I’ve been a fan of small cars from my early driving days. I got my first car, a 1964 Volkswagen Beetle, at the age of 18. They seem to make sense—they usually use less energy, often require a smaller amount of raw materials for their production, are sometimes sold for a petit-prix (I paid $300 for mine), and are just so darn cute! The majority of the cars that we see in France and throughout Europe would be considered compact cars in America. Because I’m not driving here (hallelujah!), I only really see the cars that tool around town, not those that ride on the highways. After seven months here, I saw my very first “fender-bender” today. I don’t know the statistics, but fewer cars seem to be involved in accidents here. My former concerns about small cars and their relative safety are disappearing. With the revving of engines, honking of horns, and the whizzing by of metal, I think French drivers are not unlike their driving counterparts in most countries, but either good luck or superior agility guards them from meeting their fellow Grenobloises “by accident.”
As I walk around town, I have started taking note of the types of cars that I see on the rues or often parked on the sidewalks. In this city, parking is at a premium, literally and figuratively. Parking meter stations are everywhere, and available parking spaces are coveted. As an end run to this situation, I’ve seen more people opting for Smart Cars. The most popular seem to be the Smart Fortwo cars, which hold only two people, but I have on occasion seen “big” four-seaters.
You would think that getting acceptable gas mileage—present price in Grenoble for a liter of gas is 1.18 € ($1.62/liter or $6.13/gal), so I hope no one is complaining—and having an easier time finding a parking place would be enough reward for Smart Car owners. But no-o-o-o! I’ve snapped some photos of Smart Cars that do double duty advertising businesses. Our own propriétaire (landlady), Madame Pellissier, owner of Suzanne Immobilier, owns a few Smart Cars. I caught one of them not too far from our apartment.
I’ve seen so many more Smart Cars here than I’ve posted. Sadly, I don’t have the pictures to prove it. The problem is that when I spy one, they speed away too quickly for me to pull my camera out to get a shot off!