As gas prices rise, transportation alternatives increase

Ampride workers Jeanette Schaefer, Linda Cassidy and Lura Legg (from, left) are feeling some relief from the pumps at their convenience store in Hillsboro.

Scooters, lawn mowers, ATVs, bicycles, four-wheel pedaled vehicles?what else is coming?

You may see some unusual transportation going down the roads and streets these days in an effort to circumvent high gasoline prices.

Perhaps the Amish won?t be the only ones in the region driving horse and buggy. And then, there are always dog teams.

Casual observation suggests more than a few people are willing to find alternate travel means to gasoline automobiles.

The scooters themselves are diversified?gasoline, electric, one-legged push, and pump your own. Maybe you?d rather have a Segway, a new vehicle and a new word that only came out in 2001.

The Associated Press said Monday the national average for a gallon of gas went to $4, and was running above that by day?s end. In Marion County, most pumps said $3.82.

Some law enforcement officers admit they?ve winked a few strange vehicles by if they didn?t seem to be doing any harm to traffic flow.

But Marion County Sheriff Lee Becker warned that before you take your new three-wheeler, golf cart or whatever down the street, you?d better make sure it?s legal.

There?s one simple way to check. Becker said look at the tires.

?That?s the true test,? he said. ?If it says not for highway use, or not for street use on the tires, it?s illegal to have it there.?

As far as unusual vehicles, Becker said, ?I?ve seen mostly little mopeds. You have to have an operator?s license to drive them if they?re 50-cc or up. Some of these vehicles, you have to be in a parade or a specific event to use them on the street.?

Two merchants said golf carts would be handy for transporting items between work and home.

But Becker said,?Golf carts are not allowed.?

Marion County Ampride employees Jeanette Schaefer and Laura Legg, along with their friend, Linda Cassidy, said they are beating gasoline prices using scooters?some of those little mopeds to which Becker referred.

Schaefer said she has been driving her 49-cc Yamaha Zuma that can reach 40 mph for five years. It burns gasoline, with a little under a gallon tank capacity. She said her average gas mileage is 100 miles per gallon.

Schaefer?s only mishap with the bike, she said, was when she gave her grandson a ride, and he turned the throttle. She let the bike go over when she lost balance, she said, so she could cradle the little boy to protect him. A few bruises later, and they were both OK.

Cassidy drives an X360 electric scooter with three rechargeable nine-volt batteries. Her top speed is 12 mph. She said she has kept track of her electric bill, and recharging the little bike is costing her about $5 a month.

Legg drives a 150 cc Shanghai Shenke that can hit 70 mph, and gets 72 miles per gallon on a little over one gallon of gasoline tank capacity.

As manager of the Ampride stores, Legg said she took a lot of ribbing from the coffee drinkers as to whether she would get back on the bike after having an accident soon after she got it.

?But I did get back on, and I ride it all the time,? she said.

How did the accident happen?

?Well, I?d only put 15 miles on it?it was a brand new bike?when the curb jumped out in front of me,? she said.

Legg suffered a torn knee ligament and a heel compression fracture. But she said she came through ?my time on crutches? determined to keep on.

?I?ve driven it 350 miles now, so I?m seasoned,? she said with a laugh.

Becker said state statutes deal with road and highway-allowable vehicles, and most cities have ordinances. ATVs that have a legitimate farm use might be allowed on a gravel road just like a tractor, he said, but that go-cart speeding along at 45 mph probably isn?t.

He is as concerned about safety as he is about law. Becker said drivers of alternative vehicles should make use of things such as flags and reflective tape to help motorists see them.

Becker said he?s as concerned as much as anyone about saving on fuel costs. When sheriff?s office squad cars come off warranty, he?s switching them to synthetic oil to boost gas mileage. The Mobil 1 brand he is using lists gains of one to three miles per gallon of gasoline, depending on car models.

Becker said he commonly hears people thinking about switching to motorcycles for fuel economy. But if you want a comfortable motorcycle, he said, you might as well go with some of the newer cars because they will get mileage equal to the comfortable motorcyles, and they?re safer.

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