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Scooter popularity on the rise

These aren’t your grandson’s scooters.

Following a sales boom in recent years of children’s stand-up scooters is a popularity surge in adult, sit-down scooters.

“With the gas prices the way they are and the attention these scooters have been getting, we decided to carry them in stock in our showroom,” EV Parts operations chief Joanne Granum said.

EV Parts is a Carlsborg-based electric vehicle parts supplier for an international market. While primarily a supplier, EV Parts managers expanded operations to have a showroom and possibly a service department.

“People may have thought the electric car was dead. It isn’t. We supply parts all over the world and throughout this country,” Granum said, indicating the price of fuel isn’t going down any time soon. “Electric cars, scooters and bicycles work. They are efficient and they are safe.”

Propping up a yellow EVP electric scooter, Granum points at the speed gauge.

“This scooter doesn’t really go above 30 miles per hour, so you don’t need a motorcycle endorsement to ride,” she said. “We should be getting a three-wheeled scooter very soon too, which is ideal for older riders.”

Granum said scooters are a street-legal compromise between a vehicle and a mobility scooter, used to help those with disabilities get around. She said removing the need to get a motorcycle license has only increased popularity in other areas, such as Port Townsend or Portland, Ore.

The Motorcycle Industry Council reported a 24-percent increase in scooter sales during the first three cold months of 2008, which was before gas prices hit $4 a gallon. A majority of those buying scooters are middle-aged.

“These little scooters are great for getting around town, doing a grocery shopping trip, heading over to the post office and other in-town rides,” Granum said. “You’ll want something a little bigger to hit the highways, which is where you begin to need the special license.”

The state Department of Licensing recently sent out notification reminding scooter riders with engines larger than 50 cubic centimeters, or those that can top 30 mph, that they are required to have a motorcycle-endorsed driver’s license.

Kathie Snoden, of Sequim, already has an endorsement to ride on her Vespa, a gas-powered scooter from Italy.

“I really love driving my Vespa around town,” Snoden said. “I get about 80 miles to the gallon, fill it up about twice a year and ride it all the time.”

Snoden has had her little red Vespa for three years. It was a birthday gift from her boyfriend, who also lives in Sequim.

“We both spent a lot of time in Italy, so we are big fans of Vespas,” Snoden said. “Plus, it has enough storage that I can tote a lot of my merchandise back and forth from the shop to my home.”

Snoden works at Purple Haze Lavender in downtown and lives on the west side of town.

“I’ve only had a close call in an alleyway once or twice,” she said. “Otherwise, if you take it slow and stay safe, it is much more fun than it is worrisome.”

Snoden has taken the Vespa as far as Seattle for a check-up and said she felt sturdy at higher speeds.

“Vespas are really popular in the city,” she said. “The motorcyclists have accepted me as well. I get the trademark sideways wave, which is nice.”

Both Snoden and Granum encourage wearing the proper safety gear when riding a scooter, just as when riding a motorcycle. Gloves, a helmet, long sleeves, long pants and sturdy shoes are highly recommended.

A 2008 Vespa can range from $3,199 to more than $7,000, depending on size and options. A new EVT electric scooter starts at $2,899, a price that can increase with options or a third wheel.

Granum said the Quimper Community Federal Credit Union in Port Townsend is following the scooter trend and has a special scooter financing plan available.

For more information on EV Parts, visit its Web site at www.evparts.com or its showroom at 160 Harrison Road in Carlsborg.

EV Parts hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.-6 p.m.

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