|Growing up an all-American girl in the seventies, there were two things I desperately needed to make my life complete: a tube top and a push scooter. Both were verboten by my parents. (Dad nixed the tube top as "too mature," and Mom, so paranoid about stitches I'm lucky I learned to walk on two legs, shut down the scooter). |
Sadly, by the time I took charge of my own trend destiny in the mid-eighties, both tube tops and scooters were so passe even Appalachian kids were donating them to Goodwill. Big hair and skateboards were the New Wave thing, so I gave up my pre-pubescent wants in favor of Aqua Net and boyfriends who rode half-pipes.
But thanks to the recent trend-recycling mania, I've been given a second chance to satisfy my Carter-era dreams. It's the year 2000, disco fever has made tube tops a summer wardrobe staple, and in cities, airports and parking lots around the world, a whole new breed of street scooters is the hottest thing to hit the pavement since the 10-speed. Who says you can't be a kid forever?
While scooters have been around in one form or another since the forties, the new generation of this vehicle goes far beyond the roller-skates-and-milk-carton devices of yore. Today's scooters, built of high-tech materials in streamlined designs, are much easier to maneuver and actually stop. What's more, they come in a wide variety of styles to suit riders of all ages and needs. Whether you want a simple push scooter that'll give you a light work out as you glide around school or town, or something powered by electricity, you'll find so many scooter styles it'll be hard to pick just one.
Scooters have caught on in communities large and small, but they're by far the most popular in congested urban areas and places where folks spend their days making several short-distance trips. Scooters can save busy people several hours of travel time each week. Walking a half-mile takes an average of 10 minutes. But the same trip on a push or kick scoot only takes three. Bikes may be slightly faster than scooters, but they're a pain to lug in and out of buildings, often aren't allowed on public transit and cause you to waste time locking and unlocking them when you park. Factor in these inconveniences and the scooter's the hands-down time saver.
DON'T TRY ANY RAMP TRICKS IN THAT TUBE TOP
These no-pollution toys for grown-ups are also a huge hit with the environmentally conscious and those who want to use public transit but don't have easy access to stations. Weighing in at less than 10 pounds, most scooters fold up and can be tucked under your arm on trains or buses or in office buildings. When folded, scooters are about the size of a lap top, and because they aren't gas-powered, riders are free to take them on planes as carry-on luggage.
Practical considerations aside, the best reason to own a scooter is still the same as it was in the sixties and seventies: damned good fun. Just cruising along with the breeze in your hair is enough to get you hooked. For the more adventurous (and those not worried about scrubbing in their business attire), there's also a growing repertoire of scooter tricks to be attempted (and possibly mastered). All modern scooters are capable of handling bumps, small obstacles and jumps, so there's no excuse not to get creative. And the good news... scooters are much easier to handle than skateboards. So even if you wiped out trying to "ollie" in junior high, you've got a chance to redeem yourself on a scoot with much less risk to limbs and dignity.
Bearing the most resemblance to the scooters of yesterday are push scooters, simple two-or three-wheeled scoots that are perfect for sidewalks, pavement or whatever terrain you're brave enough to take on.
Among the most popular push scooters are the Xootr (pronounced 'zooter'), the Sharper Image best-selling Razor Rollerboard Scooter and the Kick Inline Scooter. Depending on the model, scooters have two or three wheels, a rear friction or compression foot brake and an adjustable steering column, and come in a choice of tempting colors like Tree-Frog Green and Flaming Yellow. Not only are these things cool, they're cheap: you can get a basic set up for between $99 and $250 (about what you'd pay for a month's worth of gas in the states). As long as you're reasonably coordinated and weigh less than 250 pounds, you can just step on, give a push and be off!
Electric scooters are the Rolls Royces of the personal transportation world. Reaching top speeds of between 10 and 30 miles per hour, electric scooters are a great alternative to push varieties for those who live in hilly areas or are just flat-out lazy. A vast improvement on the lawn-mower scooters kids used to build in garages, today's models run on electric batteries that can be recharged at home.
Power scooters are heavier than their man-powered counterparts, weighing in at an average of 35 pounds., but can be pulled along by their wheels and are still small enough to be carried on public transit. Most will travel up to seven miles on a single charge, making them a great option for running errands or facilitating a public transit commute.
Current favorites in the power scooter scene are the Zappy, the Phat Phantom and the Hoverboard. Depending on the bells and whistles, these bad boys will run you between $500 and $1200 - probably worth it if you want to get around without working up a sweat.
What makes scooters even sweeter is the fact that they're legal in almost every country that's bothered to acknowledge them as a mode of transportation. There are certain regulations and registration procedures that have to be followed in some locales, so do your best to find out what the story is in your area before taking to the streets. Check out U.S. state laws at http://www.legalonline.com/statute2.htm. Information on United Kingdom regulations is available at http://www.go.to/ukgoped. And avoid nasty run-ins with the fuzz by having up-to-date legal info delivered to your inbox regularly by the Zappy legal mailing list at http://www.egroups.com/group/zappy/fullinfo.html.
So stop fighting for parking at the rail station and running marathons through airport hubs. Invest the cost of a few tanks of gas in a Xootr or Zappy and know the satisfaction of ruling your own transportation destiny. The planet and your sanity will thank you.
Just don't try any ramp tricks in that tube top...