Be a Safe Scooter Commuter this Fall
You don’t have to hop on a big, heavy motorcycle to enjoy the mild autumn weather on two wheels. With the brisk breeze on your face and the views of the changing leaves, cruising on a the back of a scooter is a great way to welcome fall as an urban commuter.
It makes sense economically, too — these two-wheeled vehicles are gas efficient. You can get about 60-100 miles per gallon of gas, depending on your bike, according to Consumer Reports. Whether you’re sporting a 50cc or a 250cc engine, here are some tips to help you enjoy your fall season, in the seat of a scooter.
Sport a Safe Helmet
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway safety (IIHS), helmet laws vary from state to state and range from no law, to laws covering particular segments of riders, to universal helmet laws, and can also vary based on the size and power of the scooter’s engine. If you are required, or choose to wear a helmet while riding, make sure it meets federal standards.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) requires that all motorcycle helmets sold in the U.S. meet federal motor vehicle safety standards. To be sure your helmet is up to safety snuff, inspect the helmet for the manufacturer’s labels, an inner foam liner that is at least one inch thick, and sturdy chin straps and solid rivets. Be sure to try it on pre-purchase — it should fit snugly, according to Consumer Reports. And since you’re scooting in the fall season, a full-face design may be the best option for weather protection. Helmets aren’t a one-time buy. They should be replaced after two to four years because the material degrades, or sooner, if it’s dropped or suffers impact, according to Consumer Reports.
Wear Protective Clothing
Even a small fall on a scooter can cause road rash, which is why it’s important to protect yourself with proper clothing. Think leather or a sturdy jacket, gloves, full pants, a helmet with a face shield and secure footwear. Look into specialty jackets that provide protection without causing you to overheat. Some clothing options also have reflectors built in, which will increase the likelihood of other drivers seeing you.
Check Your State’s Rules
According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), states are free to regulate the use of scooters and may use their own terms when describing vehicle types for the purpose of their regulations. Some examples include: In Washington, D.C., you’ll need a motorcycle’s license regardless of the power of the vehicle. But in Maryland and Virginia, you just need a driver’s license for an under-50cc scooter.
Besides licensing, be sure to look into your state’s road rules and regulations. In California, your scooter has to be at least 150cc to ride on the freeways, according to Kelley Blue Book. Learn the rules and terms near you before you hop on your scooter and take it for a spin.
Lock Your Ride
Like any bike, if it’s not locked up properly, it can be stolen. According to Bicycling magazine, it’s wise to invest in a chain or a U-lock for locking up your scooter. These types of locks provide the best combination of security, flexibility and portability, Bicycling says. Pass the lock through the frame and then attach it to an immovable object, like a lamppost or bike rack.
Be Sure You’re Insured
Insurance for your two-wheeler is mandatory, says insurance.com, but the coverage may vary based on the state in which you reside. Most of the time, if you’re scooting around in 50cc’s or less, you’ll typically require less coverage than a larger engine, which may necessitate motorcycle insurance. Check with your car insurance provider to see if you can bundle and save. Taking a scooter course could also help you save on your monthly bill.
Ride, Weather Permitting
Riding in the crisp fall weather can be enjoyable, but remember, it’s always chillier once you get rolling. To avoid weather hang-ups — like black ice, wind burn and rain — be sure your scooter tires have plenty of tread, and invest in a windshield to block the chilly gusts. Ride defensively all the time and especially when the weather’s poor. Scan the road, be aware of blind spots and check your rear view mirror often.
Whether you’re riding to work or to school on a scooter, it’s a lot easier to find parking in busy areas, like downtown or on-campus, according to Kelley Blue Book. Another perk? Parking permits or on-campus stickers are typically cheaper for a scooter than for a car. And think of the money you save in gas every day; it adds up fast when the national average is $3.50 per gallon.
Commuting on a scooter can be fun, especially once you’ve mastered how to ride safely. Hop on and enjoy the ride.