Like so many inventions, the scooter was a child of necessity: Specifically, the need to get a bratwurst without looking like an idiot.
One night in 1990, Wim Ouboter, a Dutch-Swiss banker and amateur craftsman, was “in the mood for a St. Gallen bratwurst at the Sternengrill in Zurich,” or so the story goes. He wanted to get from his house to the brat place and then to a bar, stat, but the stops seemed too far apart to walk, and too close to drive. What he really needed, Ouboter decided, was a mode of transportation that would let him swiftly cover that micro-distance. A bike seemed like too much trouble to take out of the garage. What he wanted was a kick scooter.
Ouboter was a big fan of the mode—he came from a self-described family of “scooter freaks,” and he and his siblings had enjoyed hurtling down hills on clunky wooden kickboards as kids. For a brat-to-beer trip, though, he needed a grown-up upgrade—something durable enough to handle an adult rider, but also small and inconspicuous. “The problem is, if you’re a big guy and you’re riding such a small scooter, people will look at you weird,” he told me. “So you have to make it collapsible in order to bring it into a bar afterwards.