By Eric Peters, Automotive Columnist
Do you — does anyone — doubt for a moment that if motorcycles were a new invention, they’d never be allowed?
Try to imagine the presentation to the Department of Transportation.
Inventor: I have designed a new type of vehicle that is light, agile and extremely fuel efficient. It is relatively inexpensive to manufacture relative to an automobile, so it can be sold for much less than the price of a typical automobile. It is also simpler and the parts are more accessible, so it is easier to service. Allow me to demonstrate the …
Government official: Wait a minute. It looks like it would just fall over. What about occupant protection? Will there be seat belts? What will happen to the person riding this contraption in the event there is a crash?
Inventor: Gyroscopic forces balance it while in motion and when it is standing still, the rider merely puts both feet down. I assure you it is very manageable. The nature of this vehicle is such that seat belts and traditional methods of occupant protection such as crumple zones and so on don’t apply. However, this vehicle compensates in a very real and meaningful way by dint of being more capable of avoiding accidents due to it being so much smaller and lighter than a car, and therefore much more maneuverable. For example, it only occupies about a third of the width of a traffic lane — no more than the width of a man’s shoulders, really — so when a car in the next lane over inadvertently turns into the lane occupied by my vehicle, it has more room to move laterally — and so is more likely to be able to avoid an impact. Also…
Government official: But what if there is an accident? Isn’t it true the person riding your proposed vehicle is more apt to get hurt? Isn’t your vehicle therefore fundamentally, inherently unsafe to operate? You mentioned the high power-to-weight ratio and rapid acceleration capability. Is that really a good thing? How will people in cars react to this vehicle of yours? Will it scare them? And anyhow, can be people be trusted to operate this vehicle? It seems to me it’s expecting a lot — perhaps too much for the public good — to permit a vehicle that demands so much in the way of skill to operate. We don’t allow just anyone to fly an airplane, after all… .
And so it would inevitably go. Be thankful, then, that motorcycles preceded the Age of Universal Government.
The government has made it illegal for passengers to ride in the bed of pick-ups — and is trying to make it illegal for a dog to ride inside a car if he’s not in a carry box or restraint of some kind. New cars must be able to withstand impacts from the front and side (and now, off to the side) that would not and could not ever be withstood by any motorcycle . . . unless it became a car.
Bikes are only allowed — to use the government’s odious language of slavery — because their invention and widespread use predates the government’s outright assertion of ownership of our persons. When bikes first appeared about 100 years ago, the government’s claims were more modest. Mostly, the government just wanted your money — like any other mafioso. So long as you paid Don DeeCeeolo the demanded tribute, your life was still your own. You were still — more or less — free to do with it as you liked. That included bolting/welding an internal combustion engine to the frame of a bicycle and inventing the first motorcycle.
It was allowed — because the government had not yet got around to becoming our parents, in loco.
Bikes — like so many other things that slipped the noose — did so only because they got in under the wire. They exist as a sort of anachronism, a throwback to a less totalitarian age, simply because it’s too much trouble, politically, for the government to outright forbid them. Like guns. Like freedom of speech.
That doesn’t mean, of course, there hasn’t been some probing and reconnoitering. Some precedent-setting — with a view toward the future. Air bags — and ABS — are already on the agenda, the latter having become fairly common in recent years. Have no doubt such things will eventually become mandatory. Likewise various “active” safety features, “black boxes” and such like — all already part and parcel of every new car purchase. Wait a while, I’m telling you.
At some point, a “mom” will front for a group demanding an end to these dangerous contraptions. Think it can’t happen? Did you ever think — ever dream — the government would ban sodas? Tell people they’re not allowed to smoke in their own homes? Force them to hand over money to privately owned, for-profit cartels — in the name of their “health” and “safety”?
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may — and don’t say I didn’t warn you. Paranoia has become depressingly predictive these days.