Common Tread

Genoa's mayor wants classic Vespas off their home roads, citing emissions

Oct 05, 2018

Genoa’s new mayor, Marco Bucci, promised to bring back a motion to ban classic Vespas and other polluting motorcycles from city streets, according to a recent article from The Guardian. That’s bad news for enthusiasts in the very city where Piaggio was born.

Today, Vespa’s headquarters are just down the coast in Pontedera. The region is proud of its plucky scooters, and as many as 20,000 Vespas can be found in Genoa alone. In 2016, scooter riders beat back a city proposal to restrict pre-1999 models, but their presence in the city is once again in jeopardy with Bucci’s promise to get “the most polluting engines” out. New transportation policies would push for electric vehicles, including subsidization of recharging. It’s not yet known if Bucci will hold to the previous attempt’s 1999 cutoff, or take a more aggressive stance.

Vespa’s new e-scooter, the Elettrica, means the icon wouldn’t be completely forced out in a worst-case scenario, and today’s four-stroke models don’t seem to be in any immediate danger, either. But for riders who preserve their older scooters, the threat of being outlawed in their home city has got to sting.

Vespa 150
Under the ban, this 150 GL would have to go. Christian Scheja photo, via WikiMedia Commons.

Supporters of the ban aren’t alone in their battle to get older motorcycles off the road. Paris , Hanoi, and Singapore have grappled with the same concerns in recent years. They’ve also proposed similar solutions: Pre-2004 bikes banned by 2020 in Paris, all motorcycles banned by 2030 in Hanoi, and pre-July 1, 2003 banned in Singapore by 2028. Major urban areas worldwide are looking for ways to improve air quality, and I predict we’ll only see an increase in bans or restrictions as a result.

Genoa’s a little different. Locals have relied on Vespas and other scooters since the city’s reconstruction after World War II. They're legendary. With the city’s Vespa heritage comes the passion of its local clubs, who once again organized to make their case. “They used a 26-page PowerPoint presentation in the town hall to show that the maligned older models only numbered around 3,000 and were thus insignificant in terms of pollution, compared to the cruise ships that docked in the Porto Antico, whose engines ran for days on end,” reports The Guardian. “According to their statistics, motorcycles only produced 41 tonnes of nitrogen dioxide in 2011, compared with 3,176 for the port.” The Vespa community also points to the scooter’s role in the city's history. Is a ban really worth it?

In city government’s opinion, maybe so. But I have a feeling Vespa clubs won’t go quietly. Not in Genoa.