How an Exhilarating Ride on an e-Scooter in Calgary Can Offer You Some Great Life Lessons
It was never supposed to end like this. A grazed forearm, a bruised knee and suppressed sobs. Well, perhaps minus the sobs. I was the one who was cautious about renting e-scooters, never having ridden one before. I had the sense I’d be the one to walk away from the evening’s entertainment with bumps and bruises. Christa, my gung-ho wife, had poo-pooed the notion that anyone could get hurt. Little did she know that she would be the one scraping herself off the asphalt at the end of the night wondering where it all went wrong.
It was on an impulse that we met friends for a Friday evening couple’s scootering date. Downtown Calgary is the perfect place to explore, not just because it’s compact and picturesque, but it’s also very flat. We planned to start our night’s exploration in the popular East Village. A quick scan using the mobile e-scooter app told us that we weren’t about to find four fully charged scooters in the neighbourhood. Instead, we drove to Eau Claire where we discovered a fresh truck load of charged devices being unloaded. Lesson 1: while scooters can be found in their ones and twos throughout the e-scooter usage zone, some city locations are more popular than others for sourcing a suitable squad of scooters. Consider Eau Claire or Stephen Ave as your departure point for a party of three or more riders.
It took a few moments to figure out how to activate our rides. In principle, it should be a simple matter of scanning the scooter’s barcode with the mobile app. A young couple ahead of us had tried, unsuccessfully, to scan their rides, had given up and walked away. Quickly claiming their abandoned scooters, we were determined to get them to work. Our perseverance paid off. Lesson 2: don’t be deterred by an unresponsive app or the failed attempts of others.
With our ticket to adventure activated, the clock was ticking and our credit card was racking up charges every 30 seconds. There was little time to think. We needed to start exploring. This was not the time to start planning our route. Lesson 3: have a route plan prepared because time is money.
We then had to conquer the scootering novice’s next hurdle: how to operate the thing. We needed to master these skills quickly to preserve dignity and, in fact, our very lives. Inadvertently ramping off a sidewalk onto a busy street didn’t prove to be the best launch strategy for first-time success. Lesson 4: get some practice in a relatively quiet, open space.
We raced eastbound amid whoops of childlike delight. We had graduated to the rank of successful e-scooter user and the freedom went straight to our heads. Wide-eyed pedestrians leapt out of our way as we wove in and out of the milling crowds. They never expected the tranquility of their stroll along the Bow River pathway to be shattered by four out-of-control, forty-something adults careening along the riverbank. We had no destination in mind and not a care in the world. Lesson 5: enjoy acting like a care-free stranger in your own hometown (until someone recognizes you).
We meandered between milling crowds and construction detours as we passed beneath the Centre Street Bridge towards the East Village. We crossed into St. Patrick’s Island Park where we made some aborted attempts at scootering up The Rise. Instead we had to settle for a sedate spin around the perimeter of the park before returning to the paved sidewalks of Memorial Drive. Lesson 6: rental e-scooters are not designed for steep inclines or off-road terrain.
As we headed westbound along Memorial Drive, we were treated to a dramatic thundercloud sunset sky display developing at our backs. A mushrooming megalith-like cumulonimbus cloud began to tower above the city. Like the hoards of fellow street-goers we couldn’t help but stop umpteen times to photograph the evolving heavenly scene that offered a spectacular backdrop to the city skyline. Lesson 7: even though the clock’s ticking, don’t forget to take time to enjoy and capture the passing scenery.
Our scootering confidence continued to grow with every passing 30-second payment interval. By the time we arrived at Prince’s Island Park we had completed a mere five kilometres and already racked up close to an hour of riding fun. By now our ice cream craving began to trump our zest for adventure. So began our final approach towards (to) our favourite frozen dessert haunt in West Hillhurst. After a few dozen more selfies and scenic shots around the Peace Bridge we resumed our ride along the westbound Bow River pathway that snakes alongside Memorial Drive. It was coming off the 14th Street overpass, within a kilometre or two of our destination, where things began to unravel. Lesson 8: the Airplane Flying Handbook “indicates that over 45 percent of all general aviation accidents occur during the approach and landing phases of a flight”.
I led our scootering four-pack into a steep, sharp turn along the pathway. Not realizing that Christa was following closely on my tail, I braked abruptly and came to a standstill on the pathway. She veered and toppled onto an adjacent grassy embankment trying to avoid an imminent collision. Uninjured, yet a little shaken, she crumpled into peels of laughter. Our friends were puzzled by the scene that met them as they brought up the rear. There was Christa sitting in the grass, scooter lights flashing and wheels turning while I, her caring husband, stood alongside taking photos of her misfortune. Lesson 9: always be on your guard … and have your camera ready.
While I righted her scooter, Christa regaled our friends with the details of the dramatic incident in a highspeed flurry of words. Once she’d brushed herself down and regained her bearings, we remounted our rides and I led the way along a quiet neighbourhood street. The ice cream shop was almost in sight. Without warning, I heard a thump and a groan behind me. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw our friends rushing to Christa’s aid. She was slowly extracting herself from her sprawled position on the pavement. It appeared she had been engaged in a wrestle with her scooter’s handlebar. I hastily retraced my steps, arriving at my battered wife’s side as she scraped gravel from her hand, nursed a grazed forearm and limped from a bruised knee. Lesson 10: know when not to take photos.
This time the atmosphere was not quite as cheery. I elected to ride her offending scooter. It was only then that we realized hers had next to no brakes. She had struggled to control her ride all evening. Having never scootered before, none of us could gauge whether our equipment was working as it should. Now, as I rode Christa’s defective scooter towards our finish line, it was obvious that there was something grossly askew with her ride. Lesson 11: not all scooters are created alike. Test your equipment.
We arrived at the inviting entrance of our favourite ice cream destination, Made by Marcus, where we terminated our ride. There are many things that good friends, shared fun and amazing ice cream can fix. A few scrapes, a bruised ego and a memorable adventure on a faulty scooter are some of them.