Scooter in Moncton

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The things to learn about for scooter riding are in many ways similar to riding a motorbike, I'm told. The old adage, "Drive like you're invisible -- because you are," quickly becomes evident. A friend of mine added that even when drivers see you, they all too quickly forget about you. Also, blatently evident. If you already ride a bicycle in traffic, at least you have probably already learned this.

In many ways, I find drivers in this city are tentative about scooters. It seems like they odn't quite know what to do about them. This is good and bad. First, they'll often back off when they have no reason to, which sometimes gives you and your underpowered little engine a chance to get into traffic, such as when changing lanes on a street where the speed limit is about the same as your speed limit. Other times, it's like they don't see you as a motor vehicle and decide they have the right of way, when clearly (at least in your mind) they don't. Defensive driving is a must on a scooter -- you don't have the power to push yourself out of danger.

Another big thing you learn very quickly is not to follow a car too closely. First off, you spend a lot more time in driver's blind spots, simply because you can. You have a much smaller profile, and are much narrower in rearview mirrors, too. The idea that a reasonable person won't suddenly jam on the brakes if someone is behind them goes away quickly. They honestly believe there is nobody there. But there is a more important reason. All of those pavement cracks and potholes that car tires straddle, or indeed are wide enough to drive over without sinking in, become huge for you, suddenly. The times on these scooters are small than those on motorbikes, and therefore can be eaten up very decisively and quickly. You really need to give youself time to react. The extra space you provide between yourself and the car in front of you can make the difference between a smooth ride and a ride where you damage the scooter, even if you do stay upright. You may not be driving at highway speed, but put the 200lbs of the scooter along with your own weight at 60 km/h and suddenly the momentum is there to do damage or make you lose control, depending on the rut you hit.

Conservation of energy used to be the thing of cyclists and dogfighters. Scooter riders can benefit from it, too. It takes some time to build up a good head of steam, so you tend to watch for other clues that traffic might slow down, so that you don't run right up and come to a complete stop. Back off a bit and ride up to that traffic light a little slower and you may be able to keep some of the speed you have rather than stopping.

Ah, the little things. There may be more that I have learned to take in as "common sense" already. But that's part of my point: These are not difficult to ride. Scooters are, in fact, pretty damn easy if you keep some of these basics in mind. No gears to change, no clutch. Just twist'n'go.


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