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Gas prices prompt Central Kitsap drivers to scoot out of cars

Cliff’s Cycle Center salesman Jim Gagnon checks over the new three-wheel Piaggio MP3 scooter at the Bremerton store.  - Jesse Beals/staff photo
Cliff’s Cycle Center salesman Jim Gagnon checks over the new three-wheel Piaggio MP3 scooter at the Bremerton store.
— image credit: Jesse Beals/staff photo

With gas prices well over $4 a gallon, many folks are turning to a smaller, two-wheeled mode of transportation.

Cliff’s Cycle Center Manager Bryan Schoening said the business’ scooter sales have tripled in the past few months.

“We’ve always sold scooters to some extent, but never like this,” Schoening said.

Schoening and Cliff’s salesman Jim Gagnon said the store is seeing an increase in first-time motorcycle and scooter buyers, particularly women, looking to save a buck on gas.

Schoening recalled one satisfied customer in particular — a 74-year-old woman who purchased a scooter from Cliff’s Cycle Center in Bremerton and loved it, he said.

“People that have never ridden before are coming in and buying,” Gagnon said. “Age doesn’t seem to be a barrier for people either.”

Cliff’s Cycle Center now carries four brands of scooters and is the exclusive dealer for Vespa and Piaggio vehicles in Kitsap County.

Cliff’s Cycle Center began selling the Piaggio MP3 a few weeks ago and people are already lining up to buy them. The three-wheel scooter has two wheels in the front and one in the back. Cliff’s currently sells 250cc and 400cc MP3s which can travel up to speeds of 80 or 90 mph, according to Gagnon.

“A MP3 is unique in that it handles like a two-wheel motorcycle,” said Steve Stewart, manager of the motorcycle safety program for the state Department of Licensing. “It’s the only one of its kind right now.”

Even cars with the best gas mileage cannot compare to motorcycles and scooters. Gagnon said scooters sold at Cliff’s Cycle Center can get “anywhere from 100 miles per gallon down to about 50 depending on the size.”

Gagnon said Cliff’s Cycle Center’s motorcycle sales have slightly decreased as scooter sales pick up. He added that people are trading their large motorcycles for scooters and smaller bikes.

“People are even downsizing their motorcycles,” Gagnon said. “Gas prices have really impacted people, but bikes are still a better option.”

Gagnon said many first-time scooter and motorcycle riders originally bought them as commuter vehicles, but are now finding enjoyment cruising around the streets on their two- or three-wheeled modes of transportation.

“Some people are realizing how much fun and how entertaining riding a motorcycle can be,” Gagnon said. “Their intent was to buy them as commuter vehicles and now they’re finding out how much fun they can be.”

“It ends up being a fun piece in their garage,” Schoening added.

Stewart said the number of motorcycle endorsements in the state has dramatically increased in the past couple years.

“From Oct. 2006 to June 2008, we went from 272,000 motorcycle endorsements to 365,000 (in the state),” Stewart said. “That’s almost 95,000 endorsements in about 18 months. That’s incredible.”

Scooter and motorcycle riders need to be endorsed to drive the vehicles. Drivers owning a bike or scooter under 50cc do not need an endorsement, only a valid driver’s license.

“Endorsements are for anything that is larger than 50cc or 30 mph,” Stewart said.

Riders take a two-wheel or three-wheel test to get a motorcycle endorsement. As of July 1, Piaggio MP3 drivers will take the standard two-wheel written test and evaluation and get an endorsement that is good for both two-wheel and three-wheel vehicles.

As for the sudden surge in scooter and motorcycle sales, Schoening said he doesn’t foresee it slowing down, even if gas prices drop.

“I don’t think it’s going to stop,” Schoening said. “Once the floodgates are open, I think they’re open for good.”

For more information about obtaining a motorcycle endorsement, visit the state’s Web site, www.endorseyoursport.com.

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