In Defense of the E-Scooter, One of Life’s Great Uncomplicated Pleasures

Illustration by Ian Keltie for Men's Journal

EARLIER THIS FALL, the day before my 43rd birthday, I fell off an e-scooter and tore my labrum. It was raining, and I was listening to a basketball podcast—dumb and dumber. But I wasn’t going all that fast, and I wasn’t trying to land a trick. I was on a quiet street. I hit a bump, skidded, clipped my dumb stupid foot on the scooter as I hopped off, and landed on my right forearm, causing my shoulder to bend in a direction my body would consider unnatural. I didn’t even land that hard, but when you’re a day shy of 43, you can tear your labrum falling from a standstill. Luckily, I’m left-handed, and at this age, honestly, who needs two working labrums? Not me! I’m not Jacob DeGrom. All I do is type.

Some of you might consider this a comeuppance. You might consider my tumble a message from God telling me that I’m wrong about e-scooters.

Sorry, God, you’re wrong.

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I’m not going to dispute all the reasons that e-scooters are a menace. They are spreading through urban centers like locusts. They clutter sidewalks. They turn otherwise responsible people into morons who ride e-scooters in the rain. They hit pedestrians. Most importantly, according to Elon Musk, they “lack dignity.” All true.

But I don’t care. A real man would say, “fuck Elon Musk.” A real man doesn’t need the validation of his peers to do what makes him happy, no matter how derpy and undignified it makes him look. A real man falls from his e-scooter, dusts himself off, opens his Lime app, and gets right back on. And just for the record, you could scratch out every instance of the word e-scooters in that previous paragraph and replace it with bicycles. The bicycle jihadis are the ones bitching the loudest about e-scooters, but those people are like early gentrifiers who complain about the second wave. They’re just trying to hog the bike (and e-scooter) lanes for their rolling chainsaws.

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Lime and Bird electric scooters in Los Angeles, CA
Lime and Bird electric scooters in Los Angeles, CA Rachid Jalayanadeja / Shutterstock

I promise you, e-scooters are one of life’s simple, uncomplicated pleasures. They won’t scratch your thrill-seeking itch like, say, The Hunger Games. If you e-scoot when you could easily walk, you should probably get some other form of exercise. They are a long, long way from foolproof. But they’re a wonderful way to turn 12 minutes of dull forward motion into five minutes of lo-fi bliss. And they’re super easy to use. I wouldn’t feel comfortable riding a bicycle on city streets until I’d had months of practice and near-total mastery, which is never happening. It took me one ride on an e-scooter to feel like Tony Hawk. My 10-year-old could do it, if it were legal. She’d be much better at it than me. And if she fell, her labrum would stretch like Mrs. Incredible’s.

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Here’s my best argument for e-scooters: There is no better way to explore a new city. None. My inaugural Bird experience was in Portland, Oregon, and it was one of the more memorable lazy Saturday mornings I’ve had in years. Did all of the Portland residents I puttered past give me dirty looks? Not all of them. But so what? I’m not gonna let Portland push me around. Plus, without the scooter, I would’ve covered a 10th as much ground.

After my spill, I took a two-week hiatus from e-scooters. I’ve learned my lesson. I ride more attentively now—no music, no podcasts, no scooting in the rain, and I max out at about 10.2, 10.3 miles per hour. If it’s a sunny day and I’m feeling wild, I might crack 11. It was beautiful that morning two weeks post-injury, and so I decided it was time. I pulled out my phone, activated a Bird scooter parked on the corner outside my kids’ school, and savored the cool air whooshing through my shirt at 9.6 mph, as I rode across town to physical therapy. ♦

Devin Gordon is a freelance writer. His work has also appeared in The New York Times MagazineGQ, and ESPN the Magazine, and his book about the history of the Mets will be out from HarperCollins in summer 2020. 

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