with on-street riding, something that is only reduced by better educated bikers obeying their local traffic laws combined with more visibility for biking.

    I don’t know whether this helps the conversation at hand or not, but the presence or absence of helmets on kids is definitely germane to Free Range parenting.

  25. My four-year-old son has a two-wheeled scooter (just graduated from the 3-wheel version), and loves it, but I never thought about him commuting with it to school before. Why not, of course. I used a skateboard, come to think of it! But that was junior high and we were allowed to bring our skateboards in and put them in our lockers. Where do they safely store the scooters in elementary school (no lockers, tiny classrooms with large numbers of kids)?

  26. From some of the previous blogs I’ve read here, as well as other sites, there are schools that will not allow you to ride your bike to school. Meaning ride it up to the school and lock it up on school property. The rule is, if you ride your bike to school, you have to lock it up out side of school property. Because the school does not want to be responsible for anything that happens to kids riding their bikes to school. I’ve even read one a while back, where the mother got called to the school to pickup her kid and his bicycle. They wouldn’t allow him to ride home from school when he rode his bike in that day.

    What it seems to really boil down to, is people/institutions not wanting to be hit with lawsuits from parents should anything happen to their child while in school. That’s why there are so many stipulations now when it comes to school and kids. Militant style of dropping and picking up kids, no sharing of foods, no candy, no touching/hugging of kids when they do a good job at school, parents must have a written notice and signed at school if they need to pick up their child earlier than the release time, etc… Pure paranoia of being sued. Which, nowadays, is a common thing.

    What happen to the days when a kid tripped in school, got a bump or a cut, with no consequence to the school or the parent. That seems almost of unheard of these days.

  27. EricS – While I know there are many cases like those you mention I think this: “What happen to the days when a kid tripped in school, got a bump or a cut, with no consequence to the school or the parent. That seems almost of unheard of these days.” is a case of paranoia much like we often accuse “the other side” of. Kids trip in school every day without parents or schools getting into trouble.

    On the no biking thing – my own first school didn’t have bike racks because everyone walked and they didn’t seem to have any demand for a bike rack. At my middle school we had a no biking (or at least a “no leaving your bike at school”) rule for a while because they tore down the bike sheds when they became a target for vandalism, smoking and bullying. They rebuilt them in a better place later, but only after the PTA had raised money to do so. So I think there are probably many reasons why a school might not be able to house bikes other than a fear of lawsuits. (None of which is to say that I think it’s good when a school doesn’t facilitate biking. Just that it’s not always part of the big conspiracy, there’s a lot of reacting to local conditions with limited resources).

  28. @ Helenquine: That is true. I was just stating what I’ve read about of some schools. I’m sure not all, but some are about not making themselves accountable for children riding their bikes to school. Which is more than what it used to be, which was none. lol

    The “unheard of” comment, was a bit of an exaggeration to emphasize the paranoia and ridiculous claims some opportunistic parents do. Although, they are very few, it’s enough for schools, community centers, public pools, etc… to safeguard themselves just in case. Which affects the children. But it is pretty common place with most schools locking down how children are picked up and dropped off, as well as the no acknowledgment with physical touching. Teachers and coaches are too afraid for their careers these days.

    I am glad though that there are still some schools, that fall pray (gladly not entirely) to the fear of retaliation from parents. That they don’t have the militant style of dealing with their students. I’ll see if I can find those blogs.

  29. Razor Scooters (the two-wheel variety) are HUGE in my neighborhood. Every classroom in the two elementary schools now offers Scooter Parking right outside the classroom door, since they are a) hard to lock up effectively, and b) a clutter nightmare in the coatroom. So every room, K4-6th grade, has a bin for the kids to leave their scooters in during the school day. Very cool.

    Incidentally, it’s a small suburban school system, and I would guess about 75% of all kids, K-12, walk, scoot or bike to school every day. The remaining 25% are driven in by their parents, or are city kids who bus to school. There is no busing available at all for neighborhood kids; students who actually reside within the district boundaries are considered “walkers” and are expected to get to school under their own (or their parents’) power.

  30. They’re even providing scooter safety courses at a school in Brighton:

  31. Everything old is new again.

    We got our first one of these (called a “Step” in Dutch) in 1971. It was long and low, and could handle 3 kids at once. It had fat, inflatable wheels. Every kid in my neighbourhood used something similar (made of metal, wood, or plastic) to progress to cycling.

    I wish I still had my big blue step.

  32. We are American expats living in London and I didn’t realize we were part of a trend, but my daughter has had her micro mini since she was 2.5 years. It’s a sight to see the children zooming to my daughter’s nursery (3 and 4 year olds) and the row of micro minis lined up outside the building.

  33. @Aaron – the first thing I found in an exhaustive (2 second) google search was this:

    That may be biased, methodlogically flawed, or otherwise useless. However, based on my understanding of how head injuries occur, there seems to be a very reasonable mechanism for how a helmet can save a person from a traumatic brain injury. There does not seem to be an unreasonable cost associated with using a helmet. So for me, it’s not particularly difficult math.

    As for whether people should be compelled by the state to wear a helmet, that depends on how much a burden the person will be on the state if the suffer an injury. It’s even trickier for whether children should be compelled.

    That said, in order for me to want to overturn the laws requiring children to wear helmets, I’d want to see that there was some harm caused by these rules. And regardless of the rules, my children will continue to wear bike helmets for as long as they are children.

  34. @BrianJ – My equation comes up similar, at least personally. If I am on the street with my bike, I have a helmet, and I require them for my children as well.

  35. If we want to start using personal anecdotes, my best girlfriend in high school was saved by her bike helmet when a car ran a stop sign and right into her. She landed on her head and was told the helmet kept her alive and at least from more than a mild concussion. It’s about velocity.

  36. Wow, great idea, getting kids out of cars and exercising. But I am going to have to exercise too, by working overtime! These things are $150 bucks each for the over 5 year old size!

  37. Simple design innovation, but makes learning to scooter a much safer experience for very young children like my 3- year-old. Something interesting about the math in the Economist article though – if 1 in 7 children scooter to work (about 14%), but the proportion being dropped off by car dropped only 4% from 20% to 16%, how were the other 10% of children getting to school before they started scootering – walking, bicycling, transit?

  38. A helmet can prevent injury in all sorts of situations.
    Just like a life vest will usually prevent a child from drowning.

    Does your child wear a life vest at all time when he is swimming?

    Here’s a page with some good helmet use info:

  39. @Bike Helmet Info: you lost me at “Consider the gun controversy. Rationally, we know it’s the “INTENSION” of the person with the gun that determines how dangerous the gun is, not the gun.”

    Also, swimming with a life jacket on is silly because the point of swimming is to swim, not float. Boating with a life jacket – absolutely.

  40. @Aaron Helton – the problem with the Razor is there is not enough clearance to go over big cracks in the sidewalk and the deck is not wide enough for two adult feet. It’s fine for maybe 6 blocks or so, but I couldn’t see scooting 3 miles. There are some more “serious” scooters with pneumatic tires that are better for distance, but your folding bike is still probably better, especially since it is a lot faster.

  41. i want to have scooter

  42. We have a fair number of kids at my daughter’s elementary school that use the two-wheeled variety. Enough that there’s been a problem lately of a few disappearing to the wrong houses as kids get them mixed up.

    We even have kids walking to school unaccompanied. It’s great!

  43. Taking into account the fact that this blog is dedicated to children so I just would like to ask opinions of experts what they think about such educational game as Kinder Hangman – Is this game really so helpful for developing kids? I am a mother myself, so just would like to know if this game can help me repare kids for school? Any ideas?

  44. I used to have the two wheeled variety when I was younger. Me and my little sister used them to get to drama group as it was downhill all the way and we then walked them home afterwards. On our own. In the dark. I can’t have been older than 12 and she was 10. We loved them because we could set off 5 minutes later than when we had to walk. Also the downhill meant it took zero effort! The only accident we ever had with them was when my parents were buying them my mum tested one out and crashed into the wall apparently hurting herself quite badly (I wasn’t there). However she still went ahead and bought them and let us ride them on the streets without supervision or helmets.

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