|TravelScoot at Whitireia Park|
So it was with mixed feelings that I faced the fact that even my eBike was no longer a solution for my cancer related fatigue, and at times I was going to need a mobility scooter to get around. It felt a bit better to think of a mobility scooter as really just an eBike with a few more wheels: a three (or four) wheeled eBike.
Having overcome that hangup, I needed to decide what sort of scooter to get. Broadly, mobility scooters fall into three classes:
- full size scooters that weigh around 50kg, are powerful and stable, but are difficult to transport so essentially restrict you to the area around your home.
- portable or "Boot" scooters that are still heavy, but can be disassembled and carried in the boot of a car.
- light foldable scooters weighing around 15kg that can be taken on public transport including aircraft.
I'd tried a full size scooter courtesy of WCC's mobility scheme, which places full size mobility scooters at locations around Wellington, including the waterfront, the Botanic Gardens, and Zealandia. My friend Neil has been a mobility scooter user for many years, and advocates for adopting them sooner rather than later. I'd accompanied him on a few adventures on his full size scooter, but there was the disadvantage that it wasn't that easy to transport - we'd needed a trailer to get it out to the Miramar Peninsula for a run around the Great Harbour Way. But full size scooters are very stable and powerful - the Zealandia one got up a steep rutted single track to the bridge.
On a visit to the Mobility Centre in Epuni, I rented a Pride Go-Go boot scooter for a week. As advertised, it disassembled into five components, although the 15kg battery was heavy enough that I was banned from attempting to lift it into the back of our station wagon. I was able to explore the south coast, and the valley track through Otari Wilton's Bush. The small wheels meant that it coped with gravel paths, but only just.
My challenge for a mobility scooter is living up Durham St, which reaches 15% at its steepest. The boot scooter motor cut out half way up, coming to an embarrassing dead stop. I learned that the other meaning of "boot scooter" is that it may need to be rebooted on steep slopes. Keeping to a slow speed going up the hill seemed to keep the motor happy, avoiding the cut out.
|Neil breezes along the GHW on his full size mobility scooter|
|Pride Go-Go boot scooter on the South Coast|
A chance meeting at a Pilates class put us in touch with the Wellington agent for TravelScoot, a lightweight foldable mobility scooter. Weighing 15kg, it can be packed into a medium size dufflebag, and checked through as airline luggage. The battery capacity of 275Wh is within the limits for airlines. Unfolded, it can travel on Wellington's buses, trains and ferries. The dimensions of the TravelScoot are just within MetLink's limits for the bus wheelchair space. A demo and a trial convinced me that this was the answer to my fatigue related mobility problems.
|TravelScoot in train mobility area|
|TravelScoot in bus mobility area|
The small wheels mean the TravelScoot doesn't like gravel - anything more than a few millimeters and the driving wheel digs itself into the path in protest. So I have to be choosy about unsealed trails, and occasionally just get off and push through a problematic section.
Using the scooter makes me realise how compromised our Wellington footpaths are. Often there isn't a kerb cutout, and I have to lift the scooter over at intersections - fortunately the 15kg weight makes this manageable. Recycling bins and improperly parked cars often block the footpath.
|It doesn't take much of a kerb to stop the TravelScoot's small wheels|
|On summit of Hawkins Hill|
|TravelScoot joins the top deck crowd on the East by West Ferry|
|Selfie with East Coast Bays beach architecture|
At Petone station I caught the train into Wellington - the guard offered to drop the ramp onto the platform, but it's easy to lift the TravelScoot across the gap, and put it into the wheelchair area, where its handy parking brake stops it from heading down the aisle and creating mayhem. The battery charge was getting low, so from the station I caught a bus to Aro Street. The advertised range of the TravelScoot is 19km, so it wasn't a surprise when half way up Durham St, at 20km of travel, the motor cut out. A combination of pushing, and reviving the battery for short spurts, saw me home.
When Wellington's usual breeze reaches strengths that less hardy cities might call "gale", the sheltered Korokoro stream trail is a natural choice for an adventure. Would the TravelScoot be up to it? We parked at the end of Cornish St, lifted the scooter up and down the steps on the footbridge, and set off. Fortunately the gravel is generally well packed and I'd learned to track the left wheel through the part of the path that offered the best grip. Some narrow sections, and occasional steep camber, threatened to tip me into the blackberry bushes lining the creek, but Marg followed behind ready to intervene if the inside wheel looked to be lifting off (this prevented a repeat of one of our son Martin's early mountain biking experiences, when he made an involuntary detour into the creek here. Which might be why he decided to follow less risky pursuits such as off-piste snowboarding). We made it around the bend with rockfall notices suggesting we didn't tarry, but halted when, about 1.5km in, the track takes a steep climb over a bluff. It was a good trip even though the outer wheel was occasionally delicately balanced on the edge of the trail.
|TravelScoot on Korokoro stream, just past the rockfall area|
|TravelScoot at top of Wainuiomata shared path|