Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Les trottinettes

When I had been in Paris for about a month, I was having dinner with my Parisian friend Ariane. "Tell me, how is Paris different from home, so far? What big differences have you noticed here?" she asked in true journalistic fashion.

Of course there were myriad cultural differences, but the first thing I blurted out was, "Everyone rides scooters!"

"Oh, you mean les trottinettes? Well, yeah, I guess," was more or less her reply, though I'm sure she was infinitely more articulate than that.

But it's true. In my first weeks here, I was flabbergasted to see Parisians of all ages paddling down the sidewalks on their trottinettes. Now I'm accustomed to seeing them everywhere, part of the fabric of everyday life.

In Paris, they are ridden not so much to gain lightning speed, but just as another means of urban transport. Some tiny tots learn to maneuver a trottinette almost as soon as they can walk, so that they can keep up with maman and papa on family walks in the neighborhood. They squiggle along the sidewalk in a special trottinette rhythm, scooping occasionally at the pavement with one hovering foot, able to stop on a centime (usually!) when they reach a corner or encounter a tottering vieille dame.

Plenty of adults use trottinettes, too. Not to the same extent that kids do, but I certainly don't blink an eye when I see a businessman in a suit or an elegantly dressed Parisienne gliding along on a shiny scooter. It's just a matter of practicality.

Walking past a lycée the other day, I saw dozens of trottinettes chained to the deux roues hitching posts just as bikes would be.


Autolycus said...

I don't know if it's a particularly Parisian thing, but there was certainly a revival in scooters here in the UK a few years ago when the folding aluminium type came in - all of a sudden they actually looked a bit chic, a bit new millennium for the people who like minimalist-style gadgetry.

Polly-Vous Francais said...

There was a sccoter craze in the US for a while, too, a few years back. But with people (lots of kids, especially) aiming for top speeds, there were lots of head-injury accidents, and in that respect, thankfully, it seemed to wane in popularity. The difference i've witnessed in Paris is how ubiquitous it is. It's just for scooting along! Maybe it's a corollary to the fact that so many people spend a lot of time walking.
In Paris, it seems that riding a sccoter isn't a dangerous activity, just a practical one. Few wear helmets; but they go at a measured pace, just a bit faster than walking.

I'm not referring to the Super Trottinette challenge sport, of course!

Unknown said...

And here I appear in your blog, even if I'm not at my most articulate.
Now, you'll appreciate this little "mise en abime" (a most french concept, i've never found an English translation for this ...): You know why i happened to pop by your blog just right now? For information. As in, for journalistic information.
I read this post of yours on the Klapisch movie a few days ago (now I totally want to see it, and according to the NYT of today, I ll be able to, because it's playing for ten days as part of a film festival here) ... Anyway, I disgress, the point is -- you had the link to the website for the movie. I couldn't readily find it using google, and wanted to send the link to my friends. So i came to your blog for *information*. See, as I said, mise en abime

Polly-Vous Francais said...

A: Ever articulate, my dear. mise en abime, indeed.

Maybe you read in my first post about "Paris" that it was going to be impossible to find on google, what with the Hexagone and Ms. Hilton ahead of it in the google queue.

The minute I saw the website link (in le Monde or le Nouvel Obs?) I immediately saved it.

So we can now write a headline: "Paris comes to New York"?


Unknown said...

Comme ca change. I didn't know the scooters were "de rigeur" in Paris.

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