|From: Arts and =
Sunday, May 28, 2000
don't want a ticket to ride
By ISAAC GUZMAN
ost people grouse when they get a =
ticket. Bob Armstrong decided to run for office.
Armstrong, 55, is one of a growing number of zippy =
view motorized scooters such as the California Go-Ped, Huffy =
and Viza Viper as their preferred method of city =
They hustle around town on their souped-up skateboards, =
surly cabbies, annoyed pedestrians, and most alarmingly, the =
Yet they think of themselves not as scooting scofflaws but =
the Road: Bob Armstrong is in cruise control.=20
In September 1998, just blocks from his Peck Slip =
overlooking the Fulton fish market, Armstrong was issued a =
and had his Phantom scooter seized by a cop who told him he =
"nonconforming" vehicle that wasn't street legal. His ticket =
riding an unlicensed vehicle was later dismissed, but =
tried to scoot away before his ride could be impounded, =
was convicted of failing to comply with a peace officer, a=20
Since that time, he has written almost a dozen letters =
e-mails to city officials, trying to clarify what he calls =
"regulatory limbo" of motorized scooters. His frustration =
situation, as well as what he feels was the rude attitude of =
arresting officer, inspired him to bypass City Hall =
head straight for Washington.
Now Armstrong is a Libertarian candidate for Congress, =
against Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan). If elected, he =
to work for a flat-rate income tax, abolition of the war on =
and privatization of Social Security. Of course, he also =
more respect for his favorite form of transportation.
"I think that I'll set the tone and some rational =
come," he says of his hopes for a scooter detente. "People =
looking for alternative modes of urban transportation and as =
motor boards [Armstrong's word of choice for the scooters] =
they're going to become more and more practical."
In the last five years, motorized scooters have blossomed =
Manhattan. Featured in fashion spreads as the ultimate =
the jet set, the high-test scooters have found followers =
Village scenesters, yuppies and graying urbanites.
Weighing in at 40 pounds or less apiece, the new =
motorized scooters can be folded up and toted into the =
then lugged with little effort up the stairs of a =
walkup. Although the scooters are small, they are relatively =
with the fanciest models, such as the Viza Cruze, hitting =
Armstrong says his scooter helps him get to the market =
gallery openings because of a bum leg that he has had since =
rock-climbing accident in 1972.
The baby version of the scooter is the nonmotorized Viza =
which is nothing more than a shiny new scooter updated for =
millennium with flashy chrome and caliper brakes. The Razor =
other push scooters have become so popular with the teen and =
collegiate set that the stores and catalogues that carry =
struggling to keep them in stock.
The problem for most riders is that it's illegal to drive =
motorized scooter on public streets. A bored traffic cop can =
scooterist back more than $500 in fines, impound the machine =
because the vehicle is almost certainly uninsured =97 have =
his or her=20
driver's license suspended for a year.
A recent court case "found that these vehicles are motor=20
vehicles, but they are not registerable," says Ken Brown, =
for the Department of Motor Vehicles. "The reason is that =
not meet the basic safety requirements of the state."
Dealers who sell the scooters (for between $500 and $850) =
tell their customers that they run the risk of stiff fines =
"It's on my sales slip that it's an off-road vehicle," =
Anthony Pepe Jr., who runs Phantom Sports. "I tell them if =
downtown, you're all right. If you go uptown, you're all =
in midtown, they'll get you. I won't even sell them to the=20
messengers who come in."
Pepe should know about getting nabbed. He has been =
by police for riding his scooter. Both times he lost his =
license for a year because he was operating a motor vehicle =
insurance. He also was fined several hundred dollars.
Even though his customers know they probably are going to =
breaking the law if they buy a motorized scooter, they don't =
"I've been doing it since 1989 and if that was a problem, =
out of business by now," Pepe says. "Everyone's being kind =
about it, though. People are stopping for stoplights. =
There's a lot=20
of other things to worry about than a kid riding a scooter =
Scooters have become popular with "the RV set" across the =
country, according to Bill Smith, vice president of sales at =
Bikes, which manufactures The Buzz scooter.
"Most municipalities treat them like bicycles," he says. =
definitely is a nebulous, gray area."
And the trend is sweeping the globe. It began in Japan =
Razor push scooter, and peaked about two months ago, Viza =
"They were like Pokemon over there," he says.
Like their motorized cousins in the States, the Razor and =
ran into trouble. Japanese officials passed new laws =
the prosecution of scooterists who so much as brushed =
leg of a pedestrian, Plato says.
Every week, he says he hears of new rules that limit the =
of motorized scooters.
"Some say you have to be 16, some 18. Some [say] you have =
be 8 years old," Plato says. "Some restrict riders to side =
There is no end to the amount of regulations around the=20
But for New York scooterists, the only hope is that =
efforts may open up a dialogue on legalizing the =
"It's not as crazy as the Rollerbladers," Armstrong says. =
as safe as a bicycle. The government makes peace with all =
other modes of transportation, so I think this is not=20
For those willing to throw caution =97 and your hair =
=97 to the=20
wind, there are a number of options in the motorized scooter =
department. And whether you choose a Buzz or a Zappy, you =
pretend you are Peter Fonda, riding easy, without having to =
leather-jacketed biker gang.
Top Speed: 22 mph
Engine: 1.7 horsepower, =
Available at Phantom Sports, 245 E. 111th St.,=20
Top speed: 18 =
Available at Basic Wheels, =
Hester St., Manhattan.
Top Speed: 14 mph
at The Sharper Image.
Top speed: 15 =
Available at http://www.getabuzz.com/.
Top speed: 12 mph
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