Gotta Scoot

A foray into the world of the 2-wheeled amateur

28 April 2007 Saturday Night Fever!

Well, it had to happen. Like most red-blooded twenty-somethings, I relish a good Saturday night out in the city. So it was that last night I took the TGB out for spin and painted the town red… scooter style!

I must admit that I was nervous about the decision to finally hurtle onto the motorway that joins Sydney’s outer-west with the inner-west and city centre. After all, it had been raining, the sun had set and I had many misgivings about sharing the road with cars and trucks that pelt along at a cool hundred kilometres an hour. But I was eager to finally make it into the heart of the city that is internationally renowned for its stunning harbour, famous landmarks like the opera house and harbour bridge and generally known for its seductive charm that draws in droves of British backpackers, Japanese ‘maxi’ tour buses, stylish European filmmakers, and… well… the humble scooterist, yours faithfully.

One of the unmistakable bonuses for anyone on two wheels in Sydney is undoubtedly the free parking lots that one finds peppered throughout the heart of the city – yes, FREE! I wonder if NYC, LA, Paris, London or your city is as generous? Sydney has now become the place where one very rarely brings a car. A simple three hour stay in the private car parks can relieve the unsuspecting out-of-towner of $30. Even the parking metres – if you’re lucky enough to find a random spot on the street – cost an absolute bomb and are usually limited to a two hour stay. If one plans a day or night out in Sydney, one takes the busses or trains. Of course, STA’s track record (no pun intended) for running on time (or sometimes at all) is questionable at the best of times.

So you can imagine my joy, dear reader, when I finally pulled to a patch of road right in the city centre above which a green sign displayed the message ‘motorcycles only.’ No metres, no hourly limits, just a good place to pull the scoot up and walk a couple of minutes to the steps of Sydney Town Hall where I met my friends for dinner.

After a good 4 hours (no, I wasn’t paying attention to the time – but I did spare a thought for the poor driver with parking metre paranoia) – 4 hours of dining on jap chae, biembiembap, the ubiquitous kimchi that one finds without any effort in any of Sydney’s fine Korean restaurants… not to mention the coffee, cake and ice cream on which we gorged ourselves afterwards… after 4 hours of enjoying Sydney’s finest cuisine and company, I took my friends to the parking lot to meet the TGB and have a go for themselves.

Thomas – who hadn’t ridden before – said at the end of the little introduction, ‘Michael – I think you just sold three scooters.’ He and his partner Valerie are off to Rome in a month and I suspect there they’ll know the joys of the Vespa (I’ll let you know the details of their blog if/when they get one started). I just had to ask the ladies to pose in front of the scoot!

Other than that folks, if you’ve not been to Sydney before and are wondering if it’s a good city for a scoot, then the answer is a resounding and unanimous YES.

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April 30, 2007 Posted by | Inner-City | 6 Comments

16 April 2007 “Darling, you and I go together like scooters and inner-city traffic…”

At long last – six long days after attaining my learner’s license – I braved the journey from Parramatta, through Sydney’s inner-west region to the suburb of Ashfield, where my brother, his lovely wife and their baby boy (my beautiful nephew) live in an apartment they recently bought.

This journey took me through the choked artery of Sydney’s famous Parramatta road, originally built by the convict laborers to pave the way between the early settlements close to the harbour and, further inland, the colony’s first successful farms, where the first edible grain was grown in Parramatta.

Since the M4 motorway was finished in 1993, most people traveling between Sydney’s outer and inner-west choose the M4 for any long-distance commuting, where traffic roars at anywhere from 90km/hr to 110km/hr. Running parallel to the M4, Parramatta road is limited to 60km/hr for the most part, with fairly heavy traffic usually traveling short distances and exiting or entering the motorway at various points.

I decided to scoot onto Parramatta road and try my luck putting along. Throughout Sydney’s outer-western suburbs, one often finds that trucks rule the road. This is what especially scared me most about taking the M4. No one likes to be tailed by a gigantic beast of a thing hurtling down the open road at 110km/hr; apart from anything else, that kind of arrogance is particularly life-threatening to a scooter pelting along at full throttle.

What amazed me about Parramatta road, however, where the trucks trundle along generally no faster than 50km/hr, is how peaceful it can be to be a scooterist wading through this kind of traffic. I don’t think I generally ever feel at peace on 4 wheels when I want to get somewhere and everything around me is crawling. I would naturally choose the fastest, supposedly most “efficient” way of getting my car from A to B. But, strangely enough, on a scooter I generally don’t feel phased by crawling traffic or the extra time it takes… on the contrary, I find it almost comforting!

As I made my way in towards the city, I also noted the growing number of scooters. Like many of the worlds populous cities, the congestion of Sydney’s CBD now seems to invite these 2-wheeled contraptions that are, when buzzing around at 40-50km/hr, truly in their element. Funnily enough, the closer I got to the city, the more functionally appropriate I felt. Stopping and starting every 50-100 metres or so, I realised how ridiculous – let alone environmentally unfriendly – cars can be in any inner-city environment.

When I arrived at Rob’s I was delighted to show him and his son Riley my new purchase. I wonder how many more scooters will be zipping along the streets of inner-western Sydney by the time Riley finishes school?

April 18, 2007 Posted by | Inner-City | 2 Comments