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Fiz 6.8.05

The swarm

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The image of scooters usually brings to mind fashionable Europeans perched atop Vespas (Italian for "wasp") and navigating serpentine streets mapped out by Charlemagne and other guys who didn't predict the pervasiveness of the SUV. Over here, however, the thoroughfares are meaty, and motorists prefer their transportation roomy. There's no justification for motorscooters in the New World, right?

In the first half of 2005, scooter sales in the United States jumped 21 percent. Drew Sterman, a salesperson at the area's newest scooter dealership, Country Rode Motowerks in Fairport, attributes this statistic to a combination of nostalgia, style, and, most importantly, the wallet-busting price of gasoline. Yeah, scooters are trendy and cool, but they're also able to get as much as 75 miles per gallon.

And scooters are not just for urban transportation. The media is teeming with stories of people with heaps of time and buns of steel safely driving their scooters cross-country. Stacked up against a motorcycle, scooters are lighter and easier to handle. And they're cheaper, too, with prices starting at around $2,000.

Once you land a scooter, you'll no doubt get the itch to commune with others of like mind. In Rochester, there's the Negative Image Scooter Club (NISC). The 20 or so active members range in age from 25 to 79 and meet at 6 p.m. on Wednesdays at Open Face Sandwich Eatery, 651 South Avenue, before tooling around town together.

No word on whether or not there are rival scooter gangs roaming the city, but when the time comes to do an in-depth investigation, I'm on it.

For more information on Country Rode Motowerks, visit www.countryrode.com. Negative Image Scooter Club can be found at www.negativeimagesc.org.

--- Dayna Papaleo

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