Despite the latest from Statistics Canada that Canadians are not cutting back on their driving—“demand as measured by the volume of retail gasoline sales was 0.5% higher during the first five months this year compared with the same period last year”—other reports indicate that British Columbians, at least, are exploring transportation alternatives. “Urban bike sets wheels a’whirring” was the headline for an August 13th story in The Province newspaper about the up tick in bicycle sales. Chaz Romalis, owner of the Cove Bike Shop in North Vancouver is quoted as saying, “We’re selling tons of commuter bikes…Business is awesome. Sales are up 200 per cent for asphalt bikes—it’s just taking off.”
Scooter sales seem similarly brisk. “Scooter sales soar alongside fuel prices” is another story run the same day with a similar theme. Mike Bruce, the general manager at Vancouver’s Carter Motorsports is quoted as saying, “ Scooter [sales] have been strong over the last several years, but this season…are up about 50 per cent…European city dwellers have long seen the benefit of scooters especially with their narrow streets and astronomical gas prices…Most [European] families are a two-scooter family, rather than a two-car family.”
As these stories were being compiled however, one notable European family was still freshly mourning the loss of a family member in a scooter crash with a Ford Fiesta in the morning of August 7th in Trofarello near the northern city of Turin, Italy. Andrea Pininfarina, the chief executive of Pininfarina SpA, a designer of sports cars including Ferrari Testarossas and Fiat SpA’s Alfa Spider died instantly. Mr. Pininfarina was 51 years old. Reports say that the dynamics of the crash were clear. Without seeing the approaching scooter, the Ford, driven by a 78 year old man maneuvered from a side street around a parked truck unloading sand and pulled directly into the path of Mr. Pininfarina, who hit it head-on. Conditions at the time were foggy.
The New York Times obituary described Mr. Pininfarina as “part of a family dynasty that began its move into industry in 1930 when his grandfather, Battista Pininfarina, founded the company, which in its first year designed cars for Alfa Romeo, Fiat and other Italian manufacturers. The obituary quoted Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi as saying, “Our country has lost a leading personality of its industrial life and the representative of a dynasty that has contributed to creating the Made in Italy brand in the world.”
Television interviewer Charlie Rose recently asked a group of some of the world’s top car designers—for Mazda, Hyundai, and General Motors which car was their favourite and they deferred to Italian car designers with Pininfarina designed Ferraris at the top along with Lamborghinis. Andrea Pininfarina was by all accounts an extraordinarily talented engineer and designer who loved the car industry and was dedicated to innovation and creative design.
Certainly Mr. Pininfarina was not forced to ride a scooter because of unbearable gasoline prices. But his death on a scooter sounds a dramatic note of caution for all scooter drivers and bicyclists everywhere. Expect the unexpected.