In defense of scooters

Last week I sang the praises of the bicycle, calling it a part of the solution to all sorts of energy, environmental, and health problems. This week I’ll speak up in defense of the bicycle’s hard-livin’, lady-killin’ cousin, the scooter.

When Korean traveler Wan Lee visited me in Missouri during his scooter trip around the US, he graciously allowed me to ride his scooter around the block. Since that time, I’ve fallen in love with the Honda Ruckus, the model Wan was riding, even going so far as to purchase a used one about a month ago.

With gas prices as high as they are, I like knowing that my scooter gets about 100 miles per gallon. I like being able to take off on day-trips whenever I want, without having to worry about how much it will cost me in gas. Most of all, I like the curious looks I get from other drivers and the knowing waves from other scooter riders on the road.

In Asian cities such as Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City, scooter-riders pack the streets like cyclists in the Tour de France. I always wonder why the residents of more Western cities don’t follow their lead. Perhaps they’re starting to.

As this article points out, the rising price of gas means that we’re only going to see more scooters on the road. Scooter sales in the first half of 2008 were up a remarkable 66%.

So why not ditch that gas-guzzler and hop onto something a little more efficient, environmentally-friendly, and fun?

Posted by | Comments (6)  | July 25, 2008
Category: Notes from the collective travel mind

6 Responses to “In defense of scooters”

  1. Celine Says:

    I too dream of the Ruckus. Better engine than my Dio (which was only meant for the city). Plus, the endless customizations should be fun.

    Nice post. Of course it had to be a post about a scooter to get me out of my lurking mode.

  2. Carrie Says:

    I hate to disagree, but while scooters may be cheap and convenient to drive, try driving in a city packed with them.

    Today’s scooter models are more environmentally friendly than in the past, but they are still a major source of air pollution in Asia.

    Cities like Rome, HCMC, Bangkok and Taipei are a nightmare to drive in because of the pollution caused by scooters. I can’t think of anything worse than introducing hordes of scooters to the already crowded streets of North America.

    A few scooters on the road are bearable, but when you stop to consider the number of scooters on the roads in Asia, scooters suddenly don’t seem so friendly anymore. It’s not a pleasant environment to drive in.

    In Taipei, the pollution is so bad, scooter drivers wear a mask or risk coming home with blackened faces from the amount of atomized oil being pumped into the air.
    There’s nothing worse than sucking back on exhaust fumes in a pack of scooter drivers.

    Companies are hard at work at developing new models that are environmentally green, or models which use fuel cell technology. Electric or battery-charged vehicles, are also another safe option, but the race has just begun.

    I applaud their efforts and I know there are good things to come, but I also know what kind of traffic I deal with everyday and at the moment, that’s my reality. I like the idea of scooters, but I hate the crowded roads of scooters in Asia.

    Obviously riding a bike is the best way to go if you want to be green, and while public transportation can be a pain, it’s the most viable option if you want to be environmentally friendly.

  3. Jorge Says:

    Driving a scooter in Mexico’s cities is like signing your death warrant.

  4. WillG Says:

    I read a great article about this topic called “Scooter Polluter” found here:

    It laid out a number of the issues like smog pollution vs. gas consumption and that there are non-EPA certified scooters in the US, so watch out!

    In Shanghai, when I was there in January, I was told they had outlawed new scooters and folks could only buy electric bicycles. Too bad they forgot that they have to burn coal to generate that electricity.

  5. Jason Says:

    Umm, scooters use way less gas than cars do, hence less exhaust pollution. Many scooters are 4-stroke, so that “atomized oil” you wrote about is not a key issue. And the “hordes of scooters” would actually free up much needed space on our roadways. Scooter=small, car=big, see how that works?

  6. Retro Scooters Says:

    The first half of 2009 in the UK saw scooter sales continuing to increase too due to global pressure on rising oil prices. There is now a rising emphasis on electric scooters and many of the modern retro scooters available to buy in the UK can deliver around 100 miles to the gallon. Comparitive to 30/40 for even a small car, the popularity of the scooter in the UK will continue to rise. In london, 50cc and 125cc retro scooters also avoid the congestion charges which saves even more money!