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Maybe you absolutely shouldn’t own a scooter

July 9, 2013
Chicken coop

Chicken coop (Wikimedia Commons)

When I was still in Portland working for the Census, I had to go to my supervisor’s Southeast home early on a Sunday morning to deliver some documents. As I locked the car door, I was struck by an unexpected, pervasive sound—the clucking of chickens. Lots and lots of chickens.

Hell, it sounded like I was in the middle of a damn poultry farm.

At the time, I didn’t really think about whether any of those chickens were friends of Colin, but I did say to myself, this is Portland, after all. A place on the cutting edge of urban agriculture, after all.

So, you’re now rolling your eyes and asking, what exactly does this have to do with scooters?

A lot, actually. I’ll explain after the jump.

Given all the really scary stuff happening with the industrial food supply (diseases, contamination, GMO, and so on), lots of folks have become interested in growing or raising their own food. Which I think is a good thing, and if you have a back yard or acreage to do that, more power to ya. All the New Urbanists sneering at the suburbs conveniently forget that one reason the little ticky-tacky boxes in the Levittowns of America came with back yards was to make vegetable gardens possible. Like the ones people had during WWII, aka “Victory Gardens.”

Backyard chickens are therefore quite popular these days. The idea of a daily supply of really fresh eggs just steps from your kitchen door is understandably appealing.

Just like the idea of owning a scooter might be.

But as this story on NBCNews.com points out, lots of people fail to consider just how much work raising and keeping chickens can be.

In fact, in a post on the blog Northwest Edible Life, Erica tells the tale of a friend who says she wants chickens but so far has not taken any steps toward acquiring them. Which Erica says is a good thing.

The friend has stated quite emphatically that she could never bring herself to cull the flock. And she doesn’t want to pay a $1,400+ annual feed bill for a chicken that is, among other things, taking up a city’s statutory chicken quota. Which in light of how hens can live for many (many) years past their productive laying time can get rather expensive.

Erica says it’s perfectly okay to think of your chickens as pets, but if you really need the eggs, or aim to make a living with your urban farm, from time to time it’s necessary to, uh, kill some of them.

I live in a small city surrounded by agriculture. Many is the story of people moving from the big city to the boonies who fail to understand that farming is smelly, noisy and in some cases, bloody. That steak or package of fryer parts in the grocery store was walking around a barnyard not so long ago. If you only have so much space, adding to the flock will become impossible. The failure to consider this is usually why people abandon urban farming.

A similar lack of consideration seems to occur in many scooter purchases. Yes, really. If you don’t believe me, just look at scooters for sale on Craigslist.

There was one recent ad where the seller seemed to think 10 (ten!!!) miles on a 5-year-old scooter was a selling point!

Of course, people like this make the lives of people like you and me so much easier, and the scooter hobby so much more affordable, at least in the short term.

If you were to ask these people why they bought the thing in the first place, some will say they saw Quadrophenia or Roman Holiday, or just got back from a vacation in Vietnam; others, who I believe are the majority, will tell you they wanted to save money on gas, maybe out of concern for the environment or a desire for a more sustainable lifestyle. Which is all well and good, but such savings cannot be realized if the bike just sits in the garage.

Then there are the retro/vintage fetishists who spend a ton of money for some vintage scooter without bothering to learn such details as how to shift gears. Or mix 2-stroke oil with gas (if they even know this is necessary).

I was motivated to start this here blog by the acute lack of information (and volumes of misinformation) about scooter ownership. Scooters are economical, everyday transportation for millions of people around the world. That could also be true in the U.S., if only people (most of whom carefully consider just about any other purchase) would sit down and think about it.

I am rather dismayed when someone makes a face when I tell them the first thing to do is take an MSF-approved basic rider course. This is an almost universal reaction, and I suppose it reflects many Americans’ antipathy toward education, but really, you can hurt yourself rather badly if you don’t learn how to deal with traffic, obstacles and the like. Even if you’ve been riding for a while, it’s never too late… I’ve known many longtime riders who took the BRC long after they started riding, and every single one said something along the lines of, I wish I’d done it sooner, I learned so much, I am a much more confident rider.

Then there’s the matter of what kind of scooter to get. That you’re going to need something more powerful than a 50cc scooter to ride on freeways may be obvious to you and me, but I’m shocked at how many people I’ve spoken with who don’t get this. But then, Americans are famous for buying things like 7-passenger SUVs even though they mostly drive them alone.

So I will say it again: Learn to ride, get endorsed (even if you don’t think you need to, because it’s almost inevitable for a new rider to eventually want something bigger and faster), think about how and where you plan to ride a scooter, and buy accordingly. Do all that, and your scooter ownership experience will be a long, happy one.

Especially if you can ride to the farmer’s market. Favicon

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One Comment
  1. July 12, 2013 6:19 am

    The hard realization of “life on the farm” escapes many people. We moved to the country for awhile and learned things we didn’t want to know! LOL

    As for scooter ownership, you got that right. Around here people drive down their drive ways in their cars to the mailbox. God forbid they had to “gear up” to ride a scooter to the grocery!

    Good article! Enjoyed it.

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