America’s Most Unwanted

April 1, 2009

It’s important for most of us to find crowds to hang out with and friends with whom to associate. You don’t put yourself in a box when it comes to describing your avocations, but you often find people you like to be with in your circle of recreational activities.

Therefore, I found a scooter group in the Boston area last year that seemed sane and well-balanced. It turned out very differently and I was booted from that club today.

I’m not positive, because I used Wikipedia to look this up, but I think it was Groucho Marx who said, “I wouldn’t belong to any group that would have me as a member.”

I might have to start thinking like Groucho because today I was kicked out of a Meetup Group.

A scooter-riders’ Meetup Group.

A Meetup Group that I was desperately trying to help straighten out because it was so mismanaged from a participation, event and marketing standpoint.

But I digress. Let’s start with the email I got today and move back in time. *All quoted materials will be indented so you can distinguish them from my current ire and sarcasm.

Received today from the group organizer – Paul Shoemaker…

You have been removed from Twist & Go Scooter Club.

The person who removed you, Paul Shoemaker, said:
Jeff, I have received complaints from a few members about your
attitude and providing misinformation to members as well as
your contemptuous behavior emailing members about other MSF
schools right after I announce one as a new sponsor – not a
very good way to welcome a new sponsor. Last season you made it
pretty clear that you did not need this group and given the
above, I don’t need you here either. I know you know we have
lots going on in both clubs this year and so far you have not
contributed or shown any interest in being part of what we are
doing. Ride safe and have a good year. – Paul

I thought this was odd because it was my first alert that anything was amiss with my membership and my conduct. I chalked it up to an April Fools Day joke and went about my business.

A few minutes later I got a similar email from Paul removing me from the other scooter club Meetup Group. I shrugged and signed on to Meetup to see what was going on.

It was true. I had been booted. From both clubs. By Paul. Without warning. I sent him a couple gentle emails to let him know how happy I was to be free of his idiocy and also to clarify in my mind what had just happened.

Let’s look back to yesterday when I got this message from Paul (it was to the entire membership)….

As spring approaches and we get back on our rides for another season of fun I like to remind everyone about safety. I am happy to say that as a group we had only but a few scrapes and bruises last year and I’d like to keep our recored clean. It comes as perfect timing that our newest member Bob Johnson owns the Streetwise Cycle School and sent me the following message. Bob says..

Hi, Paul.
I just wanted to make you and your members aware that my company, Streetwise Cycle School, is now offering the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) Scooter School course for just $99 on our scooters or $75 on your own scooter. Please find more information on our web site.

Bob Johnson

I thought that was cool. Paul was pimping a rider course for scooterists. Well, I had learned from the school where I was certified that they had also instituted a scooter course. So I let the board know there was more than one option.

Hey guys, the crew at Training Wheels – a certified MSF company – has introduced a scooter-specific course that ends with you getting your license.

Here’s the link…


That drew some fire….

Yes, and it’s only 5 times more expensive!

Jim Ricca
Ricca Creative
[removed personal information such as phone and email]

I didn’t take the bait and was clear about why I thought the Training Wheels offering was noted.

Point was that the Training Wheels course certifies you for your license. It isn’t just a skills course.

As people in other states know, the levels of training offered in scooter-specific courses vary widely. Some schools don’t even recognize that some scooters require shifting or that some can achieve speeds over 30MPH.

Just wanted people to have a choice.

More fire came in.

Yeah, but read it carefully. Training Wheels’ Wicked Basic course does NOT provide a license. Only the Wicked Advanced Plus course does and that requires a year’s riding experience. This is essentially the same as the Experienced Rider course offered by Streetwise for $15 less. Streetwise’s website doesn’t say so explicitly but Bob has told me in an email discussion last year that you can ride your scooter for this course.

Jonathan Spencer
CyberArtisans Web Developers
[removed personal information such as phone and email]

I decided to fire back and give some info on my perspective and what I knew of both schools.

What would be fantastic would be if the course being touted on this list offered list members a 50% discount or something instead of just being a promotional shout out without a balanced offer of other courses in the region.

In the interest of full disclosure, I took my motorcycle MSF at Training Wheels and asked them why they didn’t have a scooter course. They said they didn’t want to offer one until the learned all the specifics about scooters, the local laws and the implications of providing training on all types of scooters.

This took two years and only now have they started offering the courses. I guess it’s similar to the argument that you can buy a scooter at Pep-Boys or buy one at a supported dealer who has taken the time to learn the landscape and the vehicle.

**This is not an indictment of the other school promoted by Paul, just a comment on what I bet some instructional organizations might do. I looked at Streetwise for my MSF course and they refused to let me take it with my scooter. Perhaps they have changed their policies. Further, the listed class….

#  As a Scooter School graduate, you will not receive a motorcycle license.  If you would like to proceed with obtaining your license by passing the Basic Rider Course (BRC), you will receive 10% off the price of  the complete Streetwise Cycle School Basic Rider Course taught on our motorcycles!

…seems to offer basic instruction that any full-service dealer might teach. And then you still have to take the MSF to be fully prepared – in my opinion – to pilot a motorcycle on the streets of this country..

Then Bob chimed in. He’s – if you forgotten – the still undisclosed sponsor that Paul neglected to introduce as such. So people still think he’s just a guy on the scooter boards who happens to own a scooter and MSF school. By the way, Paul is good at communication, that’s why people love his Meetup Groups.

I haven’t commented yet on this thread because of the obvious potential for conflict of interest.  I will just state the facts about the Scooter School (SS) and the Experienced Rider Courses (ERC) at Streetwise Cycle School and I will let you draw your own conclusions on the course offerings at Streetwise and elsewhere:

The Scooter School that we offer for $99 is the official Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) 4-hour on-scooter training.  The riding exercises in the Scooter School cover all of the riding skills that are covered in the complete 15-hour Basic Rider Course, except shifting.  The ScooterCoach:Student ratio = 1:6 or better (limit of 6 scooters on the range for the class).  This is not a license waiver course.

The Experienced Rider Course that we offer for $135 is the official Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) ERC.  As long as your scooter is registered, insured, and inspected, you can use it in the ERC regardless of whether is has a manual or automatic transmission.  If you provide a photocopy of your motorcycle permit at the beginning of the course, you will be granted a motorcycle license as a result of passing the ERC on your scooter or motorcycle.

I am involved in active conversations with the MA RMV to get approval to use our scooters in the full 15-hour Basic Rider Course (BRC).  If approval is granted (I am not sure if / when this will be decided), then students will be able to obtain their motorcycle license by passing the BRC on one of our scooters.

I hope this helps… I will try to stay quiet on this thread unless someone asks me a question directly.

Bob Johnson

You’ll notice that he talks about an obvious conflict of interest. Not so obvious. We still don’t know he’s a sponsor. In fact, it was never disclosed that Bob and Streetwise had given money to Paul.

Paul has yet to disclose it unless he has done so today on the boards I’m not a member of.

I took the high road and thanked Bob for explaining his school and offerings.


Thanks for that explanation. When I contacted you a little over a year ago to use my scooter in a course I was flatly refused and was told that I had to use your motorcycles. I am pleased with the change in policy.

Also, after looking at the pricing and the info you’ve provided, it seems as if you’ve covered (or are in the process of covering) all bases.



Bob answered me…

As long as your scooter is registered (with a motorcycle license plate, not just a moped sticker), insured, and inspected, then it can be used in the ERC … even if it is “twist and go”.  … and you would get your motorcycle license as a result of passing the course (you need to provide a photocopy of your motorcycle permit at the beginning of the course).


I asked another question to see if Bob could clarify the law for other scooterists on the board. At this point I was about done with the discussion and thought I had added some value.

Can you register a 50cc as a motorcycle in this state? I’m not sure it qualifies for a license plate (motorcycle) in MA unless it goes faster than 30MPH or so.

Other people chimed in with questions and comments.

So given all of this, does anyone with a twist and go 150cc registered as such want to borrow me their ride so I can just take the regular motorcycle exam and get my license? My 150s are not registered as such and therefore won’t get me into the exam, but seriously the difference is pretty negligible. Same ridiculous size tires will kill you at 60mph as well as 30mph. I know, I’ve tried. But anyway, I’d take someone to lunch for helping me out with that. I’d like to take the ERC but not until I get a manual shift cycle…have to watch expenses, sadly. Any takers?

Dyke Doc

I answered straight away. I’m a contributing and helpful scooterist.

Dyke Doc,

You can use mine if you put down a security deposit AND buy me lunch. But make sure you’re allowed to take the course first.

From what I understand of what Bob has shared, and of what I know of the law, the ERC course cannot be taken unless you already have taken the BRC OR get an exemption from the school.

In the past, that has meant petitioning various schools in the MSF qualified category to convince them you are experienced.

So, you will need to have a permit AND have either taken the earlier course or gotten clearance to take the ERC before you can even consider using a scooter to get your motorcycle license.

It would be, again in my opinion, foolish and negligent for the schools to let any schmoe with a scooter just take an experienced rider course and get a license without having the years of skills or the satisfactory passage of the basic course.

According to folks at the Massachusetts RMV, you can take a basic course, practice on your own and then return (on your scooter) to an ERC and if you pass you will receive your license.

If my math is correct, that means paying for the BRC and paying for the ERC. As far as taking a simple scooter course and getting a license for your troubles, it’s not going to happen for a while. The state can’t even agree where scooters can and can’t be parked or what a scooter vs. a moped vs. a bike vs. a motorcycle is in clear enough terms to train their own state police. What makes you think they’ll be jumping on this and making it clear anytime soon?

I think that’s what set Paul off. He was unwilling to hear anything bad about a firm that had handed him some cash and therefore thought it best to silence any discussion.

What are your thoughts on how I handled things to this point? Did I deserve to be booted?

Now read the two emails I sent Paul this morning. Then answer those two questions again.


I didn’t realize that any of this was going on. I did know that you pimped a riding school out of the blue, but nowhere did you make it clear that they were a sponsor so I just offered up info about other schools and true experiences I had with the very school you have just signed on with.

To be clear, I was unwelcome by Streetwise as a scooterist when I first contacted them more than a year ago. It’s good that they’ve now embraced the scooter movement, but I still believe they are doing it solely for financial gain and not because they love scooterists.

I think your removal of me is a knee-jerk reaction and I’m surprised that based on lessons you learned about running a group last year, you didn’t even dole out any warnings or send me a note on the side.

I think the group is a great idea. I don’t like how it’s run and I don’t think there has ever been a focus on riding for smaller scooterists. I’ve found that respect of others’ skillsets has been woeful and with that in mind I stepped out of an organizer role. If I was unable to make it clear that some marketing efforts were just a waste of time (based on my 20+ years in marketing for organizations like Fidelity, Brookstone, Gulf Oil, Talbots, Uno’s), then I knew I was in a sea of closed ears.

For a number of months now, I’ve acted only as a member. If you think my actions as a member violate your terms of service, you also are interpreting those terms fairly stringently.

I’ve attacked nobody. I’ve offered up info that scooterists can use. I’ve clarified my comments and even thanked Bob for participating in the group. If that’s what gets people dumped from your groups, I now see why the larger regional groups and the riders in those groups will have nothing to do with you.

I wish you fun and safety on your scooter as well. Best to the gang.



By the way, your comment about me not contributing this year is crap.

I gave about two dozen ride ideas to the T&G group earlier this year and I believe a few of them are already listed on the calendar.

Just an FYI. Maybe you missed that.


Thanks for reading!