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Costa Ricans Turn to Scooters and Bikes with Rising Gas Prices

Scooters invade Costa Rica
Scooters invade Costa Rica, in the wake of new gas hikes.

Some years ago, motorcycles and scooters were an unusual site in Costa Rica. When the sun is shining, riding down the street with the wind in your hair seems very inspiring, but when it is raining cats and dogs, it doesn’t really look so appealing! Mountain biking started a small trend towards 2-wheelers, then about five years ago, bikers started to appear, cruising around on their Harleys in good weather and bad. Now it seems that anything goes.

While the number of Harleys has risen, so have the cheaper Chinese and Korean versions. Today 90 different models can be counted against about 20 that were present ten years ago. The Scooters or Vespas have also made a grand entrance. In 2006, 17,728 bikes were imported; it rose to 37,524 in 2007. It is obvious that 2008 will beat that number, already it has been recorded that only during the first 4 months of this year, the number of bikes purchased here has reached 15,603, 40% more than last year at the same time.

Bikes save time and money. High prices of gasoline together with endless queues on the roads are the main reason for this phenomenon. Still, other forms of transportation in Costa Rica make the roads unsafe for bikers. Bus drivers pass by them at full speed, almost touching them or throwing them off the road. Drivers do not respect them, and there are no special lanes for them. The potholes are a big hazard for vehicles in general, but even more so if you are on a bike of any type.

The demand is so high these days that the bikes are sold like hotcakes. Most Ticos buy them on credit and no deposit or guarantor is required. Just bring your identification, a smile and shake hands. Interest rates varies between 12% to 25%. Cheaper scooters cost about $700 here but people pay up to $2,000 for a bike. The low cylinders are most popular, those between 100cc, that run up to 50 kms per liter. Not much comparison with a Land Cruiser there!

It has been noted that more women are commuting by bike too. In Latin countries it was always, typically, a man’s thing, but all this has changed. Women now go to university, to work, they need their own transportation, and for most, a car is too expensive to run. Buses are slow and unreliable and taxi prices in Costa Rica don’t come that cheap anymore either. So the scooters present an ideal solution. Drivers are swallowing their fear, and taking the road. A scooter’s tank can be filled for a couple thousand colones to last a whole week. Bumper to bumper traffic is not a problem anymore, so there is no need to leave the house in the early hours in order to get to work on time. Hopefully now, drivers will learn to respect bikers of any type, whether it’s a bicycle, a motorbike or a scooter, as they are economical, efficient and ecologically sound.

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Written by Mireille

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