Planes, trains and ... scooters?


Stephen Lacey

The executives who have a novel take on the commute from home to the boardroom.

Digital advertising agency managing director Simon McMaster uses a scooter for part of his daily commute.

Digital advertising agency managing director Simon McMaster uses a scooter for part of his daily commute. Photo: Stephen Lacey

When Simon McMaster leaves his house in the morning, he doesn't reach for his car keys, but for a helmet. The 42-year-old MD and founder of Hive Collective, a digital advertising agency, is one of a growing band of dedicated scooter commuters.

McMaster's particular scooter is a Micro Black, a Swiss-designed machine made specifically for adults to get from A to B in a hurry . . . relatively speaking. And being powered only by your feet, it's undoubtedly an environmentally friendly way to commute.

“I love it,” says Sydney-based McMaster. “I don't scoot all the way into the city from Annandale, that would be stretching it a bit, but I use it to get me down to the light rail. And I use it to get me around the city. It saves me lots on taxi fares and parking and it keeps me fit.”

Rockhampton solicitor Brian McGowran rides his skateboard to work.

Rockhampton solicitor Brian McGowran rides his skateboard to work.

He says being an executive on a push scooter isn't without its challenges.

“I do get some funny looks sometimes, especially if I'm dressed in a suit and tie. The receptionists often have a giggle when you roll in for a meeting and ask them to store the scooter behind their desk. But it folds right up, so it's pretty bloody handy.”

With Australia's dire track record in public transport, rising petrol prices and crowded roads, it's little wonder that increasing numbers of executives are finding cleverer ways to get to the office – such as the unicyclist often spotted crossing the Sydney Harbour Bridge during peak hour each morning and afternoon.

Or John Maclurcan, the consultant project manager who used to slip on his suit and tie in the mornings before stepping to the kerb, hanging out his thumb and hitch-hiking to work in the Sydney CBD from Cremorne.

“I'd very rarely have to wait longer than a couple of minutes to get a ride,” says Maclurcan, who is now semi-retired. “It was a very quick way to get into the city for me, much quicker than catching the ferry. Plus drivers usually liked an extra person in the car so they could travel in the transit lane.”

And it's back to the future for Rockhampton solicitor Brian McGowran of McGowran Lawyers. Six months ago, the 43-year-old bought a Z-flex longboard and started skating the 2.5 kilometres from his home to his practice in the middle of the city. Now he's known throughout Rockhampton as "the sidewalk solicitor".

“The trip takes me about 15 minutes,” McGowran says. “I really love it, especially the steep decent into a downhill carpark, where I pass all the commuters in their cars. I'm usually wearing my ridiculously large headphones and listening to AC/DC screeching out Shoot to Thrill.”

McGowran says he gets lots of positive comments as he skates past in his co-ordinated Adidas tracksuit, or boardshorts and T-shirt (he gets changed into a suit at the office). His two youngest sons, a nine- and a seven-year-old, think he "looks cool". However, the oldest boy is not convinced.

“My 13-year-old just thinks it's another way to embarrass him.”

Speaking of embarrassing, Rob Morrison, the Sydney-based creative director of OgilvyOne, drives a 1977 Mini Moke to work.

“I live in Paddington and work in St Leonards, and public transport between the two places is a nightmare,” Morrison says. “The bus, train, bus takes me a good hour, whereas even in heavy traffic, the Moke gets me there in 20 to 25 minutes.”

That's when it's actually on the road. During his first month with the car, it broke down in the middle of the Sydney Harbour Tunnel. And he says it can be a tad frightening when big trucks are lumbering past.

“To be honest it doesn't steer very well, or stop very well, and it can be a dangerous little bugger, but I've managed to forgive the Moke, because it genuinely makes people smile,” he says.

His work colleagues have mixed feelings. “The girls in the agency love it, but a couple of the guys can't believe it's even allowed on the road.”

Electric scooters are also becoming popular with commuters all over the planet. In San Francisco a company called Scoots has recently been launched that works in a similar fashion to carshare programs. Electric scooters are parked at transit hubs spread around the city, to be taken by commuters after being activated by a smartphone app. The smartphone slots into the scooter's dash to provide sat nav, battery level, and cashless payment. The Scoots have a top speed of about 48km/h and a charge time of eight hours from flat to full.

A spokesperson for Scoots says the Scoots Network will eventually come to Australia.

Perhaps the most popular executive express of recent years has been the folding bicycle manufactured by the British company Brompton. Formerly the preserve of eccentric 50-year-old Brits with beards, the unusual-looking cycle has developed a cult following among commuters.

“We sell more Bromptons than anything else,” says Nick Boyakovsky of Sydney's Cheeky Transport. “And plenty of our Brompton customers wear suits to work. A recent customer was a judge's assistant who frequently caught light planes around NSW. The Brompton made perfect sense because it could be folded away with her luggage.”

23 comments so far

  • I ride a motorbike to meetings in the CBD all the time. Free parking - super (and I mean SUPER) fast to get across town on but you do get a few funny looks when you show up with leather jacket on and carrying a helmet - especially at law firms. It is free to park (often I park it right out the front of where I am going), uses bugger all fuel, travels legally in the bus lane and I get away without paying tolls about 1/3 of the time (ride as close as possible to the car in front and as close as possible to the camera seems to work best). Since the RTA are incapable of charging reasonable tolls or making an E-tag that is waterproof I have no problems in making them chase me for the tolls. It is all good.......until it rains!

    Date and time
    December 04, 2012, 6:44AM
    • Love it!

      I do the same...You want to charge me the same as a car or truck...Catch me if you can!

      Date and time
      December 04, 2012, 10:58AM
    • Try ride sharing to work as an alternative. connects commuters heading the same way.

      Date and time
      December 20, 2012, 5:21AM
  • Seeing a grown man ride a scooter is very silly, they should only be for kids under 12. I've been knocked over by an adult scooter many times on Pyrmont Bridge. The speeds they go especially down hill is dangerous. I'm embarrassed when I see them run into tourists who are trying to enjoy our safe city.

    Date and time
    December 04, 2012, 7:37AM
    • How old are you Darren? 80?

      Sole Skate
      Date and time
      December 04, 2012, 9:44AM
    • Indeed! How dare they engage in such undignified tomfoolery! Why I say old chap, I was so shocked by the photograph of that... that... foolish *hooligan* of a man that the monocle did drop from mine eye and shatter upon the ground!

      It's shocking: the man on the skateboard looks fair like he might even be enjoying himself. And in public what's more! Well I say to you now: hijinks and japery of this nature are all very well for the young and those of coarser stock, but by the age of twelve a man of refined breeding should have developed sufficient dignity, decorum, emotional-self-repression and gravitas to know better!

      Date and time
      December 04, 2012, 11:35AM
    • At first glance I thought, what a dork! But if he likes it and is ok with the reactions, then why not?

      Date and time
      December 06, 2012, 6:20AM
  • I have a Gauswheel for nipping around the city and suburbs. I can get up to about 30km/h on that thing. Much more fun than a scooter. But no brakes take a bit of getting used to.

    Date and time
    December 04, 2012, 9:09AM
    • Dear oh dear Darren, it sounds like you might get knocked over by a lot of other things too. I use a micro scooter to get to work every day and its brilliant. The safest mode of transport for everyone, including other pedestrians.

      Date and time
      December 04, 2012, 9:09AM
      • I started riding a kick scooter around Melbourne a couple months ago. I have the Micro White. It’s great. I get to enjoy the nice weather, have fun and get some exercise going to/from work. When I do catch the tram the scooter easily folds up to take with me. I’ve had people ask me about it and they all think it’s great.

        Date and time
        December 04, 2012, 9:34AM

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