Small, light, foldable push scooters have never been so popular. A quick glance at the pages of eBay will reveal a whole panoply of designs, sizes, and styles, some with two wheels and some with three or even four. It is even possible now to buy motorised version that run off a battery and that can achieve speeds of up to 15 mph.
These push scooters are simple enough to operate. Users make progress by standing on a footplate with one leg while pushing on the ground with the other. They usually have a footbrake at the back of the footplate that works by pressing down on the rear wheel to slow down the tyre. Push scooters are incredibly popular, not only among children who use them to play on, but also among adults, who use them for recreation as well as pragmatic uses like commuting to work.
How popular are scooters? Around 10,000 new scooters a week are sold in the UK and that is a figure that climbs considerably in the weeks running up to Christmas. However, more people using scooters means more people being injured while using scooters, as accidents and injuries are surprisingly common. The following are a few basic steps towards riding a push scooter safely.
The current fashion for scooters, like so many others, originated from the USA. Accidents there since scooters really took off have increased sevenfold, with nearly 10,000 scooter riders ending up in hospital, of whom around 9,000 were children. In one particularly bad month, approximately 3,900 injuries resulted from scooter use in the US.
In the UK, even before scooters tapped into mass popular appeal in the late 1990s around 2,000 people every year were being hospitalised after using scooters. Since the hobby has really taken off since then, current figures will be much higher.
Fortunately most injuries caused by riding scooters have been of the order of cuts and bruises and the odd sprain, but around 30 percent involve dislocations or broken bones. There has been one fatal accident in the UK caused by scooter use.
A variety of scooter models can be bought in the UK, but some are no longer on the market as they have failed to get past certain safety checks. In one particularly bad incident, a scooter's folding mechanism took off the end of a child's finger. That scooter model is no longer for sale. When buying scooters, checking the folding mechanism to see if it is possible to trap small fingers is an absolute must. If there is any room for doubt, Trading Standards Officers should be alerted.
Scooters come under the Toys (Safety) Regulations 1995, must be CE-marked and satisfy Essential Safety Requirements. They should ideally comply with the Regulations by meeting the relevant safety standard. People who are hurt by a defective scooter are entitled to take legal action against the manufacturer under the Consumer Protection Act.
In general, common sense goes a long way here. Scooters should not be used:
* In places where they might result in inconvenience or fear for other people
* In places where there is potential danger for the scooter rider. For example, crowded pavements are not an advisable location
* Down steep hills. Riders should take particular care when coming down hills, as scooters can gather speed very quickly
* In the dark. Scooters do not usually come equipped with lights or reflectors, which makes them hard to see, so scooter use should be restricted to the daylight hours
The legal position here is very clear. It is illegal to ride scooters on the road. Drivers will not be looking out for them, they are small and hard to spot and accidents - probably very nasty ones - will inevitably result.
The other issue with roads is that children tend to ride scooters close to the kerb on roads, which is where grids can be found. A scooter's small wheels can easily get caught in the grid, bringing the scooter to a swift stop. From there, a rider could quite easily be thrown in front of traffic.
Crossing roads with a scooter is also not advisable. Children in particular tend to think that, because they have a swift-moving scooter, that they can shoot across the road and beat the traffic. But misjudgments can be costly. Another factor is the tendency for children to 'bunnyhop' up kerbs - any misjudgments here and the child is likely to fall backwards into the path of oncoming motorists.
So where can scooter riders legally enjoy their scooters? Well, although most riders take their scooters out on the pavement, the law in this instance is less than clear. Riding cycles on the pavement is illegal and some sources say that scooters come into the same category.
What seems to be happening in reality is that police will use their common sense and decide in individual cases what is sensible and what is not. For example, whizzing down a busy High Street pavement on a Saturday afternoon is hardly the same as riding a scooter on a Sunday morning on the footpaths of a quiet housing estate.
In general, then, it is not advisable to use scooters on pavements that are busy or narrow. Any place where they could be an inconvenience or result in danger or fear for other pedestrians is also out of bounds. Busy pavements are less than perfect, too, and any raised slabs or potholes can cause nasty accidents.
In general, riders of scooters should avoid any area where there is a chance of collisions with pedestrians. For shoppers coming out of stores, the prospect of being hit by a scooter is not an appealing one. Serious injury or worse could result if the scooter rider comes into contact with an older person. Shopping malls are a definite no-no for scooter riding.
Wearing protective clothing is vital to avoid injuries when riding scooters. It is estimated by the USA Consumer Product Safety Commission that around 60 percent of injuries to scooter riders could be prevented by wearing the right clothes. Parents who buy scooters for their children should definitely buy a cycle helmet, pads for knees and elbows, plus wrist protectors.
Protective clothing is also recommended for adult scooter riders, especially if stunt riding is on the agenda. It is possible to get up a fair speed downhill on scooters, so a serious injury can result. Being highly visible is also a good idea, so fluorescent or at least very bright clothing is recommended. Riding scooters in the dark is not a sensible idea, as they are not equipped with lights.
Both scooters models and protective gear are readily available both in local toyshops and in online retail outlets like eBay.
Before bidding for a scooter or protective equipment on eBay, buyers must be absolutely clear about what they want to buy. It is also vital to carry out appropriate research on the scooter seller. This means taking a close look at their feedback and becoming familiar with how the eBay consumer is protected by eBay and PayPal. Buyers should also factor in the cost of postage and packing when bidding for push scooters on eBay, although in some cases local pickup will be possible.
With a few sensible precautions, anyone - old or young - can enjoy playing on their scooter safely. Using the scooter in the right place at the right time in the right way is the key to success. It is also a great idea to invest in protective clothing, such as a helmet and knee and elbow pads. A quality push scooter and protective clothing can all be bought from eBay, in the Scooter section which is classified under Sporting Goods. Finally, buyers should read up on how to buy scooters safely and securely on eBay.