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Scooter sales vrrrooming

Scooters like these Vespas are in high demand for their great gas mileage as consumers try to find ways to battle rising prices.

MIKE PEASE | Times (2002)

Scooters like these Vespas are in high demand for their great gas mileage as consumers try to find ways to battle rising prices.

Even with gas prices how they are, Chris Densmore doesn't even pay attention when he fills his tank. He gets 100 miles to the gallon.

Densmore, owner of Scooter Escapes on First Avenue N in St. Petersburg, is seeing an increase in business as more and more Pinellas County residents switch to scooters and small motorcycles to get around town.

Though passenger car registrations in Pinellas have decreased 3 percent in recent months, motorcycle registrations have jumped 8 percent.

The numbers suggest that families are buying scooters and motorcycles as another option for short trips, said Sam McClelland, head of the county tax collection communications department.

Scooters cost between $1,100 and $6,000, but can get around 120 miles to the gallon.

The increase in sales has been good news to both scooter dealers and companies that train their riders.

"We've sold more product than is available to us," said Dan Lynch, owner of Action Wheel Sport on 66th Street N.

He said he sold more scooters in June than he had in any other month of his 29-year-old business. "I'm just now being able to fill the store back up."

And John Leonard, owner of Finish Line Scooters in Madeira Beach, said he has 200 scooters on hand right now — but he's already ordering more.

Another appeal of the scooters is that drivers are not required to carry insurance on them.

Smaller scooters, with an engine size under 50cc, are exempt. Owners of bigger scooters can escape insurance premiums by wearing a helmet.

The smaller scooters also do not require anything more than a standard driver's license.

The large scooters require a motorcycle endorsement on the license.

And because a new law requires a motorcycle safety course to get the endorsement, Jim's Harley-Davidson of St. Petersburg has been flooded with calls.

Jim's is the only place in the city, and one of only three in Pinellas County, that offer the safety course. The other two are in Clearwater.

"We're getting calls from all walks of life now," said Tony Capo, program manager for the safety course. He said the class is already booked through October.

Andrew Dunn can be reached at adunn@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8150.

Scooter sales vrrrooming 08/02/08 [Last modified: Sunday, August 3, 2008 11:32am]
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