Scooting your booty

Yuppie businessmen, students, children and senior citizens are all literally jumping aboard the latest craze. The newest form of commuting, exercising and all-around fun to hit the streets are scooters.

Scooters are not a new fad. They were first popular in Germany in the 1800s and then revived in the United States in the 1950s. But today’s high-tech, lightweight and collapsible scooters are different from their predecessors.

The are more than a dozen brands of scooters on the market – each brand supporting a variety of models – but Razor scooters are the most popular brand being sold across the country. Some scooters have motors and others are propelled by the rider. When not in use, the scooters are foldable for easy storage and weigh about six pounds. These high-tech scooters also come with options for shock-absorbers, lights and specialized brakes. Scooters can cost anywhere from $100 to $600 depending on the brand and any added features. Most models can hold up to 250 pounds and travel at speeds of five to six miles per hour.

The scooter trend hit New York City several months ago and is picking up in the District. Brian Smith, manager of the Bicycle Pro Shop in Georgetown, said the store sells about two scooters a day. A mix of people are purchasing the scooters, including businessmen hoping to ease their commute and parents buying a high-tech toy for their kids.

In the city they are more feasible so I can see how the fad has caught on, Smith said. Outside the city they are not so practical, but like hula hoops the fad will end.

Revolution Cycles, located on 34th and M streets in Georgetown, sells about 12 scooters a week to a mixed clientele of working professionals, young adults and children, said Mike Handforth, a sales associate at the store. Handforth said he believes the trend will last until next summer.

It’s the cool thing because it is an easy way to get around without traffic, Handforth said.

Arlington resident Betty Rice has been using her scooter for the past month to commute to work in the District. Before getting her scooter, Rice said she walked thirty minutes to work. But now she gets there in half the time while getting a daily workout.

I first heard of scooters by reading an article in a magazine about how they were the big thing in New York City, Rice said. I knew I wanted one but told myself I wouldn’t get one until I saw one other person riding one in D.C. The first day I saw someone in D.C. riding one I ran out to Sports Authority and bought one and I haven’t walked to work since.

Rice’s only complaints about the scooter are that she cannot use it in the rainy weather and that some of her office friends made fun of her when she first showed up to work on it. But Rice said she will continue to use her scooter until she no longer can.

Some other District residents who opt for more conventional forms of commuting such as driving, bicycling or taking the bus or Metro are not so quick to pick up the latest fad. Kevin Connolly, a 48-year old D.C. resident said a scooter is not feasible for him.

Some people in my office use them, but I carry too much material with me to work that it just would not work, Connolly said.

Ann Gravery, a Georgetown resident, thinks the scooters are great but the path to her job is too hard and uneven. Energy is also a concern to Gravery, who said she would love to get one but is too tired at the end of the day to scooter home.

It is clear to see that commuters in the District are picking up the trend, but will students at GW embrace this fad?

Lisa Arnold, a 21-year-old senior says she hopes not. It is hard enough to walk on the sidewalks without avoiding people on scooters, she said.

People just look stupid on them, Arnold said. It reminds me of the movie Back to the Future.

Safety is a concern for anyone thinking of purchasing one. While no licenses, helmets or padding is required for scooter riding, Web sites of various scooter companies strongly advise the use of protective gear and common sense. They suggest that riders use the scooters on flat smooth surfaces with only one person per scooter and use proper attire, including sneakers, wrist guards, knee and elbow pads and helmets.

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