Scooting along

Published 5:00 pm Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The last time Lora Lunsford filled up with gas was a month ago — and she’s still got a fourth of a tank left.

With gas prices hovering around $4 a gallon, Lunsford is one of a lucky few that don’t worry much about how gas fits into their budgets.

She bought her silver Schwinn motor scooter about six months ago for motoring around Helena, and she can’t imagine life without it now.

“I live close to my work, and I don’t travel that much outside of Helena,” she said. “I love it because I get close to 75 miles per gallon.”

Lunsford’s other vehicle, a Nissan Xterra, gets 24 miles to the gallon. She would like to invest in a scooter that’s in between her two rides, though.

“What I have right now is a small one,” she said. “I would love to be able to get a bigger one, so I could throw someone on the back and take them with me. I really think we’re going to be seeing a lot more scooters on the road.”

Joseph Habshey agrees with Lunsford on that. In fact, he said he wishes everyone owned a scooter.

“I’d much rather ride it than an automobile,” he said. “If everyone had one, you wouldn’t have to worry about cars hitting you.”

Habshey has had his Aprilia for two and a half years. He bought two of them on a whim, one for him and one for his girlfriend. Now, though, his investment is bringing serious returns.

“Now I ride it all the time because of gas prices,” he said. “That thing is nice. You can cross the country on it. It’s built for the freeway.”

He said he has driven to Nashville before on his scooter, which gets 65 miles to the gallon. Meanwhile, his other cars get about 22 miles to the gallon.

Lunsford’s scooter is a smaller version and isn’t made for interstate driving. She said she’s taken it on Highway 31 but would want a bigger one before she tried the interstate.

Safety isn’t an issue on scooters as long as riders keep their eyes open.

“You really have to be more cautious and pay attention to what’s going on around you,” she said. “You have to watch that other driver. I don’t usually drive it at night.”

Helena Police Capt. Tim Carter said he’s noticed more scooters zipping around town but hasn’t seen a rise in accidents involving them. He cautioned that riders should be aware of their surroundings and know how to handle their vehicles.

“One of the problems we have with people going out and buying a motorcycle or scooters as their main mode of transportation is that the majority of the public don’t have experience driving those and it’s easy to make mistakes,” he said.

Demand for scooters is higher than ever, said Pelham Powersports manager Jack Rayman.

“The increase for scooters is up 100 percent compared to a year ago,” he said. “We’ve sold more than double what we sold last year.”

The reason for that, he said? Gas prices.