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ISSUE 120 VOL 3 PUBLISHED 10/6/2006

Scooters strike up an enthusiastic following

By Lauren Radomski
Variety Editor

Friday, October 6, 2006

St. Olaf may be a small campus, but that's no excuse not to travel the Hill in style. For a few Oles, the best way to navigate campus is not by foot, but on a pair of wheels. In short, scooters are making a comeback.

Not to be confused with mopeds or other motorized rides, these scooters are solely person-powered. With their shiny metal frames and colored handle grips, scooters conjure memories of childhood and add a little excitement to the usual trip to class.

“It goes with me everywhere,” said Alan Naylor '07 of his scooter with red light-up wheels. Naylor bought his first scooter for eight dollars at a garage sale and brought it to campus last spring.

Long-time scooter enthusiast Glen Rebman '07 started riding in the fall of his freshman year. After finding a scooter in his garage at home, Rebman figured he “might as well try to get around campus another way than walking.”

Rebman has owned several scooters since then and currently uses two – one for good weather and the other for bad.

Riders also cite compactness as an attractive scooter feature. Scooters fold up easily and are light enough to carry. Rebman said he likes to sling his scooter over a shoulder or hang it by its handlebars from his backpack.

But by far the best part of riding a scooter on campus is cruising St. Olaf's hills. “I love going down the hills, especially going to Skoglund,” said Rebman. Naylor prefers the hill down Ole Avenue, which “is a whole lot of fun, but don't do it in the dark,” he said. He recommends crouching down to avoid wind resistance.

Grant Randall '07 occasionally rides his scooter down Ole Ave. to visit a professor. “You can just push off from your dorm and roll all the way,” he said.

Students aren't the only ones who appreciate the ease and convenience of scooters. Scott Nesbit, tennis coach and physical education instructor, usually bikes to campus but occasionally indulges in a scooter ride down Ole Avenue. “My wife drops me off at school and I scooter back home,” he said.

Not surprisingly, the ride back up to campus is far less thrilling. “You're better off just walking if you're going uphill,” Naylor said.

While scooter riding may look easy, it is not for the faint of heart. “You need to know what you're doing,” Rebman said. “I've never run into a person before, but you do need to be careful.” Rebman said he tries to avoid the most crowded sidewalks.

In addition to people, riders are wary of other accident-inducing obstacles. “You can't ride [a scooter] on grass or dirt because if you do, it just stops, it sinks,” Naylor said. Hard surfaces like sidewalks and streets can pose challenges as well. Cracks must be jumped or crossed at the right angle to avoid spills, and “if you ever hit a pothole, you're going to be cream,” Naylor said.

Weather is also an important consideration for scooter use. “I actually use it in all weather conditions, which is pretty crazy,” Rebman said. When he rides during the winter, after the sidewalks have been cleared of heavy snow, “It's kind of like being on a little ski.”

Rebman stressed the importance of learning from experience. “You learn by going on the scooter what's safe and what's not safe to do,” he said.

Some scooter riders acknowledge the activity is a bit nerdy, but enjoy it nonetheless. “I just go for it, you know,” said Randall. “Don't look back.”

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