Not exactly cool!

By BARRIE MAHONEY [email protected]

Barrie Mahoney was a teacher, headteacher and school inspector in the UK, as well as a reporter in Spain, before moving to the Canary Islands as a newspaper editor. He is still enjoying life in the sun as a writer and author.

Who remembers the Reliant Robin? If you are of a certain age, you will remember the Reliant three-wheeler – the much loved (and tolerated), ageing, battered transport of Del Boy and Rodney of TV’s Only Fools and Horses fame.

Apart from having only three wheels to worry about, this remnant of British motoring history’s main claim to notoriety was that it could be driven on just a provisional or motorcycle licence; it did not require the full driving test.

I remember only too well the fleeting temptation of getting such a vehicle shortly after obtaining my first provisional licence, but as a student I could afford neither motorcycle nor a three-wheeler at the time anyway and so the idea was quickly forgotten.

This brief recollection of the past brings me to the situation regarding the little Aixam cars that are so often seen tootling along the roads of Portugal, Spain and France. These irritating little cars are usually very easy to spot as they rarely move faster than 30mph and are often trailing behind on the verges of many roads, leading a parade of angry drivers with faster vehicles frantically tooting their horns.

These vehicles can be described as ‘micro-cars’ and the main reason for buying them appears to be that they can be driven without any licence at all over here. This seems to be an anomaly in the motoring laws and I understand that the police are anxious to review the qualifications for driving them – for obvious reasons!

I don’t think I have ever seen one in the UK, probably because they are classified as a quad bike in view of their weight and power output. This very sensibly requires either a full driving licence or a full, unlimited capacity motorcycle licence to legally drive them in the UK.

However, this may change in the future as these little cars are very economical to run with a relatively spacious body made from a strong alloy frame, covered with non-rust plastic panels. Their low-emission engines (which sound a little like motor mowers ‘on heat’) make them exceptionally “green” vehicles; and it is now possible to get various versions that run on electricity. No doubt we shall be seeing many more of these ‘kerb crawlers’ in the future!

If you enjoyed this article, take a look at Barrie’s website: www.barriemahoney.com or read his latest novel, ‘Journeys and Jigsaws’ (ISBN: 9781843865384). © Barrie Mahoney