Spectator letters: The mobility scooters strike back

Plus: Suits on the beach, hiring vicars and airline accidents

18 April 2015

9:00 AM

18 April 2015

9:00 AM

The real road menace

Sir: I write in anger after reading Mark Mason’s malicious attack on mobility scooters (‘Hell on wheels’, 11 April).

The motorcar has, since its invention, killed many hundreds of thousands of innocent pedestrians. Meanwhile, whole tracts of our beautiful and productive countryside have been flattened or destroyed to accommodate its traffic. I have been a devoted walker for over 80 years and remember how many favourite walks have been erased or spoiled for the construction of motorways.

Now that I am unable to do more than dodder, I get about on a mobility scooter. I like it even less than the pedestrians I may inconvenience, but my only alternative is a reclusive life indoors.
Jim Morgan
Lyme Regis, Dorset

We need our scooters

Sir: At 94 I do not own a bikini, but for the past three years I have been driving a mobility scooter with relief. It is a godsend to be able to drive down pavements. Pedestrians, however, are curiously unaware of my existence, and as a rule I generally have to slow down behind them while they saunter along merrily. Recently a woman popped up, back turned, onto a pavement without looking, and proceeded to walk on slowly. When I called ‘Look out’, she turned and answered, ‘No, you look out.’ Using the roads is also risky, as cars whizz past despite the priority assumed.

Most people, however, are tolerant. I would be unable to live where I do, at the top of a steep hill, without this welcome aid. I have yet to see anyone driving a mobile scooter without necessity.
Pamela Hill
Radlett, Herts

Drop the pilot

Sir: The Wiki Man seems to have missed the elephant in the cockpit when considering why plane crashes are getting weirder (11 April). The number of fatal accidents caused by pilots has always been more than twice that caused by mechanical failure. The obvious solution is to remove the on-board pilot, whose job nowadays is to monitor the computer that flies the aircraft, with a few other tasks thrown in to stop him falling asleep. Most aircraft functions are already controlled autonomously by computer because they are too skilled/complex/fast/precise for humans to perform.
Tom Roberts

Balls is no Gromit

Sir: Your front cover illustration depicting Ed Miliband and Ed Balls as Wallace and Gromit (11 April) is only partially justified. In the animated film, Gromit is a quick-thinking and highly resourceful companion who rescues Wallace from difficult situations. On the available evidence, Ed Balls does not fit that description.
Frank Tomlin,
Billericay, Essex

How to keep a vicar

Sir: Quentin Letts’s entertaining article (‘How to pick a vicar’, 21 March) missed a crucial point, which is that having found its ideal vicar, a rural parish probably could not afford him. After a vacancy of 18 months, we now share our vicar with eight parishes, and yet the contribution required by the diocese has doubled in ten years. Of course, head office has its own problems: too many bishops, a pension fund black hole and so on — but the presence of a vicar in the village is still the best recruiting aid the church has. A vicar-less village means less of a congregation, which means less income, which again means less vicar. As one despairing churchwarden put it: ‘God knows what the answer is.’ If so, I do hope He tells us soon.
Donald Peacock
Halesworth, Suffolk

Beach bodies

Sir: Like Hugo Rifkind, I have seen a photograph of my grandfather wearing a three-piece suit on a beach (‘Why are so many men dieting?’, 4 April). In the deckchair next to him is my grandmother. It was 1913 and they were on their honeymoon in Margate. Next to them are my grandmother’s parents; her father is also wearing a three-piece suit. Dieting would have been completely alien to all of them, and it seems that a sensible equality between the sexes benefited the waistlines.
Tom Blackett
West Byfleet, Surrey

Perfect shape

Sir: Hugo Rifkind’s article brought back fond memories of standing with my husband in a cubicle at Hector Powe, tailors. He was being measured for a new suit and the ‘oldish, fruity gent with a measuring tape round his neck’ muttered, tactfully, ‘Ah yes, sir has a forward waistline.’ The suit was a perfect fit.
Ann Wright

Where are the tortoises?

Sir: Regarding the non-appearance of the tortoises in his care, (Long life, 11 April) Alexander Chancellor might take comfort in an anecdote of my colleague, who some years ago was in a similar state of anxiety. The little chap in question came bursting forth from his garden tomb on Easter Sunday and was therefore renamed Jesus.
Andrew Penson
London W1

No way!

Sir: What would Rory Sutherland (‘Looking for answers you can’t see’, 28 March) think, while anxiously looking for the road to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, of coming up to a T-junction in Avignon signposted, to the left, ‘Toutes Directions’ and, to the right, ‘Autres Directions’?
Richard Temple
London W11


Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10

Show comments
  • njt55

    @Pamela Hill, perhaps you should have said “excuse me” not “look out”. Politeness pays. I was nearly run over by an aggressive woman on her scooter in M & S recently. Not a shred of an apology, in fact, she told me to “get out of her way’. Monty Python’s “Hells Grannies” have come to pass.

    • John Carins

      Scooter rage?

      • blandings

        Wait to they fit blades to the wheels.

        • Verbatim

          You’ve made a point here; there’s rudeness and entitlement with push-bike riders, skate-borders and roller-bladers. So, it’s not just mobility scooters. And “look out” is the preferred term of ‘address’, yes!! Honestly, it was dreadful in Amsterdam 2 weeks ago; my husband and I genuinely feared for our safety with bike-riders. And the taxi driver told us hundreds are killed and maimed each year by riders hitting pedestrians and cars hitting bikers. No-brainer.

          What pigs MANY people are these days.

          All is not lost – young people still give me their seats on trains and trams in Vienna and I’m in my early 60’s. Happens quite regularly and these same people would be the first to help if an accident occurred. Please balance the equation in this discussion!!

          • Jabez Foodbotham

            While not taking issue with your point about the many pigs, I always found the trams the most disconcerting danger in Amsterdam. They appear to move completely silently and sneak up on you unawares.

  • John Carins

    It’s time that Jeremy Clarkson did an entire Top Gear programme on this issue. One of his earlier programmes did touch on this subject. Yet again he was ahead of the game.

  • Verbatim

    Nobody has ever pretended that the motor vehicle was a benign object for the handicapped, so the argument falls down completely right at the start. Do I detect the faint odour of “entitlement” anywhere here? You bet I do.

    Are you claiming equal opportunity to kill people just like motor vehicles do? If so, you reveal your true colours.

  • Mr B J Mann

    Jim Morgan writes:

    “The motorcar has, since its invention, killed many hundreds of thousands of innocent pedestrians.”

    So does that mean that many millions of guilty pedestrians have died in collisions with the motorcar?!

    Does he realise that cycling activist groups claim that 50 or 60 times as many pedestrians die in collisions with motor vehicles as are killed by cyclists?

    But as motorists do over a hundred times the milage that means that per mile ridden cyclists, despite their slow, light steeds, are twice as lethal as motorists despite their “weapon of choice” being much faster, a lot harder and vastly heavier.

    What does that tell you about the relative care and consideration of the driver and the aggression and agrrogance of the cyclist?!

    As for “whole tracts of our beautiful and productive countryside have been flattened or destroyed to accommodate its traffic. I have been a devoted walker for over 80 years and remember how many favourite walks have been erased or spoiled for the construction of motorways”:

    There are something like 11,000 miles of rail road, but only about 2,000 of motorway, far less, per acre, per head, per you name it, than comparable countries.

    Plans to improve roads around London originally called for multi-lane dual carriageway grid and arterial routes across and out of the capital and multiple orbital routes.

    That was before the war:

    The FIRST World War!

    And they were needed to cope with HORSE traffic, which was grid-locking the South-East, despite people and goods travelling much less than now and the population being much smaller.

    The original orbital motorway system planned for London consisted of FIVE motorway rings, back in the 50’s.

    What was eventually built was a botch up of rings three and four into the oval of the M25, which still manages to cope half a century later thanks to the flexibility, adaptability and efficiency of motorised road transport.

    Compare that with Moscow which has four motorway rings, or any number of continental train and tram loving countries which still feel the need to build much more extensive motorway systems than we have.

    People claim that transport policy in the UK is under the control of the car and road lobbies.

    The first motorway lobby group was set up in 1921 to promote a London – Birmingham Motorway. It STILL hasn’t been built. Our first bit of motorway the Preston by-pass, just over eight miles long, was not opened until 1958.

    Italy’s first Autostrada was planned in 1921 and opened in 1924!

    We only have around 2,000 miles of motorway now, while Germany had 2,400 miles before the war and has nearly 7,000 miles now!!

    So if transport policy is controlled by the road and car lobbies: who controls the road and car lobbies?

    Swampy and Greenpeace?!?!?!

    Does Mr Morgan realise that once upon a time farmers used to run highly efficient but very romantic traction engines on rails laid along the sides of their fields which pulled ploughs back and forth between them on ropes.

    He’ll be telling us that the countryside has since been destroyed by the evil and inefficient tractor which farmers where conned into switching to by the road and car lobby?!?!?!?