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Scooters in China

May 28, 2004 Friedman

I always wanted to be a Mod. You know, those cool hipsters riding around Rome and Birmingham in their souped up scooters and sporting cool moptop haircuts.

Well, now is my big chance. I just bought a used 150cc scooter yesterday from an American student heading back to the states, so I got a cool price of USD 300 for a relatively new model with only 1700km on it.

Of course, my US Driver's license is expired, I have no Chinese drivers license, I have no idea what the rules of the road are, my registration has a name of someone other than me, and I cannot read Chinese or Chinese traffic signs. Oh, and Scooters are technically, as far as I know illegal in Beiing and Shanghai. Oh, and I am afraid of speed and Beijing traffic is best characterised by the term "Chinese firedrill" or in Armyspeak Charlie Foxtrot. What the heck though. I can look cool.

My scooter is called the "Star Trek 150." No hit appears at all about it on Google and I think they spelled Motor Scooter wrong on the name. They call it a Motua Scooter on the frame. It has a foot brake ! The hand brakes don't work actually.

I practiced riding up and down the same street. I've never been on a scooter before and no one was around to teach me so it was trial and error. I cam move forward ok but stopping with a footbreak felt really odd. I'm still a bit gunshy about heading out into real traffic but I think I should develop more courage as the days go by.

After owning the scooter for about 5 hours last night, I decided to take it for another spin by my house for practice. While waiting at a red light, some local peasant guy standing on the corner starts croaking at me. "why is dude croaking at me like a frog?" I looked around beyond the crowds and I saw 5 Beijing police had set up a checkpoint and stopping cars and scooter to check for ID and licenses. The peasant guy was warning me that the cops were right there and not to go forward. Holy Crap.

The cops had already confiscated one scooter and the driver was no where to be seen. I shut down the motor and walked it back to my apartment complex. What a close call.

I went back to the same peasant guy and thanked him for tipping me off and slipped him a 20 Yuan bill which he refused but tossed in his pocket anyway.

Just another day in China.


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