Riding the scooter wave

Email this article to a friend
Before you're seduced by these stylish machines you need the straight story on the world of scooters.

The history and the convenience of the Scooter dates back to the mid 1940’s and originated from Europe as an economical form of transport during the Second World War.

Jumping forward 70 years the Scooter is still just as popular today, and why wouldn’t it be with its fashionable design, ease of getting about it heavy traffic, easy to park in small spaces and not to mention the excellent fuel efficiency.

Scooters vs motorcycles

A scooter differs from a motorcycle in several important ways. Scooters generally have less power and acceleration than their two-wheeled cousins, although there are some very grunty machines on the market.

Scooters are usually fully automatic, which means you can turn on the ignition and go: no clutch pedal and no gear changes.

A scooter also has a "platform" based design. While a motorcycle rider sits astride the machine, with the thighs gripping either side of the fuel tank and feet on pedals, a scooter rider sits more upright with their feet on a footboard or platform.

Scooters sold in Australia mostly range from little 50cc models up to 500cc "sports" scooters (there is a Suzuki model which is a massive 650cc).

Value and convenience

The scooter industry explains that the growth of scooters into Australian culture is driven by value and cost of living but also includes style.

Hollie Black, Chair of the Australian Scooter Federation and General Manager of Select Scootas, says that riding a scooter is one of the most economical ways to get around, “for a couple of gold coins, you can fill your tank and commute for days!”

There is a huge variety of scooters available in Australia. Riders should look for something which comes from a reputable brand, be backed with a strong warranty and have good dealer and importer back up for spare parts and service.

Apart from offering great value-for-money transport, Hollie says that other scooters positives are convenience in negotiating city congestion, a more environmentally friendly footprint and ease in finding a car park. It’s the choice of transport all over the world and when the most congested cities in the world make it work, you know you’re onto a good thing!

Safety

Scooter riders, like all motorcyclists, are vulnerable on the road. If you get into trouble, there's not much between you and the bitumen.

Forget any ideas of buzzing around dressed in a T-shirt and shorts (or a little black dress and heels). Unless you want to risk some ugly injuries, you need to take the style pressure down and wear boots, gloves, a full faced Australian Standards approved helmet (look for the AS1698 sticker) and sturdy, long-sleeved pants and jacket.

Scooters are not necessarily more stable than motorbikes. They have small wheels, which makes them vulnerable to changes in the road surface including water, oil, loose gravel and holes.
Like motorcycles, scooters are difficult for other drivers to see. So you've got to be extra careful, especially at intersections, and position yourself on the road so you're visible to other drivers.

Road safety publications and guides can be ordered online.

Licensing

To get a motor scooter licence in NSW you need to go through the same process as a motorcycle riders. Here's the step-by-step guide.

  1. Pass the pre-learner course (practical).
  2. Pass the rider knowledge test (computer) - and progress to a learner rider licence.
  3. Take the six-hour pre-provisional course.
  4. Pass the Motorcycle operator Skills Test (practical) - and progress to the provisional rider licence.
  5. Hold your provisional licence for 36 months - then you can go to a registry or service centre and upgrade to a full licence. There isn't a test at this final stage.

There's one minor exception to this process. You can get a licence that restricts you to a 160cc or less automatic motor scooter. To get this licence you still need to complete all the tests but can skip the pre-provisional course, however most people choose to take the course so they can progress to a full rider licence.