Scooter Sales Getting a Lift From High Gas Prices

A growing number of Connecticut drivers are hitting the road on gas-friendly scooters, saving money while taking in the sights on their daily commutes.

About 115,000 new scooters were sold nationwide in 2006, a significant jump from the approximately 50,000 sold in 2001, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council.

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Several Connecticut commuters and dealers say drivers here are part of that growth as gasoline prices and commuting times have increased.

"This is a very economical, comfortable machine," said Waterbury resident Richard Morris, 52, who commutes 22 miles each way by scooter to his job at Yale University's School of Nursing in New Haven.

He estimates that his 151cc TGB Sunset, which gets about 75 miles per gallon, costs him less than one dollar in fuel each way.

No firm figures are available on the number of scooters in Connecticut, since most are classified under the same category as certain small-engine mopeds that do not require state registration or a driver's license to operate.

Scooters with engines over 49cc's are considered motorcycles, requiring both.

The scooters, which range from about $2,000 to $6,000 each, can get from 65 to 100 miles per gallon depending on vehicle size and driving style.

"We've seen a pretty sharp increase. Commuters are my best customers," said Doug Day, who sold 250 new scooters and 50 used models in 2006 from his Vespa Hartford and Scooter Centrale showroom in Plainville.

Day calls scooters the "stepchildren of motorcycles" to many, and believes the state should start offering scooter safety classes in addition to the motorcycle safety courses already offered.

The state Department of Transportation considers scooter commutes a matter of individual choice that should be based on practical and safety considerations, spokesman Judd Everhart said.

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