As most of you who actually read this site know, I've been
driving riding to work on a scooter.
I just added a shiny topcase, which is cool -- I can store my helmet in there and it carries my laptop bag on the way to work so I don't have to backpack-style it.
Like anything, there are some pros and cons:
- FUN! I get to work every day grinning. It turns something fairly mundane or even stressful (commuting) into something exciting and engaging.
- Financial. The scooter was $2,400 brand new, with a nice warranty. (By the time I got helmeted, (plus one for Amber) topcased, jacketed, taxes on everything, license, doc fees, motorcycle safety course, driver's license upgrade, etc -- still less than $4,000 all told.) That's not a lot of car payments on a "real" car. It gets 85MPG. (Sorry, Prius.) It's pretty simple, mechanically, so for the most part I can take care of it and repair it myself.
- Environmental. See above. It just makes more logical sense to use about 250 lbs of machine to move about 200 lbs of person, instead of 4500 lbs of machine to do the same.
- Time Saving. I save time because of 2 things: Traffic avoidance. I can pretty safely cruise up between rows of stopped cars at a light, and because this thing is so lightweight, it pops off the line like a Porsche. So I can do what would be a 35 minute drive for a car (tested) in 15 minutes. Parking. This is the secret factor. I used to take the freeway to work, but then park on the 4th floor of a parking structure quite a ways from my office, that I had to wait at a ticket booth to get into. I added, typically, 5 minutes to my drive time -- but I cut 12 minutes off my parking time because I can squeeze in literally AT the front door. It also makes it GREAT for running out to lunch. Today I left, ordered, got my food, and was on my way back before people who left the same time as I did had even arrived at the spot.
- Really being where you are. When you're in a car and driving through places, it's pretty much like watching it on TV. Your car smells like it does, you even have your own soundtrack, the only wind is coming from your vents, the air's a perfect 72 degrees, or whatever you choose -- a rolling living room. I feel the air get colder when I roll under a bridge. I smell the restaurants on the block. (And, to be honest, the garbage trucks too, but it's still real.) I hear the sounds around me as I roll to a stop. Every sense is engaged, and that's surprisingly enjoyable.
- No audio. It wouldn't be safe (at least in my opinion) to rock the headphones while riding -- I rely on audio cues for a lot of my 3d sense of what's going on around me. I also practice the "SEE" idea that they talked about at the motorcycle safety course I took -- "Search, Evaluate, Execute." I like focusing my whole mind on what's going on around me -- what every driver is going to do next, what the contours of the road are like, what my lines are if this guy over here hasn't seen me and is going to pull out -- and so on. In a very real sense my life depends on it. (Incidentally, so far, nobody's done anything stupid while I'm riding. I kind of wish they would more often so I had practice dealing with it.) It reminds me a lot of a common technique in meditation or yoga -- where you focus the mind on your breathing to help you quiet down the chatter of your mind. I really enjoy having that stillness now, where the only things going on are the mindful being right there.
- No audio. All that being said, I do miss catching up on podcasts, and the 'drive time' was about the only time I did that any more. (That, and doing chores around the house. Wait a minute, I can listen to podcasts AND make my wife happy at the same time! I think I'm on to something here.....)
- Weather. This one hasn't bitten me yet, but the scooter is distinctly not air conditioned. We had one random 90+ day here and waiting at lights was un-fun. (However, you do a lot less waiting, so that works out ok.) When you're moving, it still feels great. I'm also pretty sure that riding in a rainstorm would stink. Staying dry is harder I rely a lot more on road surface traction for cornering than a car does.
- Increased risk, no doubt. However, looking over the stats on crashes, I've decreased my risk quite a bit. I Always wear a helmet Don't ride after drinking Took a motorcycle safety course where I practiced emergency evasion Don't go on the freeway If my math is right, I'm statistically about as safe as a car driver now! Honestly, as long as you're paying attention, it'd seem that bikes have a decreased risk of being in a crash. The factors are: people are coded to look for cars, so they're less likely to see you. However, you're small, and you stop/accelerate/swerve fast, so you can avoid a lot of accidents that would normally be inevitable for cars. Again, the key is paying attention. The problem is if you don't avoid one it's probably going to hurt.
Also, I am fully aware of how ironic it would be if something really bad happened after I wrote this post. Therefore, I am attempting to defuse the inherent potential irony by stating -- yes, I know, it'd be ironic. (Let's hope that works.)