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Bikesure is taking a three-part look at the alternative motorbike scene in the USA. Here’s part one – Americans ride scooters too. Who knew?
Historically, America hasn’t been hugely convinced by scooters. Cheap petrol and the vast distances between cities helped cement the popularity of giant cars and bikes with the turning circle of a cow glued to an iceberg, and there was always the sneaking suspicion that small vehicles with good fuel economy were one of the ways commies dilute the purity of your precious bodily fluids.
That said, there have always been pockets of scooter fans, usually to be found in the larger cities where they make sense as nippy, easy-to-park runabouts. These groups reflect the style and energy of their home cities, with each having a quality that could only ever really occur in that place.
New York, with its sensory overload approach to life, has several thriving communities of scooterists, including the Italian lifestyle connoisseurs of the Vespa Club of NYC or I Scoot NY, which attracts a more Anglophile/Mod crowd.
Further down the coast in tech-savvy San Francisco, it should come as no surprise that a start up is using scooters to disrupt the urban traffic paradigm. Scoot is basically Boris Bikes with electric scooters. As they are rated as less powerful than a 50cc engine and the rentals are for less than 48 hours, you don’t need a licence to use them. Simply book one via an app, which directs you to the closest garage as well as tracking you to make sure you don’t nick it. It’s a very neat solution to transport for a city with a large population and an interesting transport infrastructure. Whether it would work anywhere other than San Francisco is debatable, relying as it does on the vagaries of local laws, but it’s possible that in a few years renting electric scooters could become a common sight in more places.
One of the less likely strongholds of American scooterdom is Texas. While you might think anybody willingly riding a scooter would be escorted to the state border at gunpoint, there’s a surprisingly high proportion of active scooter clubs there. From the Ready Steady Gos and Blue Meanies in Dallas, the United Scooter Riders in Houston and the Austin Scooter Club in, er… *rustles papers*… somewhere, the Lone Star State turns out to be something of a stronghold of scooters and scooter fans. The Austin scooter club even organises an annual Clint Eastwood themed rally.
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