Re: How bad/good is the new 2-wheel onslaught in your town??
Hi all, this is my first post here. I joined because I saw the thread and wanted to post a couple of notes from a scooterist perspective. I first learned the love of riding as a passenger on a friend's two BMWs for many years, so I hope that helps me qualify. Right now I ride a 150cc Vespa scooter as my transportation of choice, and I publish a number of scooter blogs and run a scooter-based business, scooterseatcovers.com. My first scooter was a 49cc Honda.
Scooter laws, including licensing and helmet regulations, vary from state to state. Most states now at least require a valid drivers license, and a good many states are now requiring a motorcycle endorsement even for 50cc scooters. In some areas, there is still a grey area where smaller scooters are considered a 'moped' by law, and over 50cc scooters are considered 'motorcycles' by law. My 150cc Vespa is considered (and registered as) a motorcycle here in Vermont, and it was also considered a motorcycle in Maryland where I first bought it. I am MSF trained and have my motorcycle endorsement. I was hit by a car head-on in my first year of riding, and appreciate the value of good armor. My BMW-riding friend taught me that years before, thankfully.
Of course I can't speak for everyone, but many that I know in the scooter community feel the same way many here do! We advocate training and safety. For example, even if a state doesn't require a helmet or a motorcycle endorsement, you'll be hard pressed to find an established scooter forum or list that doesn't advocate or encourage both. Unfortunately, even in areas where motorcycle endorsements and registering as a motorcycle is required, you'll see a LOT of dealers advertising scooters with lines like "No license needed!" "You don't even need insurance!" "As easy as riding a bike!" and so on. Of course a lot of customers will believe that, if that's what the expert/dealer says.
The same forums will also advocate riding and parking appropriately. My scooter can reach interstate speed limits, but it's not that comfortable to ride it at 65+ mph. It might take me longer to get somewhere going 50mph, but I get there safely and I have fun doing it. :-)
Scooters still have the stigma of being a toy to many who aren't riders, and even to many who own them. There are an increasing number of us who use them as our daily transportation of choice, either for fun, mpg, or both. Many of us use them for touring. Inevitably on forums, though, there will be riders who gleefully brag about how they get away with not having a license or plates or parking on the sidewalk and so on. Sadly those are the scooterists that people tend to notice more than those of us who are following the rules and driving safely.
I get a lot of the same questions from motorcyclists and non-motorcyclists. Usually the first question is how many miles per gallon do I get. The second is almost always, "Do you need a license for that thing?" From those looking to buy a 2-wheel ride without having to get an endorsement, I sometimes get looks of disappointment when I tell them that they do. I always suggest looking into the MSF course as an option to learn how to ride. Those who are already endorsed often seem surprised and then nod approvingly.
I also often get asked why I wear so much gear since it's "only" a scooter (I wear full gear & full-face helmet). I know motorcyclists that wear full gear on their motorcycles but t-shirt and shorts on a scooter, and I know a lot of scooterists that won't go anywhere without wearing full armor. Most seem to be somewhere in the middle, wearing a helmet, long pants, armored jacket, gloves and boots. It's scary to see a scooterist in shorts and flip flops, just as I find it scary to see riders racing by wearing t-shirts, shorts and sneakers on sports bikes, or the stereotypical Harley passenger wearing a tank top and heels.
I think there will always be the folks that think it's stupid to wear helmets, or goofy to wear armor on a scooter or other two-wheel vehicle. There will always be those riders who get off on beating the system by not getting an endorsement and getting away with it.
From my perspective, one of the best things we can all do in this 2-wheel onslaught is to lead by example, and offer tips and advice when asked, no matter what we choose to ride. If I'm the only scooter rider someone meets, I'd like them to remember that I was wearing safety gear and driving safely.
Thanks for letting me throw in my 2 cents,
scootpink.com, scooterseatcovers.com, lastmileride.com and a few others