It's only a scooter!
I'm starting to see what I consider an alarming trend. Increasing numbers of riders are coming through classes who say they are riding scooters. That's not the alarming part, of course. What really worries me is the casual attitude they display. It's as if these are merely toys and being serious about developing skills isn't high on their list of priorities. Scooters' high gas mileage and small size are great benefits. At the same time, the small size deceives riders about the risks. There is a recent example I want to share with you a little farther down the post. I'm afraid we're going to start seeing the statistics reflect higher casualties on scooters.
The scooter movement is gathering momentum. As there are more scooters purchased they will start making up a larger part of the accident numbers. That's already happened with a certain bike / rider combination. Right now the most highly represented sector of riders in accidents is middle aged men on bikes with a 1000 cc or larger displacement.
Gee, go figure. There's a bunch of middle aged men buying bikes. Baby boomers coming back into riding. Accounting for the largest number of new bike sales. Sheer numbers of riders mean they become more represented in statistics. Guess what they're buying? You guessed it; cruisers. A bunch are buying Harleys. There's also a lot of metric bikes being sold. The power cruiser fad means that most of the bikes are now over a litre's worth of displacement. Summing it up reveals this equation:
Most of the riders are middle aged men on 1000 cc or bigger bikes. Thus they will make up the bulk of the accidents.
This phase seems to be winding down slightly while the scooter movement is gaining momentum. It will be interesting to see what happens down the road. The same way men buying these cruisers tend to scoff at training so, too, do the scooter riders adopt a very cavalier attitude. This is not meant as a blanket statement. In my experience, most of the riders, not all, show this mindset. A lot of students come through the classes with the sole intention of getting an endorsement. Sometimes I can influence their attitude for the better. Too many times I feel like I'm not really getting through.
I have to admit that for a long time I had a different attitude towards scooters myself. I cut my teeth on dirt bikes and moved to the street as soon as I could. My bikes have either been fast and sleek sport bikes or long-legged sport tourers. Best of all is having both at the same time. I always thought of scooter riders as some sort of fringe element. By that I mean riders who only dipped their toes into the water while serious riders took the full plunge. I will be the first to admit that this attitude was wrong.
What strikingly changed things for me was being introduced into this blogging world. Many of my blogging neighbors are serious scooter riders. I've seen many thoughtful comments on the need to take responsibility for ourselves no matter what we ride. I followed a thread to a Vespa forum, once. Wow! These are some people who are serious about scooters and riding them well. Thank you all. I needed the education. It's been a source of growth personally, as well as in my role as a motorcycle safety professional. Scooters are motorcycles. Our rides might be different but we have way more similarities than differences.
Which brings me back to the story.
I had a pair of WOOF's come through a class recently. ( translation: Well Off Older Folks = WOOF ) The couple was a man and wife. An early retirement was pending. They had procured a nice place in what you might call an exclusive gated community. A pair of shiny new Vespa 250's await them there. Their statement to me was that they needed something big enough to keep up with traffic that often travelled at 55 to 70 mph inside this community. The flip side of the coin was that they were only here to get endorsements. They really didn't need to know how to ride a motorcycle. After all, these were only scooters. Neither one had actually ridden the Vespas yet.
The offer was made to have them use the scooters in class. Their "away" home was in another state and the scooters are there. As a result they used my training bikes. What was interesting was that she had never ridden before and was very tentative. He did okay mechanically but I could tell he really didn't mesh with the bike. Things stayed fairly rough over the weekend. All along there was resistance to coaching. The connection between my "motorcyles" and their "scooters" didn't seem to be happening. I tried to stress that they were essentially the same thing. Riding my bikes well would directly transfer to their scooters. Conversely, riding poorly here would also transfer to the scooters.
Bottom line was that they both passed the evaluation. Barely. I never saw what I would call good skills. I did keep getting the same excuse. They were only going to ride scooters so it wasn't important. Crazy. Yes, I had a very serious talk with them about how poor riding skills would bite them as quickly on the Vespas as on anything else. I can only hope for the best.
This kind of thing has opened up a new screen on my mental radar. Not only am I going to have to teach riding skills, I'm going to have to find ways to affect attitudes. Have fun, by all means, but temper that with the seriousness of taking responsibility for yourself as a rider. I'd be interested in hearing if your experiences are matching mine. Have you found ways to help people understand the importance of this?
Miles and smiles,