Home » Scooters » Recent Articles:

Scooters Vs. Minis on 9th Street, October 2006

A year ago I took some video from a fun event held last October by Espresso Mod on 9th Street —- a scooter vs. mini contest.  I thought I’d use this video to test out some new video editing software (Apple’s iMovie ’08).  Enjoy:



Scooter-Focused Economics Plan to Reduce Use of Foreign Oil, Traffic Congestion, Etc…

The Piaggio Group, maker of the well-known Vespa scooter, is promoting a new economic platform — Vespanomics:

In order to meet the President’s goal of reducing America’s addiction to oil, consumers will need to change their attitudes and behaviors regarding personal transportation in ways that offer the potential to significantly reduce energy consumption and environmental impact. There is no single approach that can solve the problem; rather, a broad set of initiatives may be able to provide a meaningful solution.

Piaggio Group Americas, manufacturer of the Vespa scooter, is at the forefront of this issue. Along with other scooter and motorcycle manufacturers, Piaggio believes that motor scooters and other street-legal two-wheel vehicles offer an important and viable means of transportation in many situations, and could bring a lasting, positive impact on domestic energy stability and America’s dependence on foreign oil.

Piaggio Group Americas advocates making U.S. cities more scooter friendly so that scooters will become a vital component toward stemming the U.S.’s “oil addiction”.

While this is clever marketing, it is also quite logical. Fuel cells, biodiesel, ethanol, hybrids and even electric cars are not the only answer to issues concerning use of oil and pollution. As is indicated, the two wheel vehicle (scooter, motorcycle and bicycle) can play a key role in our transportation systems. Here is some selected items from their materials:

Currently, the United States consumes more than 25% of the world’s total supply of oil3. As a result, the U.S. produces a significant amount of the world’s carbon emissions. Oil consumption in the U.S. is increasing at a rate of approximately 2% annually.

According to a May 2006 survey conducted by ICR on behalf of Piaggio Group Americas, 30% of U.S. consumers indicated they would be extremely or somewhat likely to consider using a scooter for 35% of the mileage currently traveled by car, truck or SUV – yielding a 10% reduction in daily fuel usage. If Americans switch 10% of their mileage to scooters, they will consume 14 million gallons less per day, thereby keeping demand under control.

Clearly the impact could be significant. I know I have found that I ride my scooter far less total miles than I drove my prior cars — I think more locally about shopping and that errand 8 miles away for one little thing may get combined with other errands in the same direction. So really, the impact is even greater in my estimation. Just like bicycling, the key is having a place to park at your destination(s):

Government agencies should consider removing the two-wheeler from the four-wheeler parking space and placing it in its own, scaled down zone. This is a simple concept that can be embraced by city councils, urban planners, local merchants, contractors, shopping center management and private businesses whenever parking for motor vehicles is provided.

Toronto, Canada – The City Council recently amended the parking by-laws to allow motorcycles and scooters to park for free on city streets with on-street parking meters. In addition, Toronto is pursuing allocating certain spaces in city lots for two-wheel vehicle parking as well as examining if two-wheel vehicles can park on city sidewalks.

San Francisco, CA – The city designated 1,696 parking spaces specifically for motorcycles and scooters, both metered and un-metered. In addition the city has begun replacing single-spaced meters with multi-space meters to better accommodate motorcycles. Metered parking is prorated for motorcycles ranging from $.10 – $.25 per hour depending on location. (San Francisco Dept. of Parking & Traffic)

Indeed, the idea is not necessarily to have free parking but to have appropriately priced parking. Why should I pay the same rate as a Hummer to park in a garage? We have so much unused space on our streets that accommodating two wheel vehicles is more about mindset than money. Given the cost of unsightly parking garages (tens of millions of dollars) and the buzz killing surface parking lots we need more attention paid to such simple measures to make more room for people, not cars.

And their conclusion:

Local and national government leaders are charged with establishing transportation policies that address both short-term and long-term problems, are environmentally responsible and truly benefit the American consumer. With the support of federal, state and local governments, new options like scootering can bring immediate and substantial economic and environmental benefits to Americans and the communities in which they live.

To facilitate the adoption of scootering, U.S. Mayors and other elected officials should consider providing dedicated parking for scooters and motorcycles.

Now is the time to broaden the dialogue about America’s addiction to oil and its dependency on foreign imports in a way that includes technological as well as behavioral solutions.

You can read much more at vespanomics.com.


I’m Putting My Foot Down on 4-Way Stops

Despite St. Louis have way too many 4-way stops, this post is not about reducing the number of stops.  No, I’m tired of the way 4-ways are treated in this town.

First we have the locally famous rolling stop.  This involves letting off the gas and potentially applying the brakes in a very token effort.  Very common among the locals, including police.

We also have the basically ignore the stop sign types that simply fly right through the intersections as if nobody else existed.  These people are the reason we look left & right before proceeding.

Then we have the folks that think because they are on the bigger road that they have the right of way — regardless of who stopped first and who was to the right of whom.  Conversely, we have the people that are on a smaller side street that have the right of way but refuse to go until the person on the bigger through street go first.

And then we have people that see me on my scooter and they simply freak out — “oh my gosh, a scooter, I don’t know what to do!”  Seriously, it is often like people have never been to a 4-way stop before.

The rules are simple folks, whomever stops first has the next right of way.   Same time?  The person on the right has the right of way.  If someone is turning left, they need to turn behind the car that is going the opposite direction.

But drivers see my scooter and all of a sudden they want to toss out the rules and wave me through.  I appreciate the thought, really I do, but we need to focus on following the time tested rules of 4-way stops — not toss them out because of a really cute scooter.

I continually face drivers at intersections where, due to timing or placement, know that the other person has the right of way.  Often I get drivers that have the right of way try to wave me to go — but I know they have the right of way and that they will be turning right behind me.  Don’t wave me through and then get right behind me — that really steams me.  If it is your turn at the intersection, go.  I’ll be behind you and that is just fine.  Too often I’m working on stopping and balancing when someone already at the intersection is already trying to wave me through.
Now most skilled riders of 2-wheel vehicles can come to a nearly complete full stop without putting a foot on the pavement — balance is an excellent skill to have.   I’m pretty certain that technically a rider is considered to have run a stop sign if they don’t put a foot down but don’t quote me on that.  So from a balance perspective at least I don’t need to put a foot down but I often do a 4-way stops with other drivers simply trying to communicate to them I am coming to a complete stop.  Depending upon the situation, I will use my left or right foot to use body language to tell others drivers that I am still working on stopping.  It helps sometimes.

The other day, near my house, I pull up to a 4-way stop.  A guy in a large passenger van had already stopped at the left of me.  He was on the bigger street while I was on a narrower side street.  I looked at him and he wasn’t going.  Mind you, I don’t just take off through an intersection in front of 3-ton vehicles that have the right of way.  He had the windows down and started yelling something and making hand gestures (more than a single finger).  But I couldn’t tell what he was saying.  Finally, in a stroke of brilliance, the guy figured out a way to communicate what he’d be trying to say — he put on his right turn signal!!  Yes, somehow using the turn signal to signal a turn had escaped him.  Once I saw the signal I knew I could safely go.  I went as soon as another driver that had pulled up to the intersection from the right made a right turn in the same direction I was going.  Had the original driver communicated his intentions by using his turn signal things would have been so much easier.

I also see the people that try to wave me across but forget that it is dark outside and it is nearly impossible to see inside their car from across the intersection.  I’ve also seen people, barely, driving cars with tinted windows trying to do the same.

Of course you have the opposite where people pull up to the stop, wait a few seconds and then go — without looking to see who else is around.  Sometimes drivers simply assume that all intersections are 4-way.  I’ve had people pull out in front of me because they stopped and just assumed I was going to stop as well even though my street didn’t have a stop sign.   Better yet are the ones that stop at the intersection even though they don’t have a stop sign.

What are your favorite 4-way stop observations?


My Honda Metropolitan Scooter, Two Years and Six Thousand Miles Later

September 4, 2007 Scooters 67 Comments

Two years ago today I purchased my red & white Honda Metropolitan scooter. Like everyone else, I had just witnessed the horrific images from New Orleans and gas prices were climbing quickly. Here is some of what I wrote two years ago:

Today I took a step toward having more efficient means of motorized transportation — I bought a small motor scooter. I’m not giving up bicycling. But there are times when I need to get somewhere faster than my bicycle will take me. I look at it as having multiple modes of transportation: walking, bicycling, MetroBus/MetroLink, scooter and finally my car. I plan to use all of these methods of transportation.

I estimate that given current fuel prices every 5,000 miles I can put on the scooter rather than my car I’ll save at least $600. As fuel prices rise the savings will be even greater. In less than 3 years the scooter will pay for itself in fuel savings.

As regular readers know, I got rid of the costly car a few months ago. But admittedly I have not continued to bicycle as I had thought I might. I used to ride to the #40 Broadway bus to get me downtown and then I’d bike all the way home. Not a long ride but not bad considering my favorite of my bicycles (yes, plural) is a single speed bike. One of my grad school classes is meeting next week off-campus and we plan to do a post-class bike ride.

Metropolitan in B&W I’ve also not ridden the scooter as many miles as I had first expected. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, I continued to drive my car often and on the longer distances in the region. Second is that I learned to combine trips, avoid unnecessary trips, to ask friends about sharing a ride, and simply to live a more local life. So in this past two years I’ve put just over 6,000 miles on the scooter.

On July 1st of this year I had 4,863 miles and by September 1st I was at 6,456 — almost 1,600 miles in two months time. I’ve given up trying to track gas mileage because it can vary greatly depending upon how much a fill up the tank — when you are getting a tad over a gallon an extra tenth of a gallon makes a big difference. Overall I’ve been averaging around 85-90mpg. To track miles I simply take a picture of the odometer each time I get gas. I also take pictures of the pump to see how much I bought and what the price is. For example, on July 1st I paid $2.81 per gallon for regular. By July 12th I paid $3.10 per gallon.

Even though gas prices have dropped considerably that doesn’t stop the people from asking how much a scooter costs and how many miles it will go on a gallon. Yesterday I saw an older guy with a bicycle that jokingly said, “I’ll trade you” and this morning a lady working in her front yard said, “Take me for a ride.” Kids continue to be immediately attracted to the scooter. Last week a guy walking down the street asked me about the scooter — he had 3 DUI’s and needed to get around. I answered his questions and added that a driver’s license was required. I saw him later that day riding a bicycle rather than walking.

IMG_0667.JPG The view from the scooter is great, especially for taking pictures. However, it was the distraction of buildings that caused my one accident. I was captivated by the great buildings on Chippewa near Jefferson when I approached a 4-way stop intersection. I had not noticed the increasing oil/grease in the roadway and before I could get in a better area I had lost control and down I went. There was no traffic to speak of in this area and the couple of drivers approaching me from both directions stopped to offer assistance. The grease that caused my fall also prevented me from getting torn up by the asphalt. The scooter was undamaged and still running — I simply hit the kill switch on the handlebar, picked the bike up and pushed it to the curb to regain my composure. The only thing bruised was my left knee and my ego. I’ve had a few near misses with pavement that is rolled in weird directions near bus stops, massive potholes, and wet man hole covers.

To anyone considering a scooter I say give it a shot — unless you are that guy with the DUIs — he needs to stick to walking, biking or public transportation. Recently I played a small role in helping form an online scooter discussion forum for the St. Louis region — check it out at stlscooterforum.com

OK, I get lots of questions so let me see if I can answer most of them:

What does a scooter cost?

My particular scooter costs roughly $2,000 new. Don’t forget to add sales tax, helmet and depending upon engine size, registration and insurance. I purchased mine used on Craigslist. Some scooters, mostly Chinese made knock offs, can be had for considerably less. I’ve heard mixed reviews so buyer beware is all I can say about those. Some brands, such as the well-known Vespa, can be well into the $3,000-$5,000 range. A large “maxi-scooter” can approach ten grand.

How fast will it go?

My scooter tops out around 30mph but large engine models can operate at highway speeds. Some are quite fast and can outrun many sports cars.

You don’t need a license plate?

Missouri considers scooters like mine a moped — a motorized bicycle. Due to engine size and limited speed, no licensing is required. However, I cannot legally ride my scooter across the Eads bridge into Illinois as their rules are different. Illinois considers a 49cc scooter a motorcycle and as such requires registration, a motorcycle license and insurance.

Do you need a special driver’s license?

In Missouri you only need a regular driver’s license but as indicated above, in Illinois you need a motorcycle license. In Missouri you also need a motorcycle license if you operate a motorcycle/scooter with an engine larger than 49cc.

Do you need a helmet?

Missouri requires helmets for motorcycles (presumably omitting mopeds) while Illinois does not require a helmet for any classification of motorcycle. Head injuries are hard to survive so I recommend a helmet for all riders and passengers.

How do you shop?

The underseat area is surprisingly large. I carry a couple of canvass bags in there so I can put larger purchases on the floorboard between my feet. Shopping locally means I also shop nearly every day. I think ahead about what I need such as toiletries like toothpaste and shaving cream. I’ve never been a bulk shopper anyway so I simply buy what I need. Having a 3-year supply of bar soap is just not worth the hassle no matter what the price.

What about the weather?

Mother Nature does not always cooperate! I’ve been caught in downpours, endured hot and humid temperatures and some freezing cold extremes. Proper clothing is the normal answer to such a question posed to a motorcyclist or bicyclist — rain gear, gloves, a handkerchief to wipe the seat and so on. Last winter I did pretty well with long johns and neck protector used in skiing until it got bitter cold and I switched to my car. I don’t have that open now so we’ll see how it goes.

Won’t it get stolen?

Theft is a potential problem but at night it is locked up safe and sound inside my house. When I am out somewhere I usually park in a highly visible location so it would be obvious if someone was trying to steal it. My scooter, like most, has a couple of anti-theft deterrents. One is a kickstand lock that prevents the kickstand from releasing. The other is a steering wheel lock just like your car. Both make it impossible to just wheel the scooter off — thieves would have to physically lift it. Although I don’t mind arguing with folks on the street, I’m not going to take on anyone big enough to lift my scooter and carry it away. For times when I need added security, I carry a cable and lock.

Update 8/1/2008:

Since the above was published I put another 3,000 miles on the scooter through January 2008.  On February 1, 2008 I suffered a massive stroke and spent three months in the hospital.  My recovery is going well but I could not ride the scooter anymore.  On June 19th 2008 I wrote ‘My Beloved Honda Metropolitan Scooter Has Been Sold.‘ It’s hard to go wrong with the Honda Metropolitan, it performed flawlessly for me for several years and 9,000 miles.  In a few years I plan to buy & ride another.

Update 7/19/2009:

My stroke recovery is going well and I’m nearly ready to try to ride a scooter again.  I hope to try someone else’s in  2009 and buy my own in 2010.  The neighbor that bought my Honda Metroploitan rode it for a year and just sold it so he could buy a larger engined scooter.  I miss seeing it in the parking garage.


New Motor Scooter Forum for St. Louis Region

July 29, 2007 Parking, Scooters 14 Comments

Earlier this month a diverse group of scooterists, myself included, established a new online resource for those who scooter in St. Louis: STLScooterForum.com. The forum has quickly gained over 50 registered members and is growing fast.

The forum uses the latest software to organize all the posts and discussions. Sections include areas such as a “newbie lounge”, a technical area for both vintage and modern scooters. The classifieds section might be the place where find that perfect scooter for yourself. Group rides are divided up into small, medium and large.

The ride sizes relate not to the size of the rider, but the size of their ride. I’m personally ‘large’ but my 49cc Honda Metropolitan is what the ‘small’ category is all about. Medium is for scooters up to 250cc and large is for those bigger 250cc. Yes, you can get some very large engine scooters that you can comfortably take on a cross country tour.


Above, scooters and motorcycles in designated parking at BJC in October 2006. Mine is the fourth one back. I recently met the owner of the blue/white Honda Metropolitan seen in front.

If you ride now or are perhaps curious about getting a scooter check out stlscooterforum.com if only for the links to local scooter/motorcycle dealers. One of the best links is to a Scooter Riding Tips PDF from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. The forum was started with the intent to be the best resource for scooters in St. Louis, I think you’ll agree it is doing a fine job toward that goal.


Above, my scooter (and helmet @$&*^%$) got soaked in a recent downpour outside my office on South Kingshighway. One of the things you learn when scootering is sometimes it is best to alter your schedule when it starts to rain. Within 15 minutes after this picture was taken the rain had stopped and the sewer drains caught up with the overflow. I was then on my way down the street to The Royal.