If you don't want to hear about riding safety, skip to the end for a link to a spiffy online comic...

A year ago I could go more than a month without seeing a little scooters on the road.'s like all the Vespas got together for a scooter orgy and have just released all their offspring into the wild. They're apparently being scooped up by gangs of newbies bent on saving gobs of bucks on fuel (won't necessarily work, but I've already mentioned that before...)

The lone scooter newby, while a bit scary, is not nearly as frightening as the gangs of newbies putt-putting around town. Those masses of 5-6 scooters can fill me with more terror than a gang of hard core, bad ass bikers.

It's not myself I'm scared for. At least not in a direct way when I'm in the car; I do kinda worry one of them might plow into me, but my car is bigger. I'll probably win.

Most of the scooter riders are so obviously new to 2 wheels that it's almost painful to watch. The tentative turning, jerky stops, wobbles, false's evident that most of them probably have no formal riding instruction. Or if they did, they need to demand their money back.

Protective gear on them: none. Every single scooter rider I saw today--and I saw many--were clad in shorts, t-shirts, sneakers or flip-flops, and little half helmets. Normally I side on the thought that if a rider is willing to assume the increased risk that comes with gear-less riding, then it's their business. Riding is about risk assessment, after all. Just getting on 2 wheels is riskier than driving a car; you accept that if you want to ride.

Thing is, I'm not sure most of these newbies have enough information to accept the increased risk they're assuming. And I doubt most of them realize those little scooters, with their smaller wheels and shorter wheelbases, are less stable than a motorcycle or maxi-scooter. It's not like riding a bicycle, something I doubt all these salivating sales guys with dollar signs in their eyes are telling their prospective customers.

No doubt about it: getting around on 2 wheels is fun, and the affordability of scooters makes it all the more attractive. If you're thinking about getting one, keep a few things in mind:

  • The Motorcycle Safety Foundations's Basic Rider Course is for scooter riders, too. You'll learn more in the 2 days on the range than you will in a year on the road. Take it and you'll be a far better rider, you'll seriously decrease your risk levels, and you'll decrease your learning curve. You'll learn to lean your scooter, not steer it into a curve.
  • It'll vary state to state, but chances are you'll need some sort of motorcycle license to operate that cute little scooter. You might as well take the class, learn a lot, and then be able to avoid the DMV road test.
  • Getting hit by a car on a scooter will hurt every bit as much as getting hit by a car on motorcycle.
  • You are much less visible on a small scooter.
  • Hitting the ground (through your own error or someone else's) is going to chew up your skin just as much on a scooter. Protective gear will lessen the chances of road rash. And yes, that jacket can be hot, but a major truism of riding is sweat washes off a lot easier than road rash. And hey, I have honestly found that a good mesh jacket is actually cooler than a t-shirt when the bike is moving. Make it a neon colored one, and you'll be very visible.
  • A half helmet is better than no helmet, but think about it. If you go down, there's a very real chance that your face is going to surf the pavement, and that would suck.

I really do like seeing more people on 2 wheels; it's tons of fun, a lot more fun than driving. I just wish more people would approach it with increased safety in mind.

And yes, you over there with the brand new ride...people really can tell by watching that you're brand new. Take a class. It's worth every penny.
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Ya like online comics? Go check out Medium Large. It's done by Francesco Marciuliano, the guy who writes Sally Forth. Not for those offended by the occasional F-bomb. And go back for older won't take long, and it's funny as hell.

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