Unlicensed Scooters Cause Controversy in Evansville, Indiana

Last week, we made a case for for why 50cc scooters should be held to the same licensing requirements as larger scooters and motorcycles. For the people of Evansville, Indiana the issue isn’t hypothetical. Because of lax state requirements, 50cc scooters can be operated without a driver’s license, and without registration or insurance. This has caused a bloom of small scooters in Evansville being operated by many people who, to put it kindly, aren’t taking their scooter ownership very seriously.

This story, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, has many facets. On the one hand, there’s the people of Evansville who see this bumbling population of scooter riders as a menace. This point of view is most loudly expressed at “Scooter People of Evansville” — a Facebook community page with more than 10,000 Likes. Here people share some arguably hilarious (and some arguably cruel) photos of just how out of hand some people get with their scooters. From one point of view, “Scooter People of Evansville” is calling people out for their irresponsible behavior on the road. However there’s another group of people who don’t think the joke is funny.

From the WSJ:

Scooter riders are outraged, and claim the page has fostered so much negative stereotyping that some drivers have begun to yell and throw things at them out of their cars. Some have started their own pages in response that promote road safety and offer tips on how to respond to hostile car drivers.

There is “Scooter People of Evansville Responder,” set up by a 46-year-old who rides her scooter to her job at a restaurant. Alternatively, there is “Scooter Riders of Evansville,” started by 33-year-old Nick Payne after he unsuccessfully tried to get the Scooter People page to take down the photo posted of him on his scooter.

From my point of view, both sides make a compelling case. On the one hand, shaming bad behavior has its place in a free society. We shouldn’t tolerate drunk driving, texting while driving or people who wear shorts, dark socks and sandals in combination. And while no one should be throwing things at scooter riders just because they don’t take their role as citizens of the road seriously, calling a duck a duck has its place. On the other hand, I completely sympathize with the population of responsible scooter owners in Evansville who enjoy scooters responsibly. I also think there’s a line that gets crossed when it comes to posting photos of other people on the internet without their permission. Especially when it’s not exactly a flattering share. Unfortunately for these two opposing Facebook pages, it’s much more fun to make fun of something than to defend it, so the response page only has a handful of Likes, for whatever that’s worth.

However, the real point of this story isn’t about who’s poking fun at whom. It’s about a huge gap in Indiana state law. By not requiring registration, insurance and licensing for 50cc scooters, the Indiana DOT is effectively giving people unfit for the road an easy way to get back into traffic. Again, from the WSJ:

Popular with many riders because they are inexpensive and fuel-efficient, the vehicles have also earned the nickname “liquor cycles” for their popularity among people who have a suspended license from a drunken-driving conviction. One scooter dealer estimates there are as many as 50,000 scooters in the state.

Now Evansville, the state’s third-largest city, has become the loudest voice in the state’s cries for change in scooter laws.

Obviously we second that outcry. As scooter fans, we not only want to see scooter riding enjoyed in a responsible and safe manner, we want scooters to enjoy a positive reputation in our road culture. Scooters are a great way to get around, and “doing it right” is not a very high bar to clear. We find the “undue burden” argument utterly ridiculous. If registration, insurance and licensing requirements are appropriate for cars and larger motorcycles, they’re appropriate for 50cc scooters as well — especially if there’s a growing population of them out on the road.

We highly recommend you head over to the WSJ website and check out the full article. It’s a fascinating read.

Tip of the hat to Bree “The Wookie” Radloff for bringing this story to our attention.

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