So I’ve been scooting in DC for about 18 months now. I own a 2005 Genuine Stella with a rebuilt 250cc engine.
There’s a HUGE difference between what the law says and what’s actually enforced. That is, you can basically do whatever you want on a scooter and the DC cops won’t do anything. For instance, I bought my scooter used from a friend in Brooklyn, NYC and hauled it back to DC in a UHaul van. Due to sheer laziness, I drove around DC for 15 months with expired New York license plates. I never once had an issue! I was never pulled over or cited by the police. The only time I ever got a ticket was the day after I got my DC license plates and I was parked on the sidewalk on a very busy corner off K Street ($20 fine).
Similarly, you can get away with parking on the sidewalk so long you stay out of busy intersections. Still, I have my license plate velcro’d onto my bike and lock it up in my gear box every time I park. Haven’t received a ticket since that initial one a few months ago.
Also, getting a motorcycle learner’s permit is very easy and requires you to take a written test. All my friends never bothered to get the actual license and drive around with their permit, as do I. No one has ever hassled us.
I don’t know how lax VA or MD cops are about the scooter issues. In DC, it seems that cars and scooters are treated very differently. It’s basically the wild west when it comes to scooters in that the law is almost NEVER enforced. You’re also supposed to have license plates on your scooter if it’s above 50cc. However everyday I see people driving around without license plates and the cops don’t seem to mind.
For the MD to Courthouse drive, you’ll definitely want a 150cc scooter (this the engine size of most Vespas). Driving across the Key Bridge or the Memorial Bridge are not too bad, I’ve done it a few times but never during rush hour.
I pretty much always split lanes to get through rush hour traffic. If you drive slowly and with caution, you’ll be fine. It is illegal to drive in the bike lanes and I try to stay out of them as much as possible as a courtesy to cyclists.