High Gas Prices Lead to U.S. Scooter Boom
"It's fun to ride in a group," said Fry, 28, who joins a group of riders for coffee early Friday mornings before commuting into
Fry is part of a growing community of scooter enthusiasts in
"The funniest thing is pulling into a gas station behind an SUV and seeing them pay 75 bucks," he says.
Scooter riders are also mobilizing in ways never seen before. Riders are joining clubs, setting up Internet message boards, and even lobbying city governments for more friendly laws.
One club, the New York Scooter Club, meets Wednesday evenings at a bar in
After the gathering, the members mount up for an 8 p.m. ride around town. On weekends, they organize day trips out of the city on scooters, first popularized in the 1960s and '70s by movies like Federico Fellini's "
A scooter boom has been under way over the last few years as the vehicles came back into fashion. Retail sales in the
"The phone has been ringing and recently the calls begin with talk about gas prices," says Aaron Peterson, manager of Vespa Soho, a
Sales at the Chicago-based Genuine Scooter Company, one of the country's larger scooter dealers, which owns the popular Stella brand, have been doubling annually for the last three years, with even faster growth projected for this year, according to owner Philip McCaleb. The Stella gets about
"We are trying to combine fun and fuel economy and three-dollar gas is helping," McCaleb said.
Dealers say high gas prices have attracted a whole different crowd from the usual fashionable set, who buy classic Italian models.
"I'm seeing a lot of people from blue-collar businesses, who are paying $100 to fill up their vans," said Nick Mendizabal, owner of Brooklynbretta, a scooter dealership. "A lot of people who thought scooters were not so masculine are now asking, 'How fast do they go?' and `What's the mileage?'"
Some of the scooter clubs aren't as practical. The Jedi Knights, a scooter club for Star Wars fans founded in
"The Jedi Knights are about taking ourselves lightly," explains member Gregory Heller. "We are into 'Star Wars' and into scooters and that's a pretty high level of dorkiness."
On a more serious level, Heller helped organize a charity for fellow scooter riders suffering after Hurricane Katrina. He is also active lobbying the New York City government for designated parking for scooters and motorcycles, which frequently get knocked over when competing with cars for legal parking.
Heller says he got into scooters after traveling in
"It was go anywhere, park anywhere, wind in your hair," he says.
For others, the scooter is a cheap transportation solution. But most riders agree on the chief appeal.
"At the end of the day, it's just fun riding a scooter around a city," said Jonathan Faulhaber, who attends the New York Scooter Club meetings.