Islanders embrace the scooter subculture
Ever since Mary Cooper bought her orange 2018 Buddy Kick scooter, her routine errands around Galveston have become fun runs, she said.
“I love the fresh air and especially going down the seawall and being part of the beach,” said Cooper, a fifth-generation, born-on-the-island businesswoman. “People tell me, ‘I saw you on your scooter.’”
Motor scooters usually are offered by manufactures in three engine sizes in terms of cubic centimeters.
Cooper acquired her 125cc scooter in March after years of dreaming, she said.
Cooper planned to buy a scooter in the late summer of 2017, but Hurricane Harvey, which in August last year caused severe flooding in the region, delayed those plans for many months, she said.
The appeal goes beyond cute stylishness. Scooters are economical. Moderately priced models with good reviews range from about $2,000 to about $5,000, depending on the brand. More expensive models are available for those seeking an extravagant option, and some less expensive models are available by mail. Gas costs less than $5 a month for scooters. Most models get about 100 miles to the gallon. Insurance also costs a lot less at about $100 a year, owners said.
“Parking is so much easier,” said Randall Johnson, owner and operator of the Republic of Galveston Island National Motor-Scooter Museum, 2509 Market St. downtown. “Scooters are utilitarian and great for a city like Galveston.”
Johnson has 16 mopeds and scooters in his museum collection.
“I sell some, but I collect more,” he said.
Johnson created the museum to acquire, restore, preserve and showcase examples of classic and primarily American-made motor scooters, he said.
The oldest vehicle he has is a 1927 Triumph Model W, which is a moped and not a scooter. A moped driver has to use pedals, while a scooter driver doesn’t. A moped engine is a 50cc or less, Johnson said. In 1962, Johnson first rode a Motobecane, another moped.
The most recent scooter model at the museum is a 2007 Yamaha Morphous, a long, sleek, black Batmobile inspiration that belongs in a modern art exhibit, Johnson said.
“As long as you get a good scooter, it will last forever,” Johnson said. “With a little mechanical knowledge, you can do most of your own repairs.”
He advises owners to keep scooters out of the elements and to change the 1 quart of oil every 700 miles.
The biggest problem owners have is letting a scooter sit too long so that it loses its charge, Johnson said.
Johnson lives on the island’s East End and rarely goes faster than 25 mph on his trips downtown or to the grocery store. A handy storage space under the seat holds a couple of bags of groceries, leaving the ride home unencumbered.
“You’re not in a cage,” Johnson said. “I see things I’ve never seen before.”
And scooter engines are quiet, so he also hears more at the street level, he said.
Non-confrontational scooter riders comprise a loosely knit community of like-minded people, Johnson said.