March 7, 2006
Things I noticed:
- Scooters and motorcycles are everywhere, even as the temperature hovered around the freezing point. (Lap aprons are very common on motorcycles and scooters.) Basically, the whole town sounds like you’re at a scooter rally, all day and all night.
- Scooters easily outnumber motorcycles 3-1. Most motorcycles we saw were small-displacement and Asian, the few bigger ones we saw were usually Ducatis or BMWs.
- It’s impossible to walk a block on any street in Paris without seeing several scooters parked on the sidewalk. Nirvana for American scooterists, but probably no fun for most pedestrians.
- Piaggio definitely dominates the market, even over Peugeot. Modern Vespas (ETs and GTs) and Piaggios (X9s and Libertys) are everywhere, and P-series scooters were far more common than i expected, maybe 1 out of 20 scooters was a P or PK-series. There were a good number of Peugeots, but mostly older beaters, I saw only a couple Speedfights. In Ireland a couple years ago, Gilera Runners dominated the market, but we only saw one in Paris. Kymco and Aprilia also had a decent share of the market. Chinese and Taiwanese scooters were common, but I saw few Hondas or Yamahas, and no “retro” Asian scooters other than one Honda Joker (called the “Shadow” there?).
- Most scooters, even the relatively expensive Vespas, were healthily thrashed, parked against walls and each other with stickers and dents galore. They’re transportation there, not fetish objects.
- We did see several nicely-maintained vintage Vespas that were clearly owned by lifestyle scooterists, mostly smallframes like the one above.
- As far as 4-wheeled vehicles, I couldn’t believe the number of Smart Cars, they’re cleaning up there. Minis (both old and new) were common, and all manner of tiny CitrÃ¶ens, Peugeots, and Renaults were everywhere. VW and Audi were probably the biggest importers. All the cars were tiny: the streets are narrow, traffic and parking is a nightmare, and gas is expensive. One of the biggest popular cars was a 2-door version of the Toyota Rav-4. Like the scooters, the cars mostly looked like they’d had a hard life.
I’ll post more later about the two scooter shops we visited.