17th March 2000 at 00:00
What does your vehicle say about you? This week's guest psychologist is David Chesham, lecturer in behavioural sciences at Sheffield university and government adviser on motorcycling safety.

"Piaggio takes its name from Enrico Piaggio, the inventor of the scooter and the person responsible for coining the name Vespa ('wasp' in Italian) after its buzzing noise.

Scooters have always been popular and fashionable in Italy. They are perfectly designed for flitting in and out of traffic, and have the added advantage of being rideable in tight-fitting clothes. This made them extremely popular with the mods of Sixties Britain, who took their image and their clothing - tight-fitting suits for men, skirts and high heels for women - directly from Italy.

"Such a sense of style did not lend itself to riding astride the only other sufficiently cheap mode of motorised transport of the time - big, greasy, British motorcycles.

"Since then, however, scooters have suffered from a rather different image in the UK - that of the convenient shopper. But at the start of the 21st century, things have gone full circle and scooters - particularly Vespas - are once again fashionable.

Because they are cheap to run and insure they provide a perfect stop-gap for people who are old enough to ride a learner-legal motorcycle but not quite old enough to drive a car. I assume the owner of this scooter, however, is slightly older than 17.

"The prominently displayed L-plate and the large backbox suggest the owner of this bike is not overly concerned with the fashionable image of the scooter. He or she is more likely to be attracted by the no-nonsense simplicity of the machine itself - even Piaggio calls th Typhoon a 'no-frills' scooter. It's probably as environmentally friendly as a road vehicle can get without having pedals, and could easily get you to work and back on a thimble full of petrol a day (only a slight exaggeration).

"This is a person who takes pride in being green and mean (in the nicest possible way, of course). The rider will ride this sturdy work horse with the pride of knowing it is the least expensive and most environmentally friendly way of commuting using an internal combustion engine.

"The typhoon has everything the green-minded commuter would need - sufficient storage space to carry several reams of administrative paperwork as well as some waterproof clothing, a position and turn-of-speed that avoid the necessity for protective leather clothing and a petrol consumption of more than 100mpg."

The scooter belongs to Ruth Whiteside, a teacher at Clover Hill primary school in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear.

"I like that. I'm actually 31 and I have just qualified as a teacher. I got the scooter last July when I got a job, because where I live the public transport isn't that brilliant and I had to have some means of transport.

"I thought a scooter would be good because it is cheap and green so that bit rang true. I have used it rain or shine apart from three days when it was extremely windy.

"I don't drive a car so I like the fact that it makes me independent. I drive 100 miles a week and it costs me pound;3.50. It's just marvellous. It's dead easy to ride and dead cheap - the insurance is only pound;90 a year. I love it. It's the perfect machine for me."

Wonder what your means of transport says about you?E-mail your details to: harvey.mcgavin@tes.co.uk

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