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UA News
It's a Chopper, Baby

KEVIN KLAUS/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Motorcycles reflected in the mirror line East Fourth Street behind the Family and Consumer Resources building. This is one of the large parking areas for motorcycles on campus.
By by Eric Bochner
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 17, 2002

As freshmen, we come to the UA with wide eyes and willing hearts. There's so much to do and so many people all around you, all of the time. The only problem, for most freshmen, is that mom and dad didn't send you packing with a means of transportation. The result is a whole lot of walking, and a whole lot of celebrating when one of your friends finally does get a car. As sophomores, most of us have either submitted to a rigorous daily walk to and from school, adapted to a bicycle or simply bought a car. As juniors, if you don't have a car, all of your friends do and there is no need to buy your own unless your roommates or significant others are tired of getting stuck filling up the gas tank on their own.

By the time many students reach senior status, they find that having a car is a big chunk out of their spending money and that they can't make the two minute drive through campus in under thirty minutes because everybody and their dog has a car. There is another alternative, as many of the students here have discovered. You can get the best of both worlds by getting around on a motorcycle.

"It's not just a way to get from place to place," said Maureen DeSoto, a family studies senior. "It's a lifestyle."

Now, this isn't about those dinky little rigs ¸ a lawnmower motor hooked up to a skateboard with a makeshift braking system soldered onto a lead pipe. No, this is about the real deal machines-the hogs, cruisers and crotch-rockets. You may not know it, but these things can be the best buy you'll ever make ¸ in your college career, anyway.

"I had a Jeep in high school," said Todd Brandise, a junior computer science major. "Depending on how much driving you do, you'll spend a lot less on a motorcycle's gas than on an SUV."

For those of you who own cars that cost more than you'll make in your first year out of college, this may not apply. For the rest of you, motorcycles can help get you around town without having to pay an obscene amount of money to do it.

"I've always ridden motorcycles since I was a kid," said sophomore Blake McElrath, a business major. "(It's) easier parking than a car."

An economical student might buy a run-down car that costs a couple hundred bucks out of a back lot. They might even be able to get a new car for a few thousand dollars. However, they will indubitably spend a large amount of their monthly income ¸ whether that be their income or their parent's income is variant ¸ on gas.

"I spend like 45 to 50 dollars a week on gas," said Chris Schmidt, a senior art history major. "But I still don't think I could get a motorcycle."

It costs about 20 bucks to fill up most cars' gas tanks. On the other hand, motorcycles cost about five bucks to fill up the tank. Motorcycles average about 50 miles per gallon.

Weather affords riders a year-round experience in Tucson and, unlike the East Coast where salt eats away at the snow as well as the car, the lifetime of most vehicles is prolonged in Arizona's climate. There is, of course, an opposing side to motorcycles. They are sometimes seen as dangerous-hazards on two wheels.

"They creep up on you like Montezuma's revenge," Schmidt said. "They do, and someone's gonna die!"

UAPD's Cmdr. Brian Seastone said most of the citations dealing with motorcycles are for speeding.

"There aren't too many accidents involving motorcycles," he said.

Motorcycles run from a couple thousand dollars for a used bike to around 15,000 for a pretty damn good bike. At the top of the motorcycle social scale, you can get a Harley for a chunk of change more. Now that's about how much most people pay for a new or used car. Here at the UA, there is a tradition of charging an arm and a leg for campus parking. It will run you about a grand to park at any one of the garages within the university's rim if you drive a car. Motorcycle parking permits are only $60, and the spots are a lot closer to where your classes are going to be.

"They're really cheap. The parking permit alone was why I got one, besides the fact that I wanted one. I mean everyone drives a car," said undeclared sophomore Billy Dennyson. "It's a lot easier to get around on a motorcycle."

There are the obvious drawbacks to riding a motorcycle, though. For those of you who are used to driving six of your best barfly friends to the after party, this change could be a bit drastic. But the most copious charge, according to those that were interviewed, was that you can not drink and drive on a motorcycle without seriously risking your own life and the lives of all of those around you. There are no seatbelts, airbags or roll bars to save you from getting tossed like a cigarette butt when a car hits you.

"Everyone who rides expects to lay it down at least once," said Brett Barmore, a psychology graduate student.

"You just have to get up and tell yourself, ╬OK, I laid it down, now I have to try and never do that again.' Everyone who rides has gotten or will get into an accident. If you realize how vulnerable you are against cars and trucks, you'll probably avoid scraping yourself off the road," he said.

"If you're smart, you'll live a happy and long life no matter what you drive."


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