Monday, January 22, 2018

Free Parking

There is a movement across the United States to allow motorcycles to lane split or filter in traffic. California is the only state that allows motorcycles to pass between cars in slow traffic though some other states are looking into it, notably Arizona. Lane splitting is the norm in the rest of the world and is one reason motorcycles make so much sense in modern congested traffic.
In the US the main reason to ride is to have fun because motorcycles are dangerous and danger is to be avoided at all costs lest we feel alive for a few short moments during a commute usually carried out by tin can with hot coffee, telephone and music available to deaden the boredom. Key West, small flat and located in a warm climate year round makes for ideal two wheeled commuting especially as it's a town with limited street parking. Enter the scooter,
Motorcycle parking on the streets is abundant and free, furthermore you can share parking spaces if you trust the car driver, though any vehicle in a car space not paid for will get a parking ticket. 
For many people who usually drive cars the freedom of scooter parking is frequently a bit confusing, though cutting corner st intersections and passing cars on the right, though illegal, is often done and sometimes scooter riders pay the price and get knocked over. Danger is real especially when you forget your precautions and good sense.
I doubt lane splitting will come to Florida in my life time. Drivers are entitled and angry much of the time and the idea that they could get used to some jerk on two wheels getting an advantage in a traffic jam would probably drive them to open fire. Never mind the California Highway Patrol endorses lane splitting as a way to reduce motorcycle accidents and reduce motorcycles getting rear ended in traffic slow downs.
I find two wheels a good bit faster in town even without lane splitting simply by taking advantage of the scooter's ability to fit through narrow lanes and it's ability to change direction easily. I don't follow tourist traffic down main streets in winter. Nor does anyone on an agile scooter  avoiding massive trucks and cars.
Gas prices go up in synch with scooter sales in the United States but when gas prices are low and stable as they are now the impulse scooter sale is much harder.  I don't view my Vespa as a money saving tool or even as  a climate change defender, it's fun and I enjoy it and that's good enough for me. Sure it gets 70 miles per gallon or thereabouts but tires wear out much faster than a car and they cost a hundred bucks apiece by the time they are installed. Modern Vespas are good runners but they need the usual motorcycle maintenance schedule and that takes work or money and I hate getting greasy... Two wheels is fun for me and that's why I ride.  
Free parking is nice and lane splitting would be nice (if they didn't shoot me from the peanut gallery) but I have been riding since 1970 so I know what I like. Renting a  scooter on a  whim is easy in Key West and you don't even have to have a helmet. And if you don't know how to ride this is not the town to practice. Too many people think Key West equates to Disneyland because they are on vacation but people fall off and die or have to get flown to Miami ($60,000 for non residents) fpr expensive nasty injuries. Scooter riding is dangerous.
I don't fixate on the dangers, I am always surprised by the need to find danger in every human activity that gets the blood flowing. It's almost as though being comatose is the desired state. 
I expect a fairly decent bill when my orange scooter comes back from the latest service but it will be worth it. Jiri on Stock Island does good work and I am looking forward to warmer weather. 
My old reliable, the other 150cc I own is still going strong after 30,000 miles and 14 years. I got it in 1994 with 250 miles ridden by the previous owner who dropped it and gave up after putting a  tiny dent in the leg shield. It's never been my primary ride, bridesmaid always to my motorcycles or my hopelessly unreliable classic two stroke Vespa yet this one is fast, 65 mph easily, and has never stopped by the side of the ride unless I wanted it to. Italians build good scooters. You should ride one. And park it for free in Key West from time to time.