Tuesday, March 18, 2008

To Scoot or Not to Scoot, that is the question

I. Want. A. Scooter.

Or Moped…or “ped”…or whatever you kids are calling them these days. I have been entertaining the idea of purchasing a scooter for some time now. I dream about scooting around Old Town, swinging by Le Pain Quotidien for a sourdough loaf, hitting Grape + Bean for a full-bodied red, and then making my way to Knit Happens to quite literally pick up some new threads. My insides always do a tiny lurch when I spot someone zooming through Old Town on a scooter. I resist the urge to stop my car, jump out, and flag them down to ask them a zillion questions regarding scoot laws, scooting in Old Town, commuting scooting, etc. etc. etc.

To quench the thirst I have for scooter knowledge, I am posting my questions into the blogosphere, hoping that someone will be kind enough to drop by and leave an insightful comment, or just hoping that writing my concerns down will help me answer some questions for myself. And just so you know, I’m not a blithering idiot. I have done research online and have found answers to many of my queries, but it just helps to use a variety of resources, n’est-ce pas?

So here are some factors I need to take into consideration:

First of all, I have no scooter knowledge, and wouldn’t even know what particularly to look for when attempting to purchase a scooter.

Second of all, is it a death wish to try and ride a scooter to work every day from Old Town to Crystal City on Rt. 1 in rush hour traffic?

Lastly, will I actually end up saving money by purchasing a scooter? Will I really ride it?

Ok, so, many things to contemplate.

Let’s start with my lack of scooter knowledge. I have been doing some research online and have found some great websites and articles (Is a motor scooter in your future?). I feel somewhat educated on the topic, but I definitely want to hear a first hand opinion of what a good commuter scooter would be for the D.C. area. SO, I am going to go to a scooter store and when I see a scooter perched on a sidewalk in Old Town, I will stalk out the owner to ask questions. For example, should I get something larger than a 50cc? (If I do that, the scooter will technically be considered a motorcycle by Virginia law, which means rules/regulations/fees etc….but that’s probably a whole new post.)

Ok, so, what about my daily commute? Every morning and every evening I take Rt. 1 to work (the most daunting of the roads I am on during my travel). It is the stretch between Old Town and Crystal City, you know, where they are doing construction on that overpass thing. Would I be safe during my commute? I will obviously be wearing a helmet, but should I consider taking an alternate route to work (Mt. Vernon Ave, for example) if I do purchase a scooter? Also, inclement weather. I sure as hell am not going to schlep through the rain on my scooter…but that is what having my car is for.

Which brings us to the financial impact of purchasing a scooter. I have yet to figure out the exact calculations, but I know I will be saving money on gas by scooting every day to work. Also, purchasing a scooter will allow me to put off buying a new car (an idea which I have also been entertaining). But let’s be honest…gas prices aren’t exactly going down, my car is paid off, and I don’t know if I want to deal with a car payment. Sure, I could afford it, but I don’t really need a new car right now. So I will spend the majority of my travel time scooting, with a car to back me up for highway travel (riding a scooter on the beltway is just as bad as riding a bike on the beltway), inclement weather, and big shopping trips.

SO, it seems that I have a lot to consider. Your remarks, comments, and helpful tips are greatly appreciated.


Capitol Hill 20210 said...

I think if you lived in DC and were scooting around it would be ok, its that section of Route 1 you mention, that would be spooky. I used to live in Old Town and people's driving not so great. Heck, no one can drive in this area.

I did know someone who used to ride her bike in everyday because she could use the paths on the GW Parkway to safely get in.

I have played around the idea with getting a pink Harley, but people's driving around here has made me think twice.

Mr T in DC said...

You could split the difference between car and scooter in an equally stylish and practical fashion for Old Town, with one of the new Smart cars. Then, issues of inclement weather and registration/licensing would be mooted. You'd get great gas mileage and be able to park almost anywhere.

SickGirl said...

i'd do a check and see if the scooter you want can go a certain MPH because a lot of Virginia highway laws say that scooters aren't permitted and that a lot of paths made for pedestrians or bikes are also not scooter-friendly. i think often if the scooter can't go higher than 25 MPH it's not allowed on roads where the max MPH is greater than 25. but this is just something i heard from a scooter riding buddy so i'd say definitely do a little more research. bikes are always a good alternative too on the GW Pkwy! either way- good luck!

Jamy said...

I used to have a scooter and a motorcycle, so I'll try and answer some of your questions.

1) You want a scooter, not a moped. A moped has pedals!

2) A scooter is like a smaller, easier to handle, BUT EQUALLY DANGEROUS motorcycle. Take a motorcycle safety training class before you decide to buy a scooter!

3) If you plan to ride in heavy traffic, you'll want to be able to speed up to get out of trouble. That means at least 100cc and more like 125cc.

4) I've only heard good things about the new Vespas. I'd take a serious look at those. (I'm a total scooter snob, though.)

Anonymous said...

I also live in Old Town and have seriously thought about getting a scooter. The only thing holding me back is having to take Rt.1 or the GW Parkway into work in the morning to Georgetown. I can't decide if it's too dangerous, although the Vespa I looked at can go far above the normal speed of traffic on the parkway.

Rt. 1 might not be that bad, especially since they've just dropped the speed limit to something like 25 or 30.

CP said...

Hi! I also live in Old Town, Alexandria. I ride my bicycle to work (Farragut West Station) as often as I can (drive to school in MD after work) and have also been contemplating the idea of buying a scooter. The only disadvantage I see is weather-related issues such as rain, snow, and cold weather. The GW Parkway should not be too bad in the morning, since not too many drivers can go fast. Riding a scooter to Crystal City should not be too bad either... there are many vehicles (not to mention numerous speed traps! Yes, even in the morning!) and the crazy drivers, if any, can't speed. However, I wonder about the road requirements for the scooters (max speed, etc.)

My questions regarding scooters (for VA, MD, DC) are:

- Since I work in DC, I've noticed that the typical Vespa and Vespa-like scooters can be parked pretty much anywhere where a bicycle can be 'parked'. Is this the case for VA and MD? I've heard a scooter/motorcycle can be parked on the sidewalk as long as it meets certain requirements (in terms of cc's) Is this true? If so, what are they?

- Do we need a driver's license to ride a scooter? What about insurance? Does a scooter need to be registered?

- What's the difference between a 50cc, 100cc, 125cc, etc? And what does the cc mean? Cubic Centimeter?

- I just went to http://www.vespausa.com/Products/VespaS.cfm and noticed that this scooter has a max speed of 59mph. Could it be taken for a ride on the Beltway/95 (slowest lane, of course!)? Would this be a death wish or suicide attempt?

- What is a scooter maintenance like? Is it something a tech-savvy guy (with decent to strong mechanical/engineering skills)?

- Would a used scooter do? If not, what do I need to look after if buying a used/new scooter?

Thank you!!!

Kylia said...

Good post.

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