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My First Few Days With The Honda Metropolitan Scooter

September 8, 2005 Environment, Scooters 12 Comments

I knew when I picked up my scooter on Sunday I knew that I’d like it. But, I don’t just like it — I love it! With the exception of driving with a friend to Trader Joe’s in Brentwood on Monday I have not driven my car or ridden in another car. I’ve done about 65 miles so far running errands, meeting with clients at properties, attending other meetings, and even joining a group of friends for dinner on The Hill last night.

I filled up the tank (1.3 gallons) 65 miles ago and the fuel gauge is reading nearly a half tank. The savings benefit is real. An unexpected benefit of riding the scooter has been some new insights and perspectives on the urban environment.

Accelerating to 30mph is pretty easy but getting above that to 40mph takes quite a bit of time. As a result I have tended to avoid major streets like Grand and Chippewa. Taking other streets that in my car I’d find tedious are a joy on the scooter.

As I make my way through our wonderful grid of streets I find myself taking in more of our rich architecture. The same is true when I bicycle around the city. The difference is when I’m bicycling I’m often distracted by pedaling and hydrating. The scooter involves zero physical exertion so I can focus more while still being able to quickly stop and check out interesting details.

All too often people think of St. Louis as a collection of red brick buildings. So much so that anytime a new brick building is built it is skinned in standard red brick. But the reality is we have a lovely diversity of brick colors ranging from beige to orange to purple and every possible shade of red. I think city officials and developers should be required to use a scooter for a week just to learn more about our city.

I find myself acting like a bicyclist sometimes and riding more to the right of the lane. I have to remind myself that I am riding a motor vehicle and thus I should act like it. One rule of riding a bicycle or motorcycle is that you are supposed to place a foot on the ground to indicate you’ve come to a full and complete stop at a stop sign — every stop sign. Well, that just doesn’t happen often when I’m bicycling or scooting. In both cases I will put a foot on the pavement to indicate to a motorist that I have stopped. In most cases it is just a waste of energy. From an environmental perspective we must begin to replace our 4-way stops with roundabouts.

One-way streets throughout our neighborhoods also present challenges for using the street grid. Several times yesterday I found myself having to go a number of blocks out of the way due to one-way streets. As an example, I was on Morganford just North of the Bevo Mill and trying to head West to the Post Office. Three blocks in a row were one-way in the opposite direction.

Parking has presented some other issues. Large motorcycles are able to be seen when parked on the street in residential areas and their size can usually justify taking an on-street metered parking space. But if I park in a metered space I can just see some massive SUV crushing it and not even noticing. For lunch at Mangia Italianio on Grand the other day I parked on the sidewalk near their outdoor seating area. The small scooter size doesn’t require much space. But most of our commercial sidewalks are too narrow to accommodate bikes, scooters, cafe tables and pedestrians.

Other cities have designated motorcycle parking spaces. At left is an example from San Francisco where one meter takes care of about 8-10 numbered spaces that are marked on the pavement. It should be noted that roughly 8 motorcycles/scooters can fit in one auto parking space. I’ve seen similar examples in Chicago and New York.

Theft is another concern that I have, although only slight. Most scooters, mine included, have features that would make it difficult to just wheel the scooter away. But the lighter the weight the more it is possible to pick up and place the scooter in a truck. When leaving the scooter unattended for long periods it is recommended to chain to something more secure, such as a bike rack. Of course, that brings up other issues. Should small 49cc scooters be allowed to use bicycle racks for security?

Scooting on a sidewalk is simply not a safe thing to do. But places you’d expect to see scooters like St. Louis University’s campus has removed streets from the grid. If you are a SLU student and commute to campus a scooter would certainly be more efficient and would lessen the need for all the parking garages around the campus. But how do you get to class: do you pay to park your scooter in a campus parking garage and then walk to class, slowly ride your scooter on internal campus sidewalks, walk the scooter up hills on campus? Other campuses such as the University of Wisconsin in Madison are taking pro-active steps to work with a rising number of scooters, click here for story.

As Americans realize we don’t need a 3,000lb+ 5-passenger vehicle to pick up a loaf of bread or gallon of milk we’ll see more and more motorcycles, scooters and bicycles in use. It is imperative to our region’s sustainability that we accept and embrace these modes of transportation before $5.00/gallon gasoline shocks us into crisis mode.

– Steve


Currently there are "12 comments" on this Article:

  1. Scott says:

    First of all, I love the building you show – geat porch. Your scooter sounds like great fun and practical, too. Makes me think! One gets a more intimate view of the city from walking or taking the bus. Good to hear that scootering gives a new view, too. I have wondered about theft, but I see scooters everywhere nowadays. Where do you leave it at night (unless you have a garage)?. Aren’t they too cumbersone for the house? One more thing, I love roundabouts. They really work. They are becoming common where I live and I hope in STL, too.

  2. Richard Kenney says:

    St. Louis has a hill?

    [REPLY – Well, in your Seattle terms our hills would be classified as a slight incline. But when pushing a 160lb+ scooter for a block or two on a campus they are certainly hills. It is all relative. – SLP]

  3. Joe Frank says:

    My wife and I (especially my wife) just LOVE that first building pictured, which is I believe in the 3100 block of Wyoming, near Minnesota or Michigan, on the north side of the street. The whole block has a strange white picket fence, and several buildings have beautiful front porches, including the turreted one seen here.

    Unfortunately, they are pretty much all absentee-landlord four-families, so they are in a tremendous state of decay and disarray.

    Somebody PLEASE save these buildings!

  4. Joe Frank says:

    Ugh – I did some research. It turns out this once-beautiful four-family building is 3023 Wyoming St., and is owned by Carl O. Hoffmann – as is the entire block of Wyoming from Pennsylvania to Minnesota, plus a couple vacant lots on Pennsylvania. Hoffmann was the long-time president of the Benton Park West Housing Corporation, and based on the condition of this row he owns, can be reasonably classified as a slumlord. He lives in Tower Grove East – or at least that’s the address on most of his buildings.


  5. Claire Nowak-Boyd says:

    It’s interesting to read about how scooting around has affected your experience of the city. I think so scooters are sooo cute (although I didn’t know how environmentally unfriendly adorable vintage Vespas were until your last post. Sigh.), and now that we are about to move pretty close to Downtown (where I work), I’ve started daydreaming about owning one again. I guess I should remind myself that if I go back to school soon, I might not just be heading Downtown every day, and anyway I oughta concentrate on learning how to drive before I think about buying another vehicle.

    Speaking of school, it’s neat that UW Madison is actually taking measures to accomodate the high number of scooters on campus. When I visited UW for a conference a couple of years ago, I was very impressed that so many students used scooters. There seemed to be several scooters parked in front of every major campus building or student hangout. I would have thought that the open-air vehicles might not catch on with how incredibly cold it gets up there, but even on the morning that my hair froze as I was walking to a workshop, I saw a number of students zipping around campus on bright UW-Madison-red scooters. In that small city, they struck me as being just the right size of vehicle.

    As for parking, I heard a lot of horror stories from a scooter-drivin’ family friend over the years. She lives in Chicago, where parking spaces are hard to come by and people are not exactly the friendliest drivers. She frequently found herself with parking tickets because she’d park in a metered spot on the street, only to return and find that some selfish driver had lifted her lightweight scooter and placed it on the sidewalk, so they could steal her spot AND her meter change for their car. Parking a scooter on the sidewalk is illegal in Chicago, so she got ticketed. I believe that’s one of the things that ultimately made her give up scooter driving. Hopefully, you’ll have a better experience than she did.

    A practical question for you: When you’re doing all this biking and scooting, what do you do to protect your skin from the sun? I ask cos I’d like to bike to work once we move to Old North, but I both sunburn easy and hate sunblock. Any creative ideas, or should I just bite the bullet and live with being super greasy all day?

  6. Mike says:

    Told you so….

  7. Scooter Jo says:

    Thanks for sharing your scooter stories with us! I’ve had a Vespa LX 50 since June 2005 and LOVE it. I think about it when I am at work and it’s in the parking lot. While I know how important rain is, I get sad if it is raining and I cannot scoot to work.

    Do you intend to scoot during the winter? I am going to try but not when rain or snow is in the forecast.

    Scoot on!!!

    [REPLY – A friend of mine scoots most of the year. I know we must be increasingly cautious when the roads are wet and slick. Since I have a very nice Audi with all wheel drive I see no point in risking my life if the roads are icy or covered in snow. Cold I can deal with. I actually rode home in the rain last night and with a few modifications in gear I think that would be fine. It was the strong winds that presented as many problems. – Steve]

  8. Sean says:

    FINALLY!! A fellow American who can appreciate the wisdom of those wily Europeans… namely, scooters and roundabouts!!!

    I’m truly envious of your Honda Metro… I would love to scoot 7-8 months out of the year (Minneapolis here). As soon as I can scrape up some more dolla-dolla bills, y’all…

    As for the roundabouts: there is one that I know of here in Minneapolis, on the Minnehaha Parkway near the falls. I just don’t understand why this country is so far behind in little things like this. Roundabouts are so much more efficient and could be in so many more places that have the space for them (I don’t think they take up much more space than your typical intersection, and there are big AND small roundabouts, btw). So much more smooth and efficient than I-sections…
    and it just cracks me up to see people stop at the roundabout yield signs!

    I know that if some could hear me they would scoff at my admiration for European civil engineering; usually it’s the gas-guzzling crowd. What the hell is that logic all about?!?!? I’ll quit ranting now, hehe 🙂

    Great site. Thanks!

  9. Trevor Acorn says:

    “usually it’s the gas-guzzling crowd. What the hell is that logic all about?!?!?”

    Damn Car-huggers…

  10. Ryan says:

    Regarding the UW Madison Scooter policy. They have taken to eliminating many of the more convenient spots on campus, and pushing us further out of the way. They see scooters as lost revenue, as we are not paying 100 a month for a space for a car at one of the campus lots. They have also jacked the parking ticket price up to $40 a ticket. A car ticket costs $10. Next year they will require us to purchase permits to park on campus.

  11. James says:

    I’m getting a scooter but cannot decide between the 2006 Vespa LX50 and the 2006 Honda Metropolitan. The Honda is much cheaper and, as I understand it, parts are much easier to get. But at the same time, several Vespa owners swear that the Quality of the Vespa cannot be beat. Any suggestions?

    [REPLYThis is a tough question as I don’t wish to upset any Vespa owners. In fact, the Vespa is a fine machine and people call every scooter a “Vespa.” Going with one you could avoid say, “Actually my scooter is a Honda.”

    On a recent group ride a 50cc Vespa could not keep up with me on a slight hill. That prompted the Vespa owner to upgrade to a bigger Vespa. I also think my mileage is a bit better — I’ve now averaged about 85mpg whereas I think the Vespas are going to be in the 75mpg range (yes, both excellent).

    The Vespa has more accessories available as well as some really good storage options. The storage choices on the Honda are limited and frankly, overpriced and ugly. However, I’ve managed fine with the built in storage under the seat and using a courier bag or similar for things like notebook computer.

    Ultimately it came down to money for me — I may well have purchased the Vespa. But I was more seriously considering a Kymco People 50. I’m also fond of the Aprilia Scarabeo. Check out http://stlscooter.blogspot.com/ for links to manufacturers and local dealers. Let me know what you get – SLP]

  12. James says:

    Thank you so much for taking to the time to help me, not to mention doing it so quickly. After posting my question on the forum, I continued to look for information on the net, and by the time I went to bed, I had decided on the Honda. When I compared everything I found, I could find no justifiable reason to pay almost double for the Vespa. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your additional input, as you have justified my decision. Now if I could just decide on a color…..


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