Getting run off the road is nothing unusual, say moped and scooter riders.
Great Seattle Weekly article on the primary hazard to riders of mopeds and lower displacement scooters... Cagers. Of course they call Vespas mopeds, but otherwise their heart is in the right place. And granted they are using the Washingston State legal definition of moped as anything under 50cc which has a top-speed of 30-35 mph.
Let's say, like Doty, you're young, educated, and urban. You're starting a career, probably have student loans, and the cost of housing in marquee cities like Seattle is exorbitant. Owning a car is also expensive; not to mention the hassle of finding a parking space on, say, Capitol Hill. You don't commute on the freeway from the suburbs or shuttle the kids to soccer practice, so what's the ideal solo vehicle for congested streets? Mopeds and scooters.
Yet Seattle streets haven't been so friendly to the Mosquitoes, according to Kevin Barrans, the group's co-founder and proprietor of Seattle Mopeds in Wallingford. "I've been hit about three to four times in the last four years," he says. "We're forced by law to ride out in traffic." (Bicyclists tend to hug the curb and let cars pass.) "It's not unheard of for someone to ride us off the road. It happens all the time." ...
But deaths for motorized bikes under 500 cc (a classification that includes all mopeds and scooters) were 31 percent less in 2004 than in 1994, NHTSA says. For larger bikes, deaths were up 57 percent in the 501–1,000 cc category, and 143 percent for bikes 1,001 cc and above. Thus, smaller means slower, and slower means safer.
NHTSA data also show the number of motorized bike deaths is up 10 percent for riders age 30 and younger, while 40-and-over fatalities have spiked a shocking 241 percent in 2004 versus 1994. Which is not to say there's no danger in being young, broke, and reckless; it's just apparently safer than being older and affluent enough to buy the chopper of your dreams. (Much has been written about baby boomers treating themselves to a Harley, then crashing the overpowered hog when they find their reaction time isn't what it used to be.)
Voris advocates a bold, confident style of riding that not all entry-level types may possess: "You will get no respect from the cars. You need to think of yourself as a car."
The same sentiment prevails over beers with Barrans, Brett Walker, and other members of the Mosquito Fleet during a recent Monday meet-up at the Mars Bar. As a Mosquito member spins vinyl (no iPods here), Brendan Barrans, brother of Kevin, describes being hit head-on by a left- turning car that didn't see him. His moped was crushed, but he somewhat miraculously barrel-rolled over the hood and landed on his feet, unscathed. "It's nerve-racking," says Walker of the constant traffic vigilance required on city streets.
Outside the bar, a row of some 20 mopeds adorns the curb, ranging in era from the mid-'60s to '70s. Club members, mostly male and mid-20s, regularly adjourn for smokes and to kick one another's tires. It's like a well-mannered junior varsity gathering of Hells Angels (many Mosquitoes attend Ballard's Mars Hill Church), where everyone has a day job in information systems rather than dealing meth to make ends meet.