Scooter envy

When most people think about popular European modes of transport, a few vehicles come to mind, namely complicated railway systems, tall noisy buses and tiny electric cars that zip around the city with a hum, sometimes even driving on the sidewalks and scattering pedestrians on their way. Well, I’m here to tell you that, while all those vehicles are indeed present in great quantity in Paris, by far the most popular way to get around is in fact not one of them.

It’s a scooter.

You might be picturing one of those mod, brightly-colored Vespas like the ones featured in “The Lizzie McGuire Movie” (2003), perfect for romantic afternoons buzzing around to different monuments as poppy ’90s music plays in the background. You would also be wrong. When I say “scooter,” I mean the two-wheeled contraptions of our elementary school days — a Razor scooter, as a matter of fact.

The Parisian propensity for scootering is something, I think, you have to see to believe. It’s certainly a habit that surprised me — I never expected to see so many scooters in such a chic metropole as Paris. And yet, such is life in the capital of France.

I think it’s brilliant, actually. For the most part, scooters belong to schoolchildren, which makes sense, as in my mind they are directly linked to childhood. Practically every primary school has a row of scooters chained up outside like bicycles, each with a different brightly colored scooter lock preventing scooter thieves from absconding with them. (There’s also no cuter way to almost be pushed into oncoming traffic than by narrowly avoiding collision with a tiny French five-year-old speeding down the sidewalk. Hearing their shouted apologies as they fly by almost makes up for the harrowing brush with death.)

Scooters aren’t solely reserved for those under age 10, however. I’ve seen multiple adults — some even in business attire — scootering across town, looking harried and yet still somehow chic, a combination that could only ever work in Paris, I think. It’s even come to a point where I want to scoot — honestly, it would make my daily commute to class so much shorter and more fun, too.

I’m definitely wondering how the scooter trend managed to stick in Paris, though. For me, scooters are inextricably associated with the ’90s — I don’t think I can remember the last time I saw anybody riding one in the United States. I also haven’t worked up the courage to ask my host family about it, either; this strikes me as the kind of cultural oddity they wouldn’t realize is an oddity until I bring it up (like, for example, “Poisson d’Avril,” the French April Fool’s Day tradition that involves sticking paper cut-outs of fish into the backs of unsuspecting friends and teachers. This is something I still don’t entirely understand, so I won’t get into that here. Suffice it to say that, when I asked, my host family was more interested in being surprised that we don’t do Poisson d’Avril in the states than in answering my question).

By far my favorite way I’ve seen anyone use a scooter, though, is to scoot between trains on the metro. I honestly can’t imagine a more convenient way to dodge the ever-present crowds — when you hop off your train, just hop on your scooter and off you go, parting the sea of people as you scoot to catch your connections. Scooter envy is real, you guys. I’m this close to asking my mom to send me mine from childhood, though it probably wouldn’t get here before I leave for summer break. When I get home, though … sidewalk pedestrians, watch out — I’m picking up a tip from the French, and I’ll be scooting.

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