Car-loving Germans turn to scooters as fuel costs rise

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1 Aug, 2008 Updated Fri 1 Aug 2008 14:57 CEST
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Germany has traditionally been a car-loving nation, but more people are donning helmets and taking to the streets on mopeds and bicycles as fuel prices soar, the German Motorcycle Industry Association (IVM) said on Friday.

But the glut of new two-wheelers is creating traffic problems for unprepared German cities.

“The sale of motor scooters with engines of up to 125 cubic centimetres has increased by 300 percent in the last months," Achim Marten, spokesman for the IVM told news agency DPA. City dwellers have been especially active in seeking out environmentally friendly scooters, he said.

Scooter and bicycle shop owner Walter Mohr also sees a growing trend in Berlin, where petrol prices are hovering around €1.46 per litre ($8.60 per gallon). “We have sold more motor scooters in the last few years," he told The Local on Friday, adding that he is convinced fuel prices are a major factor in customer decisions to hang up their car keys and choose alternative transportation.

A scooter uses about two litres of gasoline to travel 100 kilometres, while a car burns ten or more litres to travel the same distance.

"When it comes to petrol, a scooter costs about one-fifth as much as a car," Mohr said. "Repairs, taxes and insurance are, of course, also much cheaper.”

Parking fees are also often eliminated with scooters and bicycles.

Riding a bike, of course, costs only sweat effort. The ADFC German bikers club told DPA that it has tracked a 15 percent increase in sales at bike dealers, which means an increase of 4.6 million bikes per year. Many Germans are also pulling dusty bikes out of their cellars. "In the past, the people rode bikes for health reasons," Karsten Klama of the ADFC told DPA. "Now it's a piggy bank on two wheels for many people."

While switching to two-wheels may be beneficial for German pocketbooks, it has put a strain on traffic, as many cities don't have adequate bike lanes.

"Bike lanes are too small and unkempt," Klima said, adding that many train stations also don't offer adequate parking. The government sees a potential to increase bike traffic via infrastructure projects by 14 percent, DPA reported, but the ADFC said it is sceptical that real improvements will be made.

With or without improved infrastructure, Stefan Deimann from one of Germany's largers scooter retailers, the Scooter Centre in Bergheim, says he's doubling the floorspace at his store "as a result of the boom" and in hopes of even more business as petrol prices rise at the pump.




2008/08/01 14:57

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