The Sidewalk SUV
On a recent afternoon at Walt Disney World, Dennis Robles was cruising around on an electric "mobility scooter" that the park usually rents out to people with disabilities. Mr. Robles doesn't have a problem walking -- he says he was simply saving up energy for late-night dancing.
"I'm pretty healthy," says the 37-year-old truck driver from Brooklyn, N.Y. "Just lazy, I guess."
The power scooter is an increasingly ubiquitous sight, with an estimated 1.2 million in use nationwide. But while the $1,000-plus vehicles have been hailed as a boon for the infirm and the elderly, they are now finding a new constituency: able-bodied people who simply don't feel like walking. In addition to theme parks like Dollywood and Minnesota's giant Mall of America, the scooters are popping up everywhere from Las Vegas casinos to grocery stores. When scooter demand outstrips supply at Wal-Mart, greeters "evaluate the situation" and make sure that people using the scooters can demonstrate a legitimate need, according to a company spokesman.
Some entrepreneurs are starting to push the vehicles as bicycles without the pedaling. City Scooter Tours, an outfit that operates in Washington and plans to extend into Chicago, offers scooters as an easy way to see the sights.
Folks aren't just lazy, they also have no shame about it.