City Cavalry

Minsk has over 1,500 scooters
Ultralight city cavalry attacks! Packs of nimble two-wheel scooters seem to have captured the whole city. Small wonder! A light scooter will easily take over any four-wheel brother even with a considerable head start. It gets off the mark as if it were its last race ever, cuts traffic jams like a knife through butter and “elbows” its way in the crowd like a brisk stream. A real cheetah in stone jungles and asphalt prairies. Belarus has just given a very warm welcome to the scooter, which already conquered serious businessmen from Rome and stylish Paris fashionists.

We cancel traffic jams

…Oleg Kartsev was one of the first Belarusians to buy a scooter. The elegant “Yamaha” cost the same as a good motorcar. Since then the keen speedometer has changed thousand-kilometer marks many times. Oleg likes smallish road creatures despite obvious drawbacks, and he has changed his fifth scooter lately.

— I got a Dodge in the garage, but I feel out of place in a car, Kartsev says. — I feel restricted and manageable by the traffic. On a scooter it takes two or three moves to get out of any jam and reach your destination before any car. It is comfortable and very easy to drive. You don’t even have to drive, you give it a hint, and the obedient machine takes you anywhere you like. Any boy that knows how to ride a bike will become a hot shot scooter driver within a couple of days. No other options to drive in a city for me!

Many citizens mull buying a cheap scooter to travel around Minsk. There are over 1,500 scooters in the capital city now. People are prompted by the city traffic and prices: you can buy a brand new scooter from one of the leading European makers instead of a Ford or Opel that have already been in use for over 10 years. Besides, scooters are quire economical: you need a refill once in two weeks. No problems with parking, either. A parking spot for a Mercedes may easily accommodate six scooters. You could leave your two-wheel companion in your friend’s garage or right near the door of your apartment.

Scooter rules!

So it is time for me to hit the road and see for myself. A couple of seconds into the drive I realize why people often call it a stool with an engine: you feel every hole in the road with your rear end, but if you manage to maneuver you may avoid this trouble. You should wear glasses, too, because your eyes water too much. A helmet would also come in handy. No helmet — no road, I decided.

— It looks like a toy, but scooters are very fast vehicles, the experienced scooter driver Kirill tells me. — You may get hurt even if you fall when driving just 5 kilometer per hour. To feel securer you need to have a special vest, a helmet and a pair of knee-caps. They do help a lot and may save your life.

Few people think they may get hurt or remain disabled after driving this toy vehicle. The first experience is always gained through scratches. You often see 16-year-olds driving these scooters, because you don’t need a driver’s license to drive it (unless it may run over 50 kilometers per hour or has an engine over 50 cubic centimeters). You forget about long lines to have your annual check-up, but on the other hand, hooligans on the road may use legal scooters for illegal actions. Guys often have no idea about traffic rules and can’t tell the difference between the “Give Way” and “No Overtaking” signs. Scooters are sometimes a transient phase between a bicycle and a motorbike, and more scooters in streets mean more accidents.

If thousands of newbies jump on scooters in one day, the streets will turn into a complete chaos. The two-wheel vehicles cannot be called real bikes, but accidents are always real, however minute the damage. The drivers are to take a better care of their scooters and lives, as they are the likeliest victims.

by Olga Kornejeva
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