My second day on the scooter I was a little too sure of myself.

My other bike, after all, is an aging V-twin 750cc Yamaha Virago (currently in need of repairs I can't afford) so how mean could a little 150cc scoot be? I twisted the throttle too fast in a parking lot and learned in an instant that my new eco-friendly ride has more pep than I realized, and doesn't turn as tightly as a motorcycle. Zooming right toward a parked car - a nice one - I had to drop the bike intentionally to avoid hitting it.

Both my new bike and my old ego emerged bruised, but luckily no serious injury to either.

To American motorists accustomed to the relative safety of gigantic SUVs and sedans, scootering is a dangerous proposition: The money you save on gas, maintenance, purchase price and insurance can dissipate in an instant with one bad move - yours, the other guy's or an act of Goddess.

Nonetheless, a surge in scooter sales is providing unprecedented mobility for hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged people in a socio-economic landscape where mass transit availability is shrinking, fares are rising and where the price of private vehicles and vehicle insurance is prohibitive to an enormous and growing population bloc.

Scooters of 50ccs or less require no licences to operate in states like North Carolina so these "liquorcycles" are the vehicle of choice for people who have lost their driving privileges due to alcohol-related infractions. Without this option, countless workers would lose their employment along with their licenses, so scooters provide an important service to our economy by helping people stay on the job.

These scoots generally top out around 35-40mph, get 100mpg, have 10" or 12" tires and cost about a grand. Big guys look silly on them but hey, you keep smirking while they keep working.

Bigger scooters like my Chinese-made, internet-purchased 150cc ITA are a whole 'nother smoke. With 16" tires they sit higher than many motorcycles. They still get awesome gas mileage - up to 90mpg, and zip along at up to 65mph. You can spend anywhere from $1500 to $4000 on these license- registration- and insurance-required vehicles, depending on brand, dealer and quality. I got mine from for $1200 and enjoyed free shipping by picking the bike up myself at the freight terminal.

The math here is rather profound:

Someone who clears about $10 an hour can own brand new highway-speed transportation for the equivalent of three weeks' full-time work. Never before in our history has this been possible, hence the rise of the malevolent vehicle financing industry which has been so brutally efficient at keeping working people permanently in debt to corporate elites and therefore less empowered - economically and politically - for life.

No monthly payment coupled with little or no insurance costs means more money for frivolous things like groceries and electricity.

Energy pundits have listed reduced demand as at least part of the reason U.S. gasoline prices dropped from over $4 per gallon to around $2. Some of that reduction in demand can be attributed to scooters and motorcycles replacing cars on the road. Carbon emissions wafting upward from our imperial turf is also reduced accordingly - and hybrid scooters are already on the way.

As with so many items in today's economy, most scooters - especially the affordable ones within reach of the lower class - come from China. Whatever negative consequences the enormous trade imbalance with China poses, the economic effect of every well-ridden scooter we import from them is positive: Each one represents an American who has more disposable income to spread around. Put another way, a typical worker clearing $20,000 per year might have $150 per week to spend after hard living expenses but before gas and insurance. A car could easily eat up half of that leaving only $75 per week in discretionary, economic pump-priming funds. The scooter gal in the same $20,000-per year boat puts only $25 into weekly transportation and therefor has $125 in discretionary funds, $50 more per week to save for her future or save the economy. That's $2500 more per year than the car guy - an eighth of an annual $20,000 wage.

Multiply that by thousands of scooterists and you have the makings of an empowerment revolution coupled with a key ingredient in the recipe for economic recovery.

This is the first of a series of articles that will look into the personal, practical and political effects of scootering and especially how it relates to the lives of progressive Americans and the overall progressive movement.

Readers, please email your scootering experiences and opinions to

Give a hoot - ride a scoot!