Thoughts on Scooters?

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Topic: Thoughts on Scooters?

Travel and Transportation September 20, 2012 at 10:33 am

Thoughts on Scooters?

Hi PoPville community!
I’m thinking about getting a scooter to commute to and from work and run small errands. I currently live in Takoma Park and work in Court House.
Current scooter owners: what are your thoughts on this? Mainly, how difficult is it to get a license and park your scooter around the city? I’ve read conflicting stories that you can and cannot park on public sidewalks, cutting the line while waiting at a red light, using bike lanes (!??!, scooter /= bike). Do you ride your scooter in the rain, snow?
Thanks for any input you can provide!

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Essentially, in DC a scooter = motorcycle.  So the same laws and rules apply. If you are a Maryland resident I think the rules are almost the same except for possibly the 50cc bikes (which I do NOT recommend buying – not enough power to deal with traffic in the city).  In DC, you need license and registration for all scooters. I believe technically you cannot park a scooter on the sidewalk.  Although I see it so often I’m not sure that rule is ever enforced, although it may be enforced to some degree in the downtown area.  Look for available motorcycle parking as your best bet if you want to be completely legal.  I pay for parking downtown because I don’t want my bike out in the elements or stolen.
I live in Petworth, am 51 years old, and just got a scooter this summer for commuting into downtown.  I love it.  But I bought a BIG scooter – a 400cc Piaggio MP3 –!s=overview/mp3-400.  I’d advise you to look at bikes with some power (probably 250 or above) if you are going to commute from Tacoma Park to Courthouse.  You need to be able to move with the traffic and a smaller bike will struggle to do that.  I’d recommend talking to the guys at Modern Classics about choosing the right bike. Be choosy!  And avoid the cheap Chinese bikes – they are essentially disposable.  You’ll see them advertised on craigslist as new for less than $1000.  No way.
Regarding splitting lanes, bike lanes, etc., I’m pretty conservative about that.  I wouldn’t use a bike lane as a primary route, but I do use them to make a quicker right turn rather than wait in the car backup.  I’m super careful that no bikes are coming up behind me before I do so.  I’m a safety freak so I don’t split lanes in traffic – I just wait my turn like everyone else.  What the scooter does for me is give me the ability to navigate better than in a car when gridlock has ensued at intersections, and just basic fun and joy of the open air and the accelleration.  
My bike is a three-wheeler, so the added traction helps in rain.  I just throw on my rainsuit and go.  Doubt I would do the same in snow though.  
So bottom line is go for it, but check out your parking situation, and plan on dealing with the DMV for licensing and registration.  

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.

I had a Zuma 125 scooter, then went to motorcycles- first a Ducati Monster 696, then two Kawasaki Ninja ZX10R’s.
Like the other poster said, what the laws say and what’s enforced are completely different. You can get away with parking your scooter on the sidewalk, just velcro the tags on and take them off when you park. The meter maids won’t know that you’re from DC and not VA or MD.
Scooters don’t make a lot of noise, so cars don’t see them in traffic. I remember when I first got my Zuma, I was riding to work during the first week and I had some guy in a Prius come into my lane and almost hit me. I wasn’t even expecting it. Now that I’m on my Ninja’s, I’ve made them really loud and obnoxious (to car drivers, my bike friends love the sound, ha ha). But I have to say that the times I have anybody in traffic doing anything like that have been greatly minimized. Being on two wheels in DC, you have to be an asshole, because that’s the only way the other cars pay attention to you. That’s my experience in 45,000 miles of riding. When cars are stopped at lights and I know it’s going to be red for a while (look at the crosswalk counters for clues), if I have the room, I go to the front. Then when the light turns green, I can zip off away from everyone. That way I’m not surrounded on all sides by them trying to come into my lane. That has greatly helped me avoid a lot of bad situations. If you misjudge how long the light is red and it turns green on you before you get to the front, slip in behind someone, don’t keep splitting. Also, be very careful about splitting to the right of the right most lane at a light even when it’s red. Cars turning right a lot of times don’t signal and can turn right and hit you. DC has no laws regarding lane spitting/filtering. If you do it carefully it can help you be safe.
Car drivers don’t respect scooters as much as motorcycles, in my experience. I remember when I had my scooter I was riding home through Brookland, going down Monroe. I was going about 30mph, which was 5 over the speed limit. My Zuma 125 was capable of 60mph, so I was going a perfectly normal speed. Some lady in an Accord passed my illegally. I tried to catch up with her, but it wasn’t powerful enough, so I had to let it go. That kind of shit has never happened on my motorcycles.
On the licensing, even though you can skirt the law and not get licensed, you should get the license. And take a motorcycle safety class. People told me the same thing when I got my Zuma, and I ignored them. Until a few close calls, then I took the class and got licensed. They taught me a lot of stuff on how to stay safe on two wheels. I rode bicycles for years before I got a scooter and got motorcycles. I still feel a whole lot safer with a motor than without.
Just my thoughts….

The previous posters are absolutely on-the-mark, correct. I’ve been commuting on my 2008 Adly Thunderbike 150 from Takoma Park to 7th & Penn NW since March 2012. I park on the sidewalk with no problems. I do ensure I don’t block pedestrian traffic and I try to pick somewhere that will not draw attention to my scooter.
I am very comfortable on the 150 cc scooter up to about 45 MPH. I usually ride on streets where traffic travels between 25 – 35 MPH. I have taken it to 50 MPH but did not feel the suspension gave me a safe ride above that.
With parking, gas price and Metro problems, scooters are increasing in popularity. I burn 4 gallons of gasoline a month, park free and don’t have to deal with Metro. 
Maryland law does not require license, vehicle registration or insurance for scooters under 50 cc. A scooter that size is fine on Sligo Creek Parkway but not safe on New Hampshire or University Aves.
I strongly recommend taking the Motorcycle Safe Rider course. It will give you techniques for: ensuring you are visible; protecting your position in a lane of traffic; reacting to tailgaters; collision avoidance; etc. If you take the course you will be a more confident and safer rider. If you are not in a hurry you can take it very cheap at the Glen Bernie MVA. But MVA . . . well sucks. You can also take the course at many area Community Colleges for about $175. I spent a few dollars more and got into a class quickly at Old Glory Harley Davidson in Laurel MD. The Motorcycle Safety Course includes the MVA written & rider tests. You get a certificate to take with the license fee to MVA to get your license. Old Glory is WONDERFUL! Their classroom and training motorcycles are very nice. Their instructors are excellent. I had my scooter inspected there for the registration. I highly recommend Old Glory.
Redline cycles on New Hampshire Ave in Takoma Park sells Kymco. Kymco is a good Taiwanese company that offers a good selection of scooter styles. Kymco scooters are very popular and easy to get parts. I am happy with my Adly but parts are a challenge. If I had it to do over I would definitely consider a Kymco.
I hope you do go ahead and get a scooter that is appropriate to the roads you will ride on. Most of all, I hope you enjoy this as much as I do.

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