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My wife and I just got back from a trip through Portugal, Spain and Italy. I rented a car to drive about all these countries so I got a feel for the nature of traffic in the cities and countryside. I knew that scooters were prevalent in European cities but I was not prepared for the density of them and their driving practices in city traffic especially in Spain. Even though the traffic is so congested that speeds rarely exceed 45 MPH the driving practices of these masses of scooters would put them in the grave within a week in the USA. Consider that the cars(mostly very small) and taxis are always jockeying for position on four lane(two lanes each way) roads. In all this the scooters are constantly splitting lanes where there is barely room to get through, shifting in front of any car as soon as a minimum amount of space is available, passing on the shoulder(right side), passing on the center line between on coming traffic(left side) with four or five scooters moving to the front of traffic as soon as it stops - often sticking out into crossing traffic a bit. Initially I wondered how it was that I didn't see a wreck an hour. Gradually I began to realize that all the cars and Taxis are constantly on the lookout for scooters and have developed a sort of sixth sense of their motion. Many of the scooter drivers are women and they are as aggressive as the men. One charming tour guide we had said she actually gave scooter lessons and raved about how driving a scooter in traffic felt like "flowing water - you just flow around traffic like water flows around obstacles". It floods empty spaces.

I believe the major danger to the scooters must be car driving tourists like myself. Even though I had my GPS I still had to make some quick changes to get into the proper lane to make an upcoming turn. Fortunately I got the hang of constantly looking for scooters in all positions and I only nearly toasted one of them.

OK - now for motorcycles on the open road - there are none driving in the city. Most of them are larger road type rice burners and BMW's. I saw two Harleys in the month I was in Europe. There are also a lot of high performance rice burners, BMW"s and Ducati type performance machines. Open road travel was much the same as in the USA except for a two hour stint we did through the mountains in southern Spain. This road was much like some of the mountain roads out west in the states. Built into the side of the mountain with a rock wall on one side and a 1200' drop on the other, twisty with frequent switchbacks. Here is where we met adrenalin junkies like I have never seen before. The high performance race bikes would blast by me on this two lane road and proceed to hug the rock wall or the center line depending on the direction of the blind turn. The bikes were laid over to the point that the driver's knees nearly touched the ground. I would say the speeds were nearly twice the speed limit with traffic traveling both ways. My wife and I cringed waiting for someone to hit a bit of gravel and sail into space or a rock wall. I told my wife to video this but she couldn't bear to watch. There was quite a bit of traffic on this road and I wondered how they knew there was no slow poke around the bend in front of them. The thing that got us most was when one of these guys would come around a bend toward us laid all the way over and on the center line or hugging the rock wall. I know how often out west you see pieces of rock on the road that come loose from the wall. Two hours of watching this and we were exhausted!!!! I did see a few signs in spanish which I could recognize as saying "High Motorcycle Accident Area" - no duh!!!!. Oh, and by the way we would often see three or four Ferrari's or Lamborghini's in a row at times. Testing them out I guess. Never saw a cop the whole two hours!!

One more observation. I saw two American pickup trucks the whole time.

I know I am old but it was way to much for me - LOL.
 

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In my opinion the major difference from southern Europe and NA is that there are so many motorcycles/scooters used as the routine transportation in Europe. The majority of car drivers were once scooter riders and therefore watch out for scooters on the road, pay attention to them and give them equal respect. Here you get car drivers with the me-me-me attitude and those that really don't pay attention to others on the road. Combine that overseas mutual respect with a graduated licensing system and driving law enforcement with teeth and you have a superior level of drivers on both two and four wheels.
 

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In Europe we have narrow roads, we know nothing else.
The speed limit is not always taken seriously. I always say on a motorcycle, the speedlimit it's always per wheel.
It's even worse in France, where you can drive between cars in traffic jams on the motorway and that's what people do. I had once joined a group of cyclists and they drove between cars at 140 km/h. French drivers are also making room.
On my last vacation in the USA I had a picup as a rental car, that was great in the USA but for Europe it is much too big, there is no parking space. A
American cars are built for American roads and not for European roads.
You missed a chance to meet in the South of France there was a big Victory 2 weeks ago
 

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In the island nations smaller bikes rule; over 93% of registered vehicles in the Dominican Republic are scooters that are 250cc or less. Traffic behaves way different in those places. In the DR, car drivers tended to act aggressive, as they considered themselves to be "above" scooter drivers. Cars are way expensive to buy and own down there.
 

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Its not quite the same in the UK, although London has some scooter and motorcycle antics - those have significantly decreased since the couriers changed to bicycles instead of bikes. We do also filter between lanes in a traffic jam but at a much slower speed, UK car drivers are not used to the speed of bikes and also don't check their mirrors very much in these situations.
There is a reason that a lot of MotoGP champions come from Italy and Spain. :)
I am off to Spain next week but its fly - drive - villa, so no bike alas.
 
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