View from Rue Saint-Georges

Scootering Around Town

The automobile’s appeal is in decline thanks to the proliferation of alternatives

By Thomas Chatterton Williams | May 8, 2019
Flickr/Gilbert Sopakuwa
Flickr/Gilbert Sopakuwa

It’s been a long time since I made peace with the idea that, so long as I live in urban areas, I may never own or even lease a car of my own. Before the rise of ride-sharing apps, when I still lived in New York, I’d borrow my parents’ car for upstate trips or simply to luxuriate in the sense of possibility an empty trunk provided—which is really to say, I’d go to the supermarket.

But it’s getting harder to remember those impulses and the accompanying comforts a car offers. These days, I do my bulk grocery shopping online and buy my meat and vegetables daily at the market. Likewise, a combination of high-quality rail options and various “carbnb” services make getting to the French countryside a cinch. And when I’m in the city, in addition to public transportation and Uber, the proliferation of bike and electronic scooter shares has made the idea of a personally owned and insured automobile seem as anachronistic as a landline or desktop computer.

All this amounts to a drop in the bucket when it comes to reducing global carbon emissions, but it does feel like an appropriate façon de vie in a crowded world in which we are learning, by necessity, to take up less and less space. When it comes to e-scooters, an unexpected upside is the way these objects inject not road rage but little moments of childishness into the routine, transforming a morning commute into something like a form of play.

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