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'Scooting to Work' Takes on New Meaning

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
June 10, 2009

Barbara Briggs has tried to like bicycles. She’s owned two really good ones during her lifetime but it hasn’t made any difference. But scooters—or, specifically, Xootrs—are another story.

After finally giving up on biking, Briggs, who works as an information  technologist in UNH’s space science center, started thinking about other ways to stay fit. She described to her husband the type of scooter kids used in the early 1900s, made from orange crates and ball-bearings, saying that was something she could see herself doing.

When her husband one day happened upon someone using a scooter he thought she might like, he stopped the rider and took down the brand. It was a Xootr, made, it turns out, in Lee and invented by the sons of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, a former UNH professor who, in 1991, won a Pulitzer Prize in history for “A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard based on her diary, 1785–1812.”

Briggs bought her metal and pine (newer models are all metal) Xootr in 2000. Once or twice a week in good weather, she scoots to work from her Newmarket home, a distance of about six miles. Sometimes she’ll drive, bringing the scooter with her and taking a ride at lunchtime.

“It’s great aerobic exercise,” Briggs says. “I used to jog—this takes the place. And it’s fun. My husband tried it but he didn’t get the same kick as I do.”

The Xootr came with a rear brake. When she finally wore it out, she had to send the scooter back for repairs.

“I was quite nervous but it came back fine,” she says, adding that the handbrake is now, as with new models, in the front.

In the past, Briggs tried skateboarding and inline skating. Neither provided the same thrill as scooting. And the nice thing is, unlike inline skates, you can just step off, she says.

It takes her about 45 minutes to get to work. She stays off Route 108, traveling instead along Packers Falls Road most of the way.

“There are a couple of places between here and Newmarket where I have to walk up the hills. Some days I don’t but most of the time I do. When I get to the top of the last hill going into Durham, I take it wide open,” Briggs says.

The Xootr cost about $250. She uses it on Bike to Work Day and for trips around Newmarket that take her out of downtown. Her lunch break route is along Route 155 to Packers Falls Road and back via Mill Road.

“It’s not as environmentally sound to drive in and scoot at lunch but at least I’m still getting exercise,” she says.

And she’s been getting the word out about the fun she has riding her Xootr. So far, coworker Lorna Ellis has three; she and her two daughters ride them around town. Briggs has recommended them to others in Morse Hall.

On days she can’t ride the scooter, Briggs swims or works out in the employee fitness center.

“Swimming, the stationary bike, they're boring. The Xootr is fun,” she says, “really fun.”

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