As gas prices skyrocket and environmental concerns arise, riding scooters has become more popular among UCF students.

UCF scooter and motorcycle decal sales have jumped from 269 in 2006 to 353 in 2011, according to UCF Parking Services.

Although much of that increase can be attributed to a higher student population, local dealerships, as well as environmental advocacy groups, claim they have seen a growing interest in alternative means of transportation.

Sophomore economics major Nick Simons said that he bought a scooter two months ago and is happy with his decision.

“I moved off campus between my freshman and sophomore year, and I needed a form of transportation between off campus and on campus,” Simons said. “I couldn’t afford a car, so a scooter seemed like a cheap alternative.”

According to Simons, he pays an average of $1.50 a week for gas and doesn’t have to pay insurance for the scooter.

Imagine Cars Motorcycles & Scooters, a local dealership on East Colonial Drive, has started offering deals for UCF and Full Sail students as scooter sales rise.

With a UCF I.D., students can receive 10 percent off of their scooter purchase, as well as a 10 percent discount on repair and maintenance.

“I’ve always gotten a pretty good base of college customers, but within a year I’ve seen an increase,” Kaan Orer, owner of Imagine Cars Motorcycles & Scooters, said. “Gas prices are too high, so they’re trying to find alternative transportation.”

Orer said that an average scooter receives 90 miles per gallon, versus most cars, which receive about 20.

Repair prices are also cheaper in general, as the dealership charges $55 per hour for scooters and motorcycles compared to $100 for cars.

Used scooter prices at Imagine start at around $600, while new, higher-end models can cost as much as $1,500.

Although some see the scooter sale boom as a sign of growing environmental awareness, the Environmental Protection Agency warns that scooters emit an alarming amount of toxins into the atmosphere.

In 2005, the EPA reported motorcycles and scooters emit as much hydrocarbon in 10 miles as a car does in 850 miles. This is due to the small engine size of scooters and their lack of catalytic converters that normally decrease the amount of hydrocarbon emissions. Hydrocarbon lends to the creation of ozone, which eventually turns into smog.

However, the EPA said that while hydrocarbon emissions are a problem, the main environmental initiative nowadays is to decrease fossil fuels, such as gasoline, which scooters use very little of, and carbon dioxide emissions.

“It’s good for the environment. The CO2 is at 393 parts a million in our atmosphere, and the safe level is 350 parts a million,” Samantha Ruiz, co-president of I.D.E.A.S., a UCF environmental advocacy group, said. “To see that students are using their bikes or scooters to reduce this number is great, because we’re way past our limit.”

Concern for the environment and rising gas prices aren’t the only reasons students are buying scooters.

According to Jose Vernaza, a product specialist at Orlando Yamaha Kawasaki, many students come into the dealership claiming that scooter-riders get better parking spaces on campus.

“They say the spots are right up front,” Vernaza said.

Kris Singh, director of UCF Parking and Transportation Services, said there are currently 201 parking spaces available on campus for motorcycles and scooters.

Although scooter riding is on the rise, Singh said Parking and Transportation Services could easily create new spots if needed.

“You can make between four and six spaces in one car space for scooters or motorcycles,” Singh said.

Bruce Albertson, owner of Vespa of Orlando located in Winter Park, said UCF’s campus is ideal for scooter riding due to the traffic-friendly layout.

“The bikes do great for getting around Gemini and Central Florida Parkway, stuff like that. But Alafaya and University Boulevard still pose some issues because a lot of times students don’t buy bikes that can maintain higher speeds.”

Vespa’s bikes are a more expensive option for those in the scooter market, starting at $1,600. The higher-end models can go as fast as 80 mph.

Albertson said that overall, though, scooters are a good buy for environmentally-conscious students who are trying to save a buck.

“If all you need is something to get from place to place, and you don’t have a need to travel home, a scooter is a great option,” Simons said. “It’s so cost effective and it gets you where you need to go.”

Source: Central Florida Future, Students scoot to save loot, Scooter and motorcycle sales increase, by Laura Newberry, senior staff writer. Published: Sunday, August 14, 2011; Updated: Sunday, August 14, 2011 17:08