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Scooters gaining in popularity

July 28, 2003|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

People fed up with escalating gas or car prices seem to be turning to the same transportation fix-it as people with disabilities or no driver's license.

More and more, people in and around the city are traveling local roads on motorized scooters.

This spring, Hagerstown resident Merle "Peanuts" Dobson became one of the many to join in what has become one of the year's big trends.

"Since April, I done seen scooters multiply all over town," Dobson said. "I see them everyplace."

Like Dobson, longtime city resident John Kelly joined the growing number of scooter owners just two weeks ago because of the convenience motor scooters provide.

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"It's easier to get around on one of these than in a car," Kelley said.

Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration guidelines say people operating motor scooters, generally characterized as having a motor with less than a 50 cubic centimeter piston displacement, must have a license or permit. If the operator does not have a driver's license, he or she must obtain a moped operator's permit, according to MVA guidelines.

Also, an operator must register the scooter with the MVA but does not have to mount registration tags on the bike, according to guidelines.

Operators do have some restrictions on roads they can use. For example, scooters cannot be taken on Interstate 81 because of the speed of the traffic, but they are allowed on local roads such as U.S. 11, according to an MVA spokeswoman.

MVA's Sharon Wicker said the department has received few complaints about scooter operators, especially when compared to the number of unlicensed motorcycle riders authorities are discovering.

Police spokesmen from the Hagerstown Police Department, Washington County Sheriff's Department and the Hagerstown barracks of the Maryland State Police said their departments were having little or no problems with scooter riders in and around the city.

Dobson, who purchased the used Honda for about $1,250, said the scooter has made it easier for him to get around downtown Hagerstown. Dobson said an arthritic condition in his knees hampered him from getting around through more conventional means and made him reliant on others.

Dobson said his scooter's mileage, about 70 miles per gallon of gasoline, takes him a long way.

Kelley echoed the sentiment.

"It's a lot cheaper on gas than a car," Kelley said. "I can run it two weeks on one tank."

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