Many optimistic, risk taking souls are surprised to learn that California requires all scooter and motorcycle drivers with vehicles 49cc and higher to obtain a special license. The motorcycle handbook calls the vehicles with smaller than 150cc engines “motor driven cycles”, but still requires a full M1 endorsement for their legal operation. This regulation may seem unnecessarily strict to some, several of the misconceptions behind that belief are simply not true.
- Less skills are needed when driving slowly. – While it might seem like it would be easier to avoid accidents when you are hardly moving faster than a bicycle, the opposite is actually true when on a scooter. Smaller scooters have smaller wheels which have less surface to surface contact with the street and are more likely to react squirrelly if the driver becomes flustered. Smaller scooters often don’t have the option to speed up to get out of the way and they also may have weak braking systems not designed for abrupt stops.
- You can’t get hurt that badly at slow speeds. – No matter what speed you are driving and which part of the lane you choose to cruise in, anytime you drive a scooter, you are at risk of getting hit by a car. Furthermore, a simple spill at 25mph could severely scrape your skin and jostle your head. Scooterists need the same layers of protective gear as any motorcyclist on the road.
- I can stay out of harm’s way by using the bike lane. – I regret to inform you that the bike lane is one of the least visible spots on the road. By driving on the right shoulder, you place yourself far away from the oncoming traffic’s view and directly in line with any hastily opened doors from parallel parked cars. Driving in the bike lane gives you a much smaller radius of personal space on the road and increases the risk you won’t be seen.
- People will drive safe because they don’t want to get hurt. – Sadly, history has proven that humans are rebellious and will exploit certain freedoms if given the chance. In Indiana, where it is still legal to drive a 50cc scooter without a license of any kind, many citizens whose licenses have been suspended for DUI are taking up two-wheeling and dragging the scooter culture’s reputation through the mud.