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What America Should Learn

Fuel-efficient cars
We have seen a handful of gas-guzzling SUVs here, but by and large the cars in Europe are much smaller than American vehicles. They have smaller versions of the American minivan, which friends have dubbed “minivan wannabees.” These seat 5 and have a bit of cargo space in the back. Clean diesel cars and buses are very popular; buses in Strasbourg proudly claim to be equiped with catalytic converters. On high ozone days, the speed limit on highways is automatically dropped 20 km/hr to reduce pollution.

The Smart car shown here behind Brennan is just the most extreme case of a tiny, fuel-efficient car. These are ideal for parking in cities, and you’d think that they wouldn’t dare venture out on the highway, but we have seen them going over 60 mph.

Parking advisories
Towns and cities with central underground parking facilities have electronic signs that are constantly updated with the number of available parking spots at the various garages, along with arrows indicating how to proceed to the garages. Makes it rather efficient to get to an available parking spot.
Public transportation
Of course, Southern California is as backwards as they come here. Still, the Paris Métro is excellent. You are never more than about 500 m from a Métro stop, and if you are willing to throw in the bus system, too, the public transportation system is extremely usable.
Car-free zones
Strasbourg has a large section downtown that is free from automobile traffic. It is a pleasure strolling around the center of town, which is packed with shops, cafés, and restaurants on the ground level, and apartments above.
Mobile credit-card readers
Every restaurant and shop in France takes Visa, both as a debit and a credit card. Waiters bring a small battery-powered card reader to the table to permit you to type in your security code, in the case of a debit transaction, or prints out the necessary paperwork, for a credit transaction. Evidently, these have been popular for over 5 years. Why haven’t they made it to the States???

This page was last modified on Sat, Aug 18, 2001.