As our population ages and more people retire to coastal living, the Illawarra is going to see an increase in mobility scooters - but are they as "evil" as some make out?
Linda Thompson of Warilla and her mauve scooter with pirate flag are participating in a study delving into the barriers and challenges for people who rely on these vehicles.
The federally funded research by the University of Wollongong's School of Geography and Sustainable Communities will be used for government policy making and social awareness.
The 68-year-old has had a set of wheels for five years and finds it "liberating" to get around on her own, but does concede a few drawbacks.
"When you buy one, you should have some sort of training," Mrs Thompson said. "Some drivers are hopeless."
She said drivers also need to be "sensible" and cautious of their surroundings as not everyone will get out of the way.
But even so, she's copped abuse for just trying to get to the shops.
"I had a bad experience up at Shellharbour a couple of months ago, a man came out of a newsagent ... and walked straight into me," Mrs Thompson said.
"About an hour later I was back near the same area and he must've been about six metres away from me, he reckons I was trying to hit him again.
"I said 'look mate, if i wanted to hit you I would've hit you the first time'."
UOW research fellow Theresa Harada said scooters and electric wheelchairs were often portrayed as "quite evil".
"It's a difficult position because they don't really belong on the footpaths or shared paths, but they don't really belong on the road either," Dr Harada said.
"Scooters are fairly unregulated so the government is looking at how to change the legislation.
"We want to learn about infrastructural shortfalls but also what are the social barriers."
The study will encompass people from the Illawarra, south west Sydney and northern NSW - but more are needed to tell their stories.
"What does using a scooter allow them to do?" Dr Harada said.
"Can they be an active grandma and pick up the grandkids from school or do their own independent shopping?
"The results will be used to inform the government and social awareness about the issue. With aging population we're going to have more and more scooters everywhere.
"It's also about getting people to recognise there are certain barriers that restrict peoples movements."
There's currently an online survey people can fill out, or they can opt to participate in the next level - strapping a smart phone to their ride to make videos of their journeys.
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