Common Tread

A Yankee moto-tourist dodges Euro scooters

Jun 20, 2014

It was like Mad Max, but with hot blondes and scooters. Oh, and never tell a Dutch girl she sounds like a German. You won?t like what happens.

I traveled to Europe a few months ago. I saw the sights, drank some beer, and met up with a Russian I found on the Internet. Normal. Everything was going according to plan — Berlin, Frankfurt, Antwerpen.

And then Amsterdam.

It’s not all it’s cracked up to be, you know. Well, it’s not the Amsterdam that my college roommate prays to go to when he dies. It’s not the hazy green paradise you read about in children's books either. Amsterdam is post-apocalyptic Australia where gasoline is gold, but for some reason no one has stopped driving automobiles. Leather-clad Aussies have been replaced by bespectacled Dutchmen and that blonde girl from your dreams. This time though, she’s not doing that thing you like, but running you down on her Vespa and wondering why you made her late for work.

You see, when your countrymen are all well-educated and can visit the doctor for free, but a full tank of gas costs you more than a lady of the night, SUVs and gargantuan pickup trucks are conspicuously scarce. Europeans have a more practical mind, and their chosen method of transport reflects that. Scooters are everywhere!

"Great!" you said. "Save the environment!" you said. "Lane splitting is cool!" you said. Those were your last words.

If you think inattentive soccer moms and texting teenagers are bad, think again. Squadrons of skinny Europeans in a hurry are infinitely worse. Riding on two wheels isn’t a leisure activity on the other side of the pond. There’s no garage space to wrench and no sunsets to ride into. There’s limited time and limited lane space. Scooters. Are. Everywhere. It’s like descending into the rainforest and being eaten alive by bugs, only the rainforest is a cold, rainy, autumn day in Holland and the mosquitoes are scooterists hip-checking you on the sidewalk. Don’t stand in the bike lane!

You tourist.

Europe may seem like the mecca of practical-minded transportation, but that’s not always a good thing. Our culture-rich friends were forced onto scooters to save money on gas, but what they got were roving bands of lawless ladies!

Things work differently here in the states. Forget about practicality. A big bagger in the city? Oh yeah! Sport bike at the beach? You know it. Scooter on the highway? Duh. If it has two wheels (or sometimes three) and puts a smile on your face, ride the hell out of it. We have the luxury of cheap gasoline and endless roads. That's not always the case. Smoke 'em while you got 'em.