A peek into how Northampton uses Voi e-scooters

Oct 27, 2020

Commuting, running errands, a way to experience independent travel, or just for fun — there are many reasons people choose to take Voi e-scooters in Northampton. Today we meet two Northamptonshire residents who tell us why they scoot.

Henry Rivett (in image) is a full-time college student from Kingsthorpe. Although he has Tourette syndrome, he’s able navigate his busy life easily on an e-scooter, without the difficulties he’s faced taking public transport.

How did you hear about the scooters?

I read an article online about them being trialed in Northampton.

Why did you decide to try the scooters?

I used to love riding my scooter as a child. I was in the town centre, and figured a scooter would be an efficient way to get around town. They are easy to unlock with the app and simple to use. I use them to get anywhere I need to go.

Do you find it easier to take scooters than public transport?

I do find it easier than public transportation, as it doesn’t take any planning — you just find one around the corner and hop on. You don’t have to wait around for buses. I do feel better taking a scooter.

The scooters help if I’m running late, or if I don’t want to walk because ticking (Tourette syndrome causes people to have tics, which are sudden, repeated twitches, sounds, or movements) makes it painful to do so. They mean I can avoid public transport, but still make it all over town. 

I have had a couple negative experiences on public transport due to people not tolerating my Tourette’s. I was ticking, and a lady had a go at me about it. We had an argument, and as a result, I got kicked off the bus. I was angry and upset, and I had to get a ride from my dad.

Why is the trial good for Northampton?

I think the trial is good for Northampton because it should reduce the number of cars being used, and therefore reduces the amount of carbon emissions. 

I think the scooters can benefit people who suffer from social anxiety, as there is no need for interaction with other people. They can also give people who don’t like public transport the opportunity to be more independent.

What is your favourite thing about the e-scooters?

There is always one available nearby!

Marcus B., a software consultant from Northampton, likes that scooters not only get him outside in the fresh air, but that they breathe new life into the city centre.

How did you hear about the e-scooters?

I heard they were coming to Northampton from the local news. I had read about the scooters in Europe and thought they were a good idea. I’d hoped they would come to the U.K., and I was very surprised to see the trial landing on my doorstep!

What was it like riding the scooter?

When I first tried the Voi scooters, I was pleasantly surprised by their sensible but quick speed, power, and ability to get up hills so easily. The build quality is also very impressive. 

They’re fun to ride. A bicycle can be a bit of a slog, especially up hills. With a scooter, I enjoy the fresh air, travelling along smaller streets and noticing interesting buildings and places I normally miss in a car, all without the effort needed for cycling (especially if, like me, you live on a hill!).

How do you use the e-scooters in Northampton?

I often have short trips around the town, to the shops, the bank and other activities. I use the scooters for short trips into town to get to local resources and then back again. Normally I’d use the car, but in this current situation I try to be outside in the fresh air as much as possible. I don’t use taxis much, but I did use buses when I didn’t need or want to use the car. I’m reluctant to take the bus at the moment. The scooters came at a perfect time due to COVID — I find them safer than public transport.

How do the scooters make your life easier?

I own a bicycle, but I don’t always want to leave it locked up outside, and I look at it more as exercise than a convenient mode of transport. The scooters give me much greater freedom without worrying about a bicycle. When I needed to be somewhere quickly and easily, the car would usually win against the bike, but now I have the option of the scooter for the shorter journeys.

I sometimes walk or get a lift into town with my wife, and then when I’m done, I can get home again quickly using a scooter, especially if there is the threat of rain or I need to hurry. This is particularly useful in the British weather! 

The main benefit for me, though, is being outside. In the current pandemic situation, I am typically working at a desk for most of the day during the week with little time to be outdoors. I can sometimes get a walk in at lunchtime, but it’s a short route and pretty repetitive. With a scooter, I can quickly head off in any direction. I’ve been able to explore the local town and see things I hadn’t seen before. I’ve discovered paths, parks, and architecture I’d never seen before, and I’ve been in Northampton for most of my life.

Mental health is at the top of people’s minds, as we’re stuck at home and can’t do the things that would normally entertain us. I find that to muster the energy to walk or cycle to carry out chores can be a barrier to getting outside. Carrying out these tasks on a scooter gets me outside to experience fresh air and local nature. It lifts my spirits. I can enjoy my surroundings as I trundle through the streets. I look forward to the rides, and I get home with a smile. It’s been a source of fun during these difficult times. I love technology (it’s my job), and this is a very “planet-friendly” way to put it to work. I hope it becomes the norm for many people, and I encourage everyone to try it at least once.

Why do you think this e-scooter trial is good for Northampton?

Northampton, in my view, has suffered over the years with a dwindling high street and a loss of awareness of our heritage. It has been difficult to modernise in a way that protects these aspects. I fear what is being lost as we drive to retail parks, when the town centre struggles to attract visitors.

The scooters, to me, have the modern thinking of European cities. They suggest a town that is keen to experiment with innovative solutions to bring people back to the high street. I would love to see more cycle lanes (especially through the parks) that enable pedestrians, bikes, and scooters to coexist safely and attract people to get outside and experience the town. People without cars will spend more time in the town, wander the wider shopping areas, and be less restricted when they’re able to hop on a scooter and head home at their convenience.

I hope this is the beginning of other innovative ideas that breathe life back into the town. I’d like to see more of a European influence, with more coffee shops, family-friendly daytime events, a revived local market, and a richer canvas of cultural activities. Northampton has a lot to offer, and scooters — as simple a thing as they may seem — allow people to connect more closely and more often to the town and hopefully see it in a positive, progressive light.

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