Of the seven colours of the rainbow, the theme of this issue of the Connections, I have been allotted the fourth and middle colour of the rainbow to write about - the colour green.
The usual ideas present themselves, as I sit fingers poised above the computer keyboard, of recycling, reducing ones CO2 footprint and saving energy, but not this time. This time I shall approach the colour green on a tangent in a direction of what I would call, semi-green.
There is a changing awareness of how to tackle pollution when it comes to personal transport, by opting for the lesser polluter. As a reaction to the often-prohibitive costs of running a car, many inhabitants of the Netherlands are opting for a scooter. Previously the domain of the young and often seen as noisy and naff, the scooter is increasingly becoming a favourite, particularly with the more mature clientele of forty something. Evaluating the pros and cons, it’s not rocket science to discover that a scooter is cheap to run, can get you across town in the blink of an eye, avoids traffic jams and can be parked anywhere, just like a bicycle. That said, the millionth scooter has long left the showroom floor in the Netherlands, for the open road and now like a plague of locusts, they are everywhere. Amsterdam is reported recently as having 1.6 million scooters in the city. So what now? Will the famously wide Dutch cycle paths have to be made wider still to accommodate the additional numbers of buzzing scooters and thereby, finally, relegating the car to a narrower one? I may well jest, but methinks the day of personal transportation is evolving towards a more economically viable options, albeit in its infancy.
So, what’s out there to choose from? Well, there are a myriad of different brands of scooter to choose from, with an equally broad range of prices for every pocket. But, moving right along and ignoring the riff raff, the most popular model to date, is that of the hip and trendy Italian, Vespa. Being totally un-enamoured by cars myself, recently I bought a Vespa as an alternative to my bicycle and yes, I love my Vespa! Decked out in a stylish black with chrome and beige saddle (often with my son riding pillion), I wiz through the streets of Groningen with the greatest of ease. Everyone looks at a Vespa too as it passes, as they are a design masterpiece and very stylish; as a result we are often waved and honked at.
So where did it all begin? The Piaggio Company was founded in 1884 by Rinaldo Piaggio (1864-1938) in Genoa. Vespa’s design has evolved from a single model first manufactured 23rd April 1946, from a design by aeronautical engineer Corradino D'Ascanio at the end of WWII, into a full line of scooters and a total of seven companies, owned by Piaggio. This has made Piaggio a forerunner in the scooter world, producing the first globally successful scooter ever. The unique design of the Vespa appeared during the early years of the post war rebuild and was seen as a symbol of the democratic spirit that supported certain aspects of design in Italy during that time. As a result the scooter’s signature style, of a painted pressed steel unibody totally encasing the engine, flat floorboard and prominent streamlined protective front has made them famous the world over.
Vespa even has a page on Facebook to become a fan of. If, however, you’re looking for the real low down on the variety of models and accessories available, Vespa meet-ups the world over, as well as the whole Vespa lifestyle, shopping and limited editions scenario, then I would point you in the direction of their website: www.vespa.com; but be warned, that’s the thin edge of the wedge!
I hope this has warmed you to the charms of going semi-green and maybe even becoming the proud owner of a Vespa in the future too. Otherwise, next time you’re out and about and see a Vespa, why not give a wave? If it’s me I’ll be sure to wave back.