When you visualize someone riding a shared e-scooter, is that person a 65-year-old grandmother? Teri Michaud might just change your perception of who micromobility is for in this guest post by Superpedestrian’s Shawna Kitzman.
Talking Scooters Over Coffee
I arrived at my parent’s house on a bright December morning. They live around the block, so we see each other regularly. My mom is a retired reading teacher. She fills her days writing her first novel, spending time with her five grandchildren, socializing with friends, and organizing fundraising events and cultural outings. Carving out Teri Michaud’s time is essential.
I’d scheduled this interview to follow up on our recent field trip to Cambridge, MA. My mom was Superpedestrian’s first senior scooter model, and I wanted to debrief.
As we sat down over our second cups of coffee at the kitchen island, her shirt caught my eye.
“I got it at Goodwill, and it has a pattern of motorized scooters, and there are little helmets!” she laughed. “I wore it for you, but I’ve always been in love with two-wheeled transportation.”
Teri’s Early Love for Two-Wheels
Well before this active 65-year old rode a seated LINK scooter, she learned to bike with her brothers in suburban Connecticut. She’s explored every permutation of two-wheels since.
“Growing up, my brothers made mini-bikes, and I wanted to ride them. We rode through town together. We eventually graduated to off-road dirt bikes, which was a big part of our adolescence.” She says they always wore helmets. “Initially, I was the only girl, but I taught my girlfriends how to ride, how to fall properly, and how to get up.”
How does a teenage girl in the early 1970s get interested in this hobby? “We were from the poorer side of town. We were opportunists. Our parents didn’t have summer homes, but a friend’s father owned a big plot of land in Rhode Island, and we’d spend weekends camping and riding.”
I asked if she could recall how it felt back then, as her dog Shiloh sniffed around our feet. “I was really self-conscious riding as a young woman in the 1970s.” She occasionally commuted to college outside of Boston, as her motorbike was properly licensed and insured. Since she was a minor, her mom had to co-sign the paperwork.
“My mother was all for it. But I was her fourth teenager. She was a feminist, and in her eyes, this was one way I could be on the same level as my brothers.”
Superpedestrian Rolls Out a Seated Scooter
Even though she collects Social Security now, my mom’s no delicate flower. She rides a kick scooter with my and my sister’s kids about once a year, is a passenger on my dad’s Harley Davidson, and wants to fulfill her dream of owning a Vespa (turquoise, pink, or yellow are preferred). I tell her she sounds like a fun grandma. “I’m a way fun grandma!” she agrees, taking a sip of her coffee.
This may explain why she agreed to be a model for our photoshoot, displaying Superpedestrian’s new seated e-scooter. LINK scooters are robust little machines, built to withstand even the toughest roadways and accommodate a range of riders. Our team works hard to meet the needs of all, including those who are older, experience physical limitations, or simply prefer a seated ride for comfort. We proudly rolled out seated scooters in Baltimore, MD just last month, with more markets to follow.
A Cold Day in Cambridge
While sitting in her kitchen, I asked her to describe the experience, starting with her gut reaction to my modeling request. She doesn’t miss a beat. “Excited!”
Two weeks prior, we’d driven from West Hartford, CT to Superpedestrian Headquarters in Cambridge, MA. (My 8-year old daughter happened to be with us, home from school that day; it was a multi-generational outing). We met up with our Marketing Manager Andrew Hall and Senior Industrial Designer Horatio Han, as well as our photographer Ashley Herrick. My mom put on her helmet and gloves, and was ready to try out the seated scooter while Ashley snapped pictures.
“At first, the throttle felt a little fast. I tend to put my leg down to steady myself, from my motorcycle experience. I rode the seated scooter, but I would’ve liked to try the standard scooter. It was freezing! Otherwise I would’ve ridden that one, too.”
“Once I got the gist of it, I felt comfortable. The seat felt great. I didn’t think twice about it.”
We talked about scooter amenities. “I liked the basket. I always carry my bag, and I could fit it in there. Or I could go shopping and have a place to put my purchases. Well, small purchases.” She continued thinking of the utility of the basket, “I liked that my helmet fit inside.”
During our photoshoot, my mom had suggested that the basket have a finer grate, so items wouldn’t fall through. Horatio helpfully explained that each design balances intended and unintended uses. The widely-spaced wires prevent the basket from serving as a garbage can. “I get that”, my mom replied.
Lastly, we discussed her sense of safety, as a suburbanite riding in a city with narrow, active streets. “I liked the bike lanes, especially with the other riders on bikes and scooters. I’m a defensive rider, and I’m cautious about car doors opening. I felt safer where there were bike lanes that delineated us riders from the cars, trucks, and buses.”
But Don’t Go Too Slow
As we finish our coffee, I show her the digital photos. Would she ride again? “Yes. And I can envision some of my friends riding, especially with exposure and encouragement.” She also talked about taking scooters on a date night with my dad. They’d park the car and rent LINK scooters to explore Hartford. Perhaps she can help normalize e-scooters with her generation, I suggest.
However, she has a confession, and asks if it’s ok to say it on record. I encourage her. “The scooter had a bit of a fast start. I wasn’t white knuckling it, but it made me think — ” She pauses and raises her eyebrows, “Woah!”
I explain our Slow First Ride feature, which is active in select markets, including Hartford. This reduces the speed from 15 to 8 mph, for the first ride after a new user downloads the app. She likes it, but her adventurer spirit shines through. “But I wouldn’t want it to go too slow!”