It’s almost enough to make a young man broody. A buggy that is also a skateboard; an elegant coffee table on wheels with a fold-down lightweight seat at the front. The brainchild of a Belgian Dad commissioned by a buggy company called Quinny to create a vehicle a parent could stand on, it’s designed to zip over longer distances with ease, perhaps in place of a car or bus.
But beyond its green credentials, the buggy, which will have to pass health and safety tests before it goes into production (I would worry about going down hills) is the latest device that seeks to transform what used to be a source of limited enjoyment: child transport. When did it get so fun?
A Swiss banker called Wim Ouboter is arguably to blame. Years ago, while living in Zurich, he had a problem. His favourite sausage shop was too close to drive to but too distant to reach by foot. So he remembered the scooters his parents had given his sister in her youth, because she had one leg longer than the other, making walking tricky.
Ouboter invented the micro-scooter which, when it rolled into British playgrounds in 2000, seemed like the ultimate fad. But two million of the aluminium devices were sold in the first two years alone and they continue to crowd the school run, forcing many schools to provide scooter parking facilities.
More recently, they have become a hit with parents too, despite the laughable sight that a grown-up on a scooter remains. Micro Scooters, the biggest seller in the UK of the “bobbi board”, the three-wheeled son of Ouboter’s invention, reports growing sales of adult models, which now account for a small but significant proportion of the 250,000 scooters it sells every year. John Lewis, meanwhile, is struggling to meet demand for attachable wheeled platforms that allow a second child to ride a stroller.Other devices have struggled to get a foothold, perhaps most notably the clumpy Heelys roller shoes with their aircraft-like retractable wheels. But the demand among families for convoluted forms of wheeled conveyance endures. Cathy Ranson, editor of the Netmums website, blames fashion. “The school run used to mean a gentle stroll to school, hand-in-hand with your mum and chatting about the day,” she says. “Now kids are pestering parents for flashing lights and nameplates to decorate their scooters.”
Price, as well as the risk of death, may yet limiting the would-be longboard craze. Its designer has estimated a tag of more than £300. Still, baby or no baby, I’m tempted.