Opinion with Christine Tongue: Getting mobile with a new set of wheels

Christine has been testing out new transport

Like most disabled people gravity is my enemy. I’d love to be weightless. I really resent that millionaires whose legs work ok can afford to go into space and experience it!

Why can’t I have a personal drone to hover me in a comfortable chair around the Thanet coast?

More realistically I  always promised myself that if gravity got the better of me, I’d become a pavement racer in the snazziest mobility device I could lay my hands on.

The time has come to look for wheels as my legs are rapidly giving up on me. But what to get, and where to begin?

My GP referred me to several services and I got a list of local suppliers of scooters and wheelchairs. It seems easier to get equipment to prop up your disability than to get a hospital appointment that may solve a lot of it. But I’m grateful for any help I can get.

So you get a list of local companies, you ask your disabled friends for what to avoid, and off you go into a minefield of choice.

If you have a garage you can get a large, more stable vehicle that can go on roads and pavements and get you a few miles from home. But I don’t drive and don’t have a garage. I’d have to park outside, not ideal for an electric vehicle. And how far do I really want to go?

So I’m looking at beginner versions that would fold up and go through my back gate and into the house, and collapse into a taxi for more ambitious expeditions.

There is a bewildering range and all of them eye watering in price. You’re in for possible expenditure of £2-3000 to buy new and the cheapest reconditioned I’ve seen so far is around £500. ‘Blimey! That’s what I paid for my car!’ said my gobsmacked friend, having just said: ‘don’t spare any expense, just get mobile again.’

They are nice little things, though. Takes me back to the go-carts of my fifties childhood. They all look a bit home made, souped up supermarket trolleys rather than Harley Davidson. A bit low on glamour!

I’ve tried out three so far.

Basically, You sit in a chair with handle bars and the speed controller is  on the handlebars. But because it’s light and folds or dismantles easily, you don’t feel quite secure rattling over pot holes and dropped kerbs that aren’t dropped enough – there are far too many of those in Thanet. The beach, of course, is taboo in Broadstairs with the lift shut because the slopes to the beach are too steep for most small scooters with cowardly riders.

One scooter I tried had its speed control in the same place as a bicycle brake. I never drove a car but I did have a huge red tricycle for a long time. It was good in London for frightening taxis and inspiring jolly banter – like ‘that’s a big bike for a little girl!’. Because we do like being patronised, we disabled ….

So having my accelerator where my old instincts thought the brake would be has led to few runaway moments.

But I  will get a scooter soon because the pleasure of not using my miserable bones will outweigh my terror of tipping either myself or another wobbly pensioner into the gutter.

I’ll also be straight  into a huge geography learning curve of safe routes for  beginners and a lot of bad temper at the state of our local roads and pavements.

I had a bit of a revelation as I rattled along the cliff top on my try-out trolley. There in front of me was a bright green Lamborghini, so aerodynamic it could have floated off the road. Fancy, wildly expensive, designed to impress. The scooter gave a shudder as we passed and so did I. Is that the best use of our technology? Toys for the rich? Or aids to make lives easier for the fourteen million disabled people in the UK?


  1. 4 wheel electric scooter on road and path good.

    2 wheel electric scooter on road and path bad.

    Hypocrisy Discuss.?

    • A huge difference in the way they are used!
      2-wheeled scooters are used by the fit, healthy and mobile.
      Why are you stirring things?, leave the disabled alone, they have enough problems to deal with.

      • Well said Ton. I’m a strong believer that pavements should be used solely for the use of pedestrians and disability scooters (even as a keen cyclist I always use roads unless there is a proper well-made cycle path).

          • You have no idea of my girlfriends level of disability. She works at the QEQM and we live in Garlinge. She has a fused ankle so can walk with a limp but not to the QEQM and back. Likes the independence of not having to use the bus. Too short for a car journey so 2 wheel scooter ideal and not need to sit.. so yes Peter she can walk and fully control it. There is no dichotomy here.

          • The last thing we need is dozens of disabled people zooming up and down pavements in our High Streets. I agree with the law.

        • Nicolai its because electric scooters are illegal unless used off road, and on private property, didn’t you know that! I am having a mobility scooter try out this Friday, and although I am reluctant to give up my bike, I have to admit to becoming unstable (no change there then, I hear you say) I am looking to try a collapsible scooter though, due to not having easy access to my rear garden. I don’t know if Christine is aware but people with disabilities do NOT have to pay Vat on these machines! I am registered disabled after an Industrial Injury, so will take advantage of that!

    • 4 wheeled scooter has top speed of a walking pace.
      2 wheeled scooter has top speed if 15 – 20 mph.
      4 wheeled doesn’t fall over when it stops.
      2 wheeled does – so user kess inclined to stop.
      But I do get cross when some people riding enormous mobility scooters (almost the size of a small car) bulldoze their way along the pavement, scattering pedestrians to the four winds.

      • Yes… One thing that disturbs me slightly is that anyone can get on one of these, even if they’ve had no previous experience of driving or cycling. Perhaps there should be a mandatory capability test first?

        • The companies I’ve seen have taken medical details but if you buy on ebay no one is checking for disability. But why would anyone use a mobility scooter who didn’t need it? I’d rather walk- I just can’t at the moment!

          • Christine – I was thinking more along the lines of people who don’t have the mental capacity to drive one. My own mother is housebound and can barely walk, but I wouldn’t like to see her driving one (not that she wants one!). Also, people suffering from (say) dementia who have had their driving licences take away can still get in one.

  2. Well done Christine. Keep your spirits up. The freedom that you will get with your mobile chair will be worth it and I am sure that the comradery that exists amongst the other users in Thanet will give you much pleasure. My eBike is what sets me free at present and once my balance goes I too will have to get one of those chairs – the Lamborghini version I hope.
    The range, comfort, and size of wheels are important. Once you go down one of those holes in the road you might not come up so quickly.
    Enjoy your newfound freedom and friends.

  3. Been using a mobility scooter for about 4 months. Please note : 1)I have a bright red one – much better than a blue one modelled by CT. 2) The roads and pavements in St Peters Village are a total disgrace, more like the Somme battlefield. 3)Get yourself a good outside collapsible garage, about £350 from Westwood Cross.

  4. She wont need go worry about the lift working now!!

    4 wheeled scooters should only be on the road

    2 wheeled scooters are just a nuisance with most having no lights or reflective clothes on.
    Always dont stop when crossing roads.

    Both should be insured vehicles and road only!

    • Didn’t realise these modes of transportation were sentient…guns don’t kill people people kill people
      As in ALL things the minority ruin it for the majority..I regularly pick other dogs poo up cus I don’t want all dog owners tarred with that brush.

    • Some scooters are only for pavements and allowed on road if pavement not available. The small ones I’m looking at are pavement only. Roads are scary!

  5. Nothing wrong with mobility scooters I just wish the few that drive then to fast and think they have right of way would slow down abit to at least walking pace. The pavement is for pedestrians as well !

  6. I use a wheelchair when I go out. I have tried the mobility scooter but as we live in a first floor flat (24 stairs) I decided that it would be better for me and my carer (who carries my lightweight chair up and down the stairs) to stick with my wheelchair. Yes to those who complain I CAN walk but it is apparently slower than snail pace as I have a breathing problem and people got very annoyed as I was walking so slow and they needed to get to where they were going and in the shops were even worse as people would deliberatly knock into me to try to get me to move faster. Up to February 2020 I used to do a lot of walking but found that I was getting more and more short of breath and climbing the stairs (no lift) was not happening in the way it used to. The G.P. said I should try using a wheelchair when I go out as it would be ‘safer’. Please be warned that people tend to be ignorant of the fact that some people need these aids to have some semblance of enjoyment in their lives so take you’re time and shop around to find the right sort of vehicle for you.

  7. A road legal mobility scooter is referred to by the DVLA as a ‘Class 3 invalid carriage’. Capabilities of a class 3 scooter are characterised as follows;

    · A maximum device speed of 6.4kph (4mph) off the road.

    · Capable of up to 12.8kph (8mph) on the road.

    · 150kg (330pounds) maximum weight without the operator.

    · Width not exceeding 0.85metres (33inches).

    · An effective braking system.

    · Front and rear lights as well as reflectors.

    · Indicators which are also capable of operating as hazard warning signals.

    · An audible horn.

    · A rear view mirror.

    · An amber flashing light if the operator wishes to use the vehicle on a dual carriageway.

    · A scooter with the above faculties must be registered with the DVLA;

    · A tax disc is required and must be displayed. Complete a V55/4 form for new vehicle, or V55/5 for a used vehicle. These forms can be obtained from the DVLA.

    · Registration is free of charge.

    · Note that you can’t license your class 3 invalid carriage online or at a Post Office. Completed forms must be sent by post to DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1BE. You will ned to include evidence of the vehicle’s age.

    · There is no driving test for using a mobility scooter on the road however you must follow the Highway Code. This includes following standard driving procedure including;

    · Observing road signs and traffic lights.

    · Using the scooter’s lights, directional indicators and horn when required.

    · Taking other road users and pedestrians into consideration when manoeuvring.

    · Generally you should try and use your scooter on the pavement where at all possible.

    · When operating the vehicle on footpaths and pedestrian areas, follow the rules that other pavement users follow.

    · Pedestrians have priority in all circumstances. Bear in mind that some pedestrians may not see or hear you. Be particularly vigilant of those with sight/hearing impairments, elderly or disabled people. They may not be aware you are there and therefore may not move out of your way.

    · A ‘class 3 invalid carriage’ is prohibited from travelling in the following;

    · Bus lanes

    · ‘Cycle only’ lanes.

    · Motorways.

    · Dual carriageways with a speed limit of over 80kph (50mph).

  8. In total, some 130 people were seriously injured in accidents involving cyclists last year, and four were killed.

    More than ten pedestrians suffered life threatening injuries every month when they are hit by people on bicycles.


    • It’s a sad state of the world when the partner of someone who works in a hospital would like to discourage people from exercising.

    • Utterly absurd comments.
      Motor vehicles are responsible directly and indirectly for the deaths of about 40,000 a year.
      BAN CARS.

    • Nicolai, I have been riding a bike for 25 years, and now in my 8th decade feel I have become too unsteady trying to avoid poor car drivers which has become a nightmare! I have been knocked off my bike twice by cars, and the problem now is that cars have gotten fatter, like most of their occupants! As a result when cars overtake me when passing a traffic island, they can clip me, or at the least come very close! Why can’t car drivers just slow up a second or so, to allow me to get past the traffic island, but no they can’t do that! Then there are sunken drain, and inspection covers! Anyone thinking of getting a road worthy mobility scooter should be aware that a sunken drain cover can have you over, that goes for some other inspection covers too. Its because when roads have been resurfaced the contractor does not raise the covers to the same new level! They don’t seem to know water will find its own level, and drain covers do not need to be sunk lower than the road surface, Duurh!

      • I’m a good few years younger than you (I’m 58), but cycling has got both better and worse: Better because there are far more cycle paths (I still remember the nightmare of cycling from Ramsgate to Sandwich in the 80s), but worse because of the wider cars, heavier traffic and general poorer driving.

  9. Hope you get mobile again both with and without wheels Christine. Some very good points made in this article!

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