Gasoline prices fuel scooter sales, but much of the appeal of scooters is their non-threatening profile and ease of use. You don’t swing one leg on a scooter like you would on a motorcycle. You just take the plunge and sit down. You also don’t need to master a manual transmission. You just turn the handle and go.
Yet scooters are prone to many of the same safety concerns as motorcycles. Their size makes them difficult for drivers to see, and on smaller displacement models in particular, their low horsepower makes mixing with fast traffic more difficult.
If you want to ride a scooter and aren’t already a regular two-wheeler, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation has a few recommendations.
First, start riding a bike – “just to get used to balancing on two wheels and using the hand controls,” said Ray Ochs, MSF’s director of training systems. “Make sure you’ve integrated motor skills. It is very, very important.
Once you have mastered these skills, you would do well to enroll in a safety course. MSF is the organization that provides most of the motorcycle safety training programs in the 50 states. Two of these courses apply to scooters. His Scooter School is a beginner’s class that teaches riders street strategies as well as how to use the controls on scooters 200cc and smaller. The four hour course offers riders a series of 10 exercises, but it does not end with a skill test; they will still have to pass the driving test required by the California Department of Motor Vehicles to obtain the M1 license to operate a motor vehicle, without pedals, of 49 cc or more. Scooter school is not currently available in California, so a better option is the Basic RiderCourse administered by the California Motorcyclist Safety Program. The 15 hour course is the same safety course recommended for novice motorcyclists. It includes five hours of classroom instruction to familiarize drivers with the safety concerns of operating a two-wheeled motor vehicle on the street and 10 hours of driving that teaches proper starting, stopping, braking and cornering. The class ends with a skill test which, if successful, overrides the driving test at the DMV; the written test remains compulsory for the M1 license.
Most sites use 250 cc motorcycles, but scooters are welcome. Beginner cyclists can bring their own or borrow one from a site that already has a scooter in its regular fleet. Sites in the LA area that have scooters available for loan are: West LA, the San Fernando Valley, and Long Beach.
I recommend taking the course before buying a scooter, just to make sure the scooter is right for you. This way, you can find the answer in a safe environment without spending or risking anything other than the cost of the course, which is $ 150 to $ 235.
For more information on the nearest BRC and class availability, call (877) 743-3411 or visit www.ca-msp.org.