So what happened? Well, the height of the moped's popularity was exactly
coterminous with the Carter Presidency. That was unlucky. Those last years
of the 70s were a grim time for many. Three Mile Island, the oil crunch,
the Iranian hostage crisis, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan left a
lot of people listening to soft rock, claiming that "small is beautiful,"
and buying mopeds. Who's to say they were wrong? Not me, but this is the
kind of malaise that Americans always seem to want to recover from. Hence,
Ronald Reagan. If nothing else, the national tastes and mores changed
radically under Bonzo's wartime-peacetime administration, and the gentle
moped--always a "lifestyle choice"--may have been a casualty of its gentle
era, of a time that people wanted to forget. Of course, there may have been
more practical issues at work. Maybe what doomed the moped was the fact
that America isn't Europe. A 20-mile commute is a big deal in France In
America, it's commonplace--and 20 miles on a moped takes about an hour,
more if you involve some hills. Or maybe people just got bored with mopeds
and began to subconsciously yearn for the speediness of in-line skates. I
don't know. There isn't much literature on the subject. The only thing that
seems clear is that the moped isn't coming back any time soon. Moped
magazine is defunct. The Moped Association of America has shut its doors.
And, if you call the offices of Honda USA, you can talk to a receptionist
who's never even heard of a moped ("Is that some kind of a motorcycle?" she
wondered. "Sort of," was my wistful response.) You can still find them in
Europe, the Bahamas, and Curacao--and maybe Cape Cod. I guess that's
something. Sad though, when you think of the salad days.
The salad days? In hindsight, the moped and its craze appear kind of silly.
People seem to have confused an amusing way to get to work with a
full-blown leisure activity. Sure there's a lot of charm in such silliness,
and now that we're in the midst of another recession, the detritus of our
old recession looks pretty good. (The moped is a lot more fun than a
commuter bus.) So in memorium, if you feel like it, go mix up some gas and
oil and comb the landfills for an old Hobbit. Or put the gas and oil in
your lawnmower and ride that around. The lawnmower has more horsepower. But
celebrate, celebrate, always celebrate the moped. And never forget. Sing,