The motorcycle diatribes #3: Scooters.

Where to begin?

Scooters are great for central London traffic.  Small size and agility means they can dart through traffic.  Fuel economy is superb.  Up to 30-40mph — about as fast as you really need to go in London — they are perfect for commuting and getting around.  I owned one.

There are several things that perplex me about scooter drivers.

1.  Why do they think motorcycles are racing them?

We’re not.  We have better things to do.  The only time we lower ourselves to actually thinking you are worthy of notice is when there is open road ahead and you seem to think a 50cc Vespa can actually out accelerate a 675cc Triumph, when a bit of juvenile pique does occasionally demand an actual demonstration of performance superiority. 

The only reason scooters may believe this is possible is when the driver of the 675cc Triumph isn’t actually racing the scooter as its driver pushes it to the redline; meanwhile, the Triumph is toodling along at under 4,000 revs wondering what that awful noise is…

2.  Why do they insist on cutting in front of motorcycles?

I have never been cut in front of by a proper motorcycle.  Ever.  Yet on a daily basis scooters, seem to think that if there is a 2″ gap between the car and the cycle they should go for it.  I don’t give a shit if they want to get where they are going faster than I want to, but don’t make me hit my brakes or steer to avoid killing you and totalling your dashingly fashionable vintage Piaggio.

The fact is, the only reason you “zip in front” is because you are unsafe, incredibly lucky, and apparently immortal.  Your slow control is generally terrible, arms flapping and feet dragging along the ground while we look on in disgust, horror and not a little pity.

3.  Those ones with two front wheels, or the ring around them.

Just go home and hide under your bed.  It’s much safer there.

4.  Their attire.

An accident between a motorcycle and a car on tarmac at 20-40 mph is never a pretty thing.  You lose 1″ of flesh for each 10m you skid, not to mention impact damage.  So motorcyclists tend to wear a fair amount of body armour.

An accident between a scooter and a car on tarmac at 20-40 mph must be completely different, defying the laws of physics.  Magically, when a scooter has the exact same accident as a motorcycle, the scooter rider is gently lowered by invisible angels who provide a cushion against impact and abrasion.  That’s why people on scooters (most of them with Spanish or Italian plates) dress like they are in a 1950s Sophia Lauren movie.  It’s very glamorous.  It’s also why the majority of serious injuries in auto-motorcycle accidents are from bikes with displacement under 125cc.  That is, yes, scooters.

Put some clothes on, people.


At the end of the day, as with pedal cyclists, a lot of scooter riders are absolutely fine.  But why is it that while 90% of pedal cyclists are responsible, courteous, decent human beings, I’d estimate only about 25% of scooter drivers fit into the same category.  Is it a sense of inferiority driving them to act out, proving that although theirs is smaller, they can get there first?  Do you have something to prove?

Because I’m just trying to stay away from cars, buses and white vans and get to work in the morning.

ADDENDUM – 20 August 2008

With the exeption of the madman … and his pillion … on the Old Kent Road heading to Elephant & Castle the other morning on one of those 500cc Peugeots.  Hats off; total control and larger cojones than any motorcycle on the road that day.


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