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Scooter Style

By Jenni Simcoe
Published: Wednesday, November 10, 2010, at 09:37AM
Alex LiMandri Mikey Wally

Alex LiMandri of Ultimate Life Living on his E-Road electric bicycle outside his office at 6th and Spring.



When Erik Dixon pulled up to a DUI checkpoint in his Vespa-inspired scooter he expected to be waved right through. He got nervous when the officer instead motioned him to a stop. “I was wearing a shirt and tie with a blazer and jeans,” he said. “I thought, ‘really guys?’” The policeman eyeballed his outfit and said, “You have to be the most dapper person we’ve seen.”

With that, he waved Dixon through the checkpoint.

Inspired by the classic Italian Vespa, scooters are being turned to by Downtowners not just for being stylish, but also as a functional way to move around.

“It is super-convenient to get around in and park,” said Tiffany Gatto. She rides an E-Road electric bicycle around town. “It can travel 35 to 50 miles on a full charge depending on what you are carrying and how much you weigh,” said Gatto.

Convenience is the top reason that Downtowners are opting to ride scooters and electric bicycles. “I am able to get anywhere downtown in about five minutes and park for free,” said Alex LiMandri, Gatto’s business partner at Ultimate Life Living. The two can legally park on the sidewalk because their electric bikes fall into the same category as bicycles. The California Department of Motor Vehicles defines a motorized scooter as “any two-wheeled device that has handlebars, has a floorboard that is designed to be stood upon when riding, and is powered by an electric motor.”

Based on the vehicle code electric motorized scooters can be parked on the sidewalk as long as they don’t block traffic.

For gas-powered scooters, parking regulations are a bit hazy. Jolene Estipona, store manager of Vespa in Little Tokyo, says the law and reality are not always the same. “Many riders do park on the sidewalks and don’t get tickets, but legally you’re not supposed to,” she said.

“LADOT Parking enforcement would only cite vehicles parked on the sidewalk that have license plates and yearly registration tags,” said Sean Anderson, spokesman for the Los Angeles Department of Transportation. “All others would be addressed by Street Use investigators who will treat unregistered transporters as property when removing them from the public right of way,” he said.

Another requirement of riding a gas-powered scooter is that depending on its engine, it may require vehicle registration, automobile insurance and an additional driver’s license. “Legally, any gas powered scooter that goes over 20 per hour or is above 150 cc requires a motorcycle license to ride,” said Vince Ngo, owner of Scooter Dynasty, which sells both electric and gas-powered scooters.

“There aren’t many downsides to riding any scooter downtown,” said Ngo. Rain is the main downside he says, followed by limitations to how far the scooters go and where. “You can’t go on the freeway unless the scooter is 150 cc or above and you have a motorcycle license and proper registration,” he added.

For Marcin Nowak, an Echo Park resident who regularly rides Downtown, his scooter is his only mode of transportation. “I found that it was much cheaper for me from the get-go. Motorcycles start at around $4,000 and I only paid $1,400 with tags, a helmet and everything,” said Nowak. Scooters are not only cheaper to buy, but also to ride and maintain than cars. “I ride a lot and the most I ever spend on gas in a week is $10.”

Morris Aghaei, owner of Stereoline, which sells the electric G-Bike, says that electric bikes or scooters have fewer downsides than gas-powered versions. “There aren’t many gas stations Downtown,” said Aghaei. “It’s also more environmentally-friendly since it’s electric,” he added.

Though electric scooters and bikes don’t require a visit to the gas station, they do have to be charged on a regular basis. “It’s pretty easy. Let’s say you go to the office and pull out the battery. It can be fully charged in three hours and will run six hours per charge,” said Rodney Masjedi, owner of D.T.L.A. Bikes.

Erik Dixon, owner of 1 Man’s Trash clothing store, choose a gas-powered model. “I chose gas over electric because the gas powered usually go faster and they are cheaper to own overall. The electric batteries don’t last that long, and they are expensive to replace,” he said.

Securing a scooter is another consideration. Most riders either keep the scooter within view or lock it up when parking it. “The E-road electric bicycles we sell have a locking mechanism for the steering column and an optional alarm system,” said Masjedi.

Nowak says that when he parks his scooter on the street at night he locks it with a U-lock and a Kryptonite chain to ensure that it won’t get stolen. Dixon made the mistake of leaving his first scooter unlocked on the street overnight and it was stolen. “Now I pull it inside at night,” he said of his second scooter.

Scooters aren’t all function. They also have a stylish slant to them. Estipona points out that Vespas were the original scooter and are still an Italian icon. “Everything else is an imitation of our stylish European brand.”

Lynda Pyka, a Pasadena resident, recently bought a pink scooter from a Downtown dealer because she was celebrating her win over cancer. “It wasn’t the color that represents the type of cancer I had, which was teal, but they don’t make it in that color so I thought since it was breast cancer awareness month when I bought it, it was a nod to that.” She looks forward to having the stylish mode of transport to take to her plein air painting group and to get around town.

LiMandri notices people watching him as he zooms down the street. “It’s very European, as I am, and people always turn around and look at me when I’m riding it,” he said. LiMandri’s electric bike is one that has snap on panels that can easily be changed out to modify the color. “I have five color changes that I can do so I can match my outfit.” Dixon also sees the stylish aspects of owning a vintage-looking scooter. “I own a clothing store and since the store is vintage, the scooter parked outside just looks like a prop,” he said.

The consensus among riders is that whichever electric bicycle or scooter they ride, they all enjoy the convenience and the advantages that far outweigh any disadvantages. “They are designed to putt around town,” said Ngo. “It’s the ultimate mode of transportation for living Downtown.”

Where To Buy a Scooter

City Business Services & Shipping

603 S. Los Angeles / city_business@scbglobal.net

This shipping office offers Custom Motorbikes that are gas-powered and start at $550.

D.T.L.A. Bikes

425 S. Broadway / dtlabikes.com

This bike shop carries the E-Road electric bicycle only. The electric bike retails for $900. An indoor track allows riders to try it out before purchasing. The shop provides service and accessories.

Scooter Dynasty Motorsports

515 W. Pico / scooterdynasty.com

Scooter Dynasty carries electric scooters and gas-powered models. Prices start from $649 for an electric 350W model and $699 for a 50 cc gas-powered model. The shop offers several brands including BMS, Lance and MotoBravo and provides parts and service.

STEREOLINE

200 W. 6th / 213.624.6896

The D.J. music store offers two different models of the G-Bike. The Chopper style retails at $999 and the City style retails for $1100.

Vespa Los Angeles

301 S. Central Ave / vespaofla.com

The classic Italian-made scooters start at $2899 for a 50 cc model and range up to $7,000. The store offers parts, service for new models, accessories, helmets and clothing from the Vespa brand.

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