On-campus mo-ped users avoid high gas prices and enjoy an easy ride to class

Aidan M. Anderson

The strain of rising fuel prices is evident with students sighing in relief as rates descend to $2.15 a gallon.

Some have taken the cramp in stride, and arguably in style, as they get around on 90-mpg two-wheelers.

Unlike motorcycle certification, mo-ped drivers need only a valid state driver’s license. The state requires those without a driver’s license to take a permit test consisting of an eye check and written and riding tests.

Minnesota does not differentiate between mo-peds and scooters, according to its motorcycle manual. A mo-ped is categorized as having a maximum engine size of 50 cubic centimeters and maximum speed of 30 mph on the straight and level.

Computer science sophomore Jeremiah Cone bought a Wildfire mo-ped kit on eBay for about $650. He rides from his house on Fourth Street Southeast to classes and parks his scooter at bike racks on campus. Having a mo-ped on a large campus is a great asset, he said.

“How nice is it to be able to drop yourself off at class?” he said.

Cone shares the ride with some of his roommates and said scooting across campus is “kind of a house thing.”

He rides respectfully and hasn’t had any problems since he started riding last summer, he said.

Cone had one run-in with a police officer because he wasn’t wearing mandatory eye protection, he said.

“He just told me what was up,” he said. “He was cool about it.”

Steve Johnson, University Deputy Police Chief, said mo-ped operation hasn’t been much of a problem, and that safety for both pedestrians and riders is a primary concern. Alertness is important, he said.

“People need to be aware when they’re out riding,” he said. “You won’t win if you collide with a car, whether it’s your fault or not.”

Riders aren’t allowed to operate mo-peds on bicycle-only paths on campus, like the Washington Avenue pedestrian bridge, but are allowed to use the bike lanes on campus roadways, Johnson said.

The University Parking and Transportation Services office allows mo-peds, as defined by the Minnesota Department of Motor Vehicles, to be parked at bicycle racks, said Mary Sienko, marketing manager for the office. Anything larger must be parked in a lot, ramp or space, she said.

The vehicle must be registered each year for $6, and the operator is required to carry liability insurance at a minimum, according to state guidelines.

Insurance policies are the same as those for motorcycles, said Cristy Corté, a media relations specialist for Progressive Casualty Insurance Company.

The annual premiums range from $75 to $700 depending on the type of insurance desired, the driver’s record and the value of the mo-ped, according to Progressive’s Web site.

Cone said he’ll ride until the snow and ice hit the ground this winter.

“I’ve got some snowboarding goggles and gloves, so I’ll be all right,” he said. “The wind chill, though, will probably be the worst.”