|Photo: Debi Goodwin. First Vespa at the Piaggo Factory|
I drive one of the"knockoffs," a Yamaha that tries to sound Italian with its label Vino, as if I'd drink and drive. I can't complain about my scooter. It's held up well but I've always been in sway of the Vespa and promised myself that if I achieved a significant benchmark, I'd reward myself with one. I don't know if I will ever buy another scooter but, if I do, I will succumb to the mythology that is Vespa, a mythology, that in my mind, comes with loaves of bread in the back and turns down narrow, ancient Italian streets with the wind moving through my hair a la Audrey Hepburn.
|Photo:Debi Goodwin. Vespa prototype at the Piaggio Factory|
The early advertisements for Vespa reflected both that intention and the feelings of freedom that two wheels offered, especially to women.
But while the Vespa has created a tradition of affordable transportation it also left a legacy of air pollution in cities like Delhi and Ho Chi Minh City where scooters outnumber cars and come close to matching the population. In China, the switch to cleaner electric scooters has happened because of regulations to battle smog. But in other places, riders aren't ready to give up on their aging gas-powered scooters.
Piaggio has been introducing greener scooters - both hybrid and electric - but I've seen no evidence they are catching on. Wouldn't it be great if the company could create a sustainable scooter with the same cache and slew of copycats that the original Vespa? Now that would be a scooter I'd buy.