How building e-scooter firm helped Sheffield man's recovery from brain injury and heart attack

The life that Gordon Riley knew had changed beyond recognition.

Aged 41, he had suffered a severe brain injury in an accident at work. Just two years later, a heart attack had followed.

“For a long time I wasn’t sure how I could carry on,” the now 51-year-old, from Sheffield, reflects. “I couldn’t distinguish words, struggled to hold a conversation and even just staying on my feet was a huge challenge. “I had to figure out who I was and the role I had in my family and in society.”

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Gordon spent the six years that followed trying to come to terms with the impact of the incidents, struggling both physically and mentally. He only started to accept his new circumstances when a clinical psychologist told him plainly that “the old me was gone forever and I had to find the new one”.

Gordon Riley was forced to ‘reinvent’ himself after ill-health and now runs e-scooter businesses. Picture: Supplied by Unlockd PRGordon Riley was forced to ‘reinvent’ himself after ill-health and now runs e-scooter businesses. Picture: Supplied by Unlockd PR
Gordon Riley was forced to ‘reinvent’ himself after ill-health and now runs e-scooter businesses. Picture: Supplied by Unlockd PR

“One of my specialists said you just need to reinvent yourself Gordon, you can’t be what you used to be. “So Gordon 2.0 was created. It gave me that new outlook.”

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“I felt like a burden for a long time,” he says. “Building something from scratch proved to me that I could be a part of society again.”

Gordon was working as a service delivery manager when he slipped on wet flooring and hit his head. He suffered a severe diffuse axonal brain injury and was medically retired for eight years.

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“I vaguely remember hearing voices around me at certain points,” he says. “I know someone found me lying on the floor and called an ambulance.”

The accident itself is a blur for Gordon but for years in its aftermath, he describes how he would “collapse without warning” and suffer from headaches “that felt like someone was driving an ice pick into my skull”.

His memory and moods were also affected and he recalls becoming confused, timid, claustrophobic and anxious about leaving the house. “I was showing impulsivity that was uncontrollable, I was depressed, suicidal,” he says. “I relied on hundreds of hours of professional and family support to get me through that.”

Referring to the ongoing impact, Gordon adds: “Most days I have periods where I struggle to remember what I did a few moments prior and I struggle frequently with my mood.”

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It was recommended that Gordon was active to aid the recovery of his mind and body. But he then suffered a heart attack whilst working out at his local gym.

“I managed to get to the reception staff before I collapsed. I had severe pain in my chest and down my left arm which continued for about an hour until I eventually got to hospital and was given a dose of morphine.

“Experiencing these two things so close together is easily the hardest thing I’ve ever been through in my life,” he says.

Inspired in part by a trip to Copenhagen in Denmark whilst recovering from ill-health, Gordon launched Yorkshire Electric Scooters, based in Sheffield, two years ago, selling electric bikes and scooters.

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Gordon, who left home at the age of 16, has previously spoken about how he became a strong advocate of the use of e-scooters and e-bikes after seeing other European countries adopting this mode of transportation in place of cars.

“I did some travelling and I went to Copenhagen and Stockholm, where I saw that during rush hours, there were more e-scooters and e-bikes than there were cars in the centre of the town and it was a life-changing moment,” he said.

Starting the business, he says, helped to lift him from depression, giving him a new purpose. A second business, Electric England, followed, this one also focusing on education and lobbying. One of this three sons is now involved too and he hopes one day to leave the businesses to them.

“The three core things for safety on electric scooters are education, making sure the vehicles are fit for use and petitioning the councils and government for better infrastructure,” Gordon says. “And they’re all things I’ve been doing for the past year.”

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The company’s aim, Gordon explains, is ‘to encourage the legal, safe and regulated use of electric transport on our roads’. Through it, Gordon hopes to ensure younger generations understand the importance of safe travel using electric vehicles through the roll out of riding academies in schools and colleges.

He also plans to collaborate with the government and local authorities to ensure infrastructure is in place for safe usage of electric bikes and scooters on the roads.

“I’ve always wanted to run my own business, and Electric England was born because I want a greener future,” Gordon reflects. “I’m not in this business to buy a yacht and retire in my fifties, I want to make a positive contribution to the communities in which we work and eventually throughout the UK.

“There are so many things that I want the team and myself to achieve and we are well on our way. After being medically retired in my early forties, I know sitting back and doing nothing is not for me.”

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The government is running trials of electric scooters in a number of places across the UK, including in York. The trial was originally for 12-months, starting in November 2020 but has since been extended to November 2022.

In trial areas, rental e-scooters can be used on the road (except motorways) and in cycle lanes but not on pavements. E-scooters are classed as ‘powered transporters’ so it’s otherwise illegal to use them on a public road without complying with a number of legal requirements or in spaces set aside for use by pedestrians, cyclists, and horse-riders. It’s legal to use them on private land with permission of the landowner.