Thursday, May 14, 2009


I don't believe I've mentioned that about a year ago I bought a second-hand Vespa scooter. Actually it was barely used; the 69-year-old woman I purchased it from had won it in a raffle and put only 80 miles on the odometer before running it off a corner on her dirt road and crashing it into a horse pasture. She was okay but felt no further interest in scootering.

I, however, adore the scooter. It's cool-looking and extraordinarily fun to zip around on. In spite of having only a 0.125L engine, it has pretty much cured me of the desire for a sports car. It can get up to 60mph but gets roughly twice the gas milage of a Prius, three times that of a Civic, and five or six times that of a Hummer. I would never say it's better than riding a bicycle, environment-wise, but in city traffic it sure feels a lot safer.

I've pushed its limits a bit. A few weeks ago I drove it to Green Acres, which is 118 miles round-trip. It took a bit longer than driving, but only because I wasn't on the interstate. It was a much more enjoyable sensory experience, though. Word spread quickly at GA that the crazy shrink had ridden "that little thing" all the way from Smallish City. People were impressed, but they don't know that other people have driven scooters all the way across the country. Now that sounds fun. Partly. I might try an interstate-trip soon.

The one frustration I've had, ironically, is parking. The downtown business area of Smallish City is truly littered with perfect scooter parking places on the sides or nooks of various plazas, alleys, etc. Also each parking garage has many areas of "leftover" space, too small for a car but perfect for a couple scooters. But all of these options are illegal. Any place that isn't at a two-hour street meter is either defined by the Parking Department as "sidewalk", or is private property (often it's hard to know which.) And the garages forbid scooters and motorcycles altogether. I've tried various strategies to bring my scooter to work. For instance, I've tried parking it at right angles to the curb, at a double meter, exactly between two parking spaces and thus leaving space for cars to park in both. In my mind, I'm taking up no parking space at all. But the mind of the Parking Officer, evidently, I am in both spaces, and thus fair game for a ticket if either meter is expired.

To their credit, the Smallish City Council passed a resolution last month authorizing the creation of 31 street scooter/motorcycle parking spaces. I wish they'd give us some space in the garages (parking out of the rain being somewhat more important for a scooter than a car). And I'm a bit perplexed at some other aspects of the plan-- in one place, for example, they are turning 18 feet of curb into just two parking spaces, when you could easily fit four or more. But it's a good start. Or will be, if it turns into reality.


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