Campus is all abuzz with influx of scooters

ATHENS, Ga. --- The sound of traffic on the University of Georgia campus is taking on a mosquitolike buzz as more and more students replace SUVs and sedans for gas-sipping mopeds and scooters.


Emily Rae Smith, a horticulture major from Eastman, wonders why she didn't get one long ago. Since she bought her moped in May, she has spent about $20 on gasoline, she said. The two-wheeler tops out at 45 miles per hour, but she gets 80 to 100 miles per gallon -- and in town, she doesn't need to go any faster than 45 miles an hour anyway, she said.

Pockets of moped- and scooter-only parking lots now dot the campus, so Ms. Smith usually can park close to her classes, she said.

"This is just a lot easier, and a lot more reliable than a bus," she said.

Gas prices drove freshman Nick Long to join the moped movement, he said Tuesday, as he prepared to wheel away from the Student Learning Center. His moped gets about 90 miles to the gallon, he said.

Plus, there's a certain cachet to the vehicles, said Mr. Long, a track athlete.

The demand for scooters and mopeds has gotten so heavy that one Athens dealer almost was out of stock just two days into UGA's fall semester.

"We don't have any. We sold out," said Mike Newell, business and marketing manager for Cycle World of Athens.

Actually, the business has a few left in stock, but only high-end, all-electric models that retail for $8,799 -- at the pricey end of options for a scooter.

Name-brand mopeds and scooters like Suzuki, Schwinn and Honda go for between $1,900 for basic models to $7,500 for higher-end scooters, he said, and off-brand mopeds can sell for less than $1,000.

UGA has more than a dozen small lots for the two-wheelers, but several were packed Tuesday, the second day of UGA classes. Five or six scooters can fit into the space it takes for one car.

UGA Parking Services Manager Don Walter can't yet gauge how many mopeds and scooters are on campus because students and workers continue to register vehicles, he said. But he likes the trend.

"They reduce the traffic on campus and reduce the demand on parking," he said.

UGA charges $10 a month to park a scooter, $20 and up for a four-wheeled vehicle.