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Scootin' around: Scooters put a stylish spin on saving at the pump

Less intimidating than a motorcycle - less expensive and more efficient, too - scooters have been rolling just under the radar for decades, enjoying bursts of popularity throughout the United States but never quite catching on as a 'serious' vehicle.

Then again, fuel has never hit such a 'serious' high price.

Mainstream American mover, meet the scooter.

What is it, exactly?

The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles refers to a low-speed vehicle with two or three wheels as a moped - also commonly called a scooter, (not to be confused with a manually-powered two-wheeled device, most recently popularized by brand name Razor). DMV records show 306,000 motorcycles registered for road travel statewide in 2007, and more than 10,000 mopeds.

The numbers show a huge increase in motorcycle registration in the last ten years, while scooter registrations dipped slightly then gradually increased - but dealers believe that is about to change.

Jerry Kessler at Destiny Motorsports in Lakeland said the shop has been selling Schwinn scooters since it first opened three years ago, and for a long time did not sell many.

In fact, this year the store did not order any new models, waiting to sell the 2006 and 2007 models still on the floor.

Kessler said sales suddenly increased, and when he contacted Schwinn to place an order in May, he was told there would be a one to two month wait - 2008 models were on backorder.

In Manlius, Steve Kushnir is experiencing a similar phenomenon. Kushnir owns Extreme Alternatives, specializing in offering motorists alternatives to the extreme prices of gas.

Kushnir sells Lifan scooters, a Chinese brand, and he said he has seen an increased interest as well as an extended wait time on orders due to higher demand in other parts of the world.

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