Saturday, March 29, 2008

How to Parallel Park in a Parallel Universe

If you don't like the sight of parking garages, and the thought of how much fossil fuel oversized cars are consuming, then the old neighborhoods of Rome can come as a relief. Narrow streets and very limited parking has created what for an American is a parallel universe populated by scooters and tiny cars.

The "smart" car--a small car with an attitude that is coming to the States this year--is a common sight. It's so short it can park like a scooter if the space is too minute for parallel parking.

I had read that Rome's streets are noisy and dangerous, but in the old district, at least, there was a lot of gentle driving going on, and the reported racket of car horns turned out to be only a periodic, polite peep.

When I was ten years old, I visited Europe and, when I wasn't throwing rocks in alpine streams in an imaginative effort to re-sink the Bismark, I was admiring the scooters that quietly zipped people around. Decades later, I have the same reaction. Motorcycles without the macho connotations.

A web search suggests that the 'smart' cars don't get particularly spectacular gas mileage--in the 30 to 40 mpg range. Scooters are up around 85 mpg.

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