Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Yellow Scooter: Better Than Transit

Before school started, my wife and I purchased a bright yellow 49cc scooter that qualifies as a "moped" in Minnesota. This has a number of benefits, not the least of which is that you can park a moped in a bike rack legally, while a motorcycle must park in a designated space
or among cars. Why the exact same size 125cc cycle can't park in the same places as our scooter escapes me, but that's an issue for elected officials.

The first day I tried to ride the scooter to school was a disaster. It kept dying along the way and eventually I called for help. The stress increased after we drove to a suburb, bought a trailer-hitch tow kit, and the scooter was too big for the tow platform. Calling the motorcycle dealership resulted in a towing company taking the scooter back to the shop for a few days.

The fuel filter was replaced and the scooter was overhauled. When it was delivered for the second time, everything was much better, though not perfect. Unfortunately, the scooter can still be a pain to start, but once it keeps running for more than a minute or two it is a great
little machine.

Can someone diagnosed with high-functioning autism ride a scooter or motorcycle? What about the vibrations, the noise, the helmet, and other issues?

I can report that I actual like the scooter a lot. I have several theories about this, but no real explanation for why it isn't a problem.

1) I take a road with almost no traffic most of the way to campus. Being the only vehicle on a road helps a lot. I hate traffic, which makes me nervous even in a car. On the scooter, I take a road along the Mississippi and find that I'm nearly alone in the morning and am alone on the road in the evenings.

2) I'm in control. There is a lot to be said for being in control of your movements. I'm a terrible passenger, even on a bus. If I could, I'd sit next to the train engineer, too. I like to think I'm "safer" when I am in control — even though a majority of people think they are better than average drivers. When I have the wheel (or handlebars), when I turn or stop, it isn't a surprise. I hate being surprised as a passenger.

3) It isn't really that noisy. It is a little two-stroke, air-cooled, engine. It simply isn't that loud. It "buzzes" when speeding along the road, while a larger motorcycle might rumble or roar.

4) The helmet sucks, but I can reason with myself. I hate the helmet a lot, but I also like my head in one piece. Logic wins that argument. The scooter is definitely better than mass transit. I get to the university in under 15 minutes most days. I couldn't even walk to the nearest bus stop in that amount of time. Once at the bus stop, I'd wait for a bus, transfer to light rail, transfer to another bus, and transfer to the campus shuttle. Assuming no wait longer than five
minutes, that is still 20 minutes waiting for the bus, the train, the second bus, and the shuttle. It was slightly more than an hour the one time I tried to use transit. Cutting my trip by 75 percent is worth any discomfort.

Speaking of discomfort — I hated the busses. The campus shuttle, which I still use, isn't too bad most of the time, but metro busses stink (literally) and are crowded. I don't like public transit at all. The noises on the bus were louder than the scooter.

So, at least for me, the scooter is a good alternative to public transit and a lot cheaper than a second car. It also beats riding a bike and arriving drenched in sweat. I'd never try to bike to campus on a day when I had to be in a classroom. Maybe it wouldn't be ideal for others, but the scooter is ideal for me.

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