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Commuting by Scooter

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Considering a scooter for 8-mile commute

June 2008

After paying $85 to fill up my SUV (yes, I know), I had the idea to buy a scooter to commute to and from work (w/in Oakland, about 8 miles each way). I rode a scooter once about 15 years ago on my honeymoon so don't have any real experience at all. Are they comfortable? Safe? Any particular features I should look for? Do I have to take special driving lessons (like a motorcycle)? Is insurance expensive? And please, no lectures, I plan to downsize my SUV as soon as my lease is up! Scooter Girl


I rode a scooter all around town about 15 years ago. It was great! Gas was $2/week, and insurance was $85/year. You only need a motorcycle license for the higher horsepower models- over 150cc? Anyway, I highly recommend it. yeah scooters!
No lecture here! By all means get a scooter. I started riding two years ago and not only do I actually enjoy the ride to and from work (15 miles each way), but also ride it all over the place as my only means of transportation (of course, we have to rely on the car for kids, dogs and big stuff). I spend about $10 a week on gas; that includes trips to the store, music lessons and church.

Check out ModernVespa.com. There's a ton of info about scooters.

In the winter, it's not so great - I use public transportation (ugh!) but get to sit back and read and have the pleasure of hubby picking me up from work and having quality time with him. It's essential to take the Motorcycle Safety Foundation course - a really fun class and two days of learning to ride on a 'real' motorcycle. It's not mandatory, but strongly encouraged. It will also help you get your motorcycle endorsement (you won't need to do the DMV test, which hardly anyone passes the first time).

Scooters are safe if you ride like 90% of other drivers can't see you and the other 10% are out to kill you! Kidding aside, the main thing to remember is to stay alert and take the MSF course. With more and more scooters on the road, motorists are being made more aware of them and riding them is becoming safer. Good gear is also essential - full face helmet especially.

Insurance is maybe $100 - $200 a year, depending on your record and other variables.

And did I say they're fun?

I rode over 600 miles on one day trip (to Tahoe through the mountains and back), so yes - they're comfortable.

I'd look for at least 150cc. If circumstances allow (if you're able to ride recreationally) get something bigger, because you'll be going places. Scooter grandma


Go to the SF Scooter Center on 10th and talk to Laura. She's great! Also check out San Francisco Scooter Girls http://www.sfscootergirls.com/

As far as safety goes, just spend money on good motorcycle quality body armor (the jackets with the kevlar inserts... there's also a fancy spine/neck protector, etc) and don't skimp on the helmet either. Take the motorcycle safety class - it's really worth it - it made me a better driver and bicycle rider. scooter fan


Hi Scootergirl, I had a motor scooter for years and loved it. They are great on gas mileage and a lot of fun.

You will need a motorcycle license and will need to take a motorcycle written and driving test (unless it has drastically changed in the past 10 years). The good news is that it's a lot easier to drive the test on a scooter than on a big motorcycle. I passed both easily, and I believe I had a permit first. Driving the scooter was really easy.

You will definitely learn how to drive defensively because a good number of car drivers forget to look for motorcycles - and you will make a better car driver, too, because you'll look for motorcycles etc. KM


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