Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Message from the Distant Future: on Bicycle Equipment Regulations and the Founding of the Glorious Nation of Cascadia!

At the time of this post, the end of 2015, some American cyclists are frustrated with bicycle equipment and behavior regulations that differ by locality. Targets of frustration include King County's all-ages helmet law, Oregon's mandatory-sidepath law, bike path “hours of operation” that apply wherever bike paths fall under park-department jurisdiction, and various suburbs' single-file riding laws. I write from the future to tell you all that these are no idle frustrations or concerns. Similar questions have, indeed, shaped nations.

Sometimes the world, after all, turns on the results of low-turnout elections. Back in 2027 King County elected to its council a Dadaist Alternative After-Party majority. This group could not agree on repealing the all-ages helmet law, but managed to pass, in protest of it, a measure requiring all motorists to wear full-face auto racing helmets. As it applied, drivers on I-5 had to take their eyes off Twitter for a few seconds to don their headgear as they approached the Ballinger Way exit! Thousands of RTs and ★s were lost!

Twitter was (at the time) a California company (it would later be purchased by a NoVa military research concern), so a Washington county's interference in its business naturally ran afoul of Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution. The resulting constitutional crisis could only lead to one thing: THE FOUNDING OF THE GLORIOUS NATION OF CASCADIA!

Of course, due to the particulars of its founding, Cascadia had no Article I, Section 8 in its constitution. Indeed, quite the opposite. In Wallingford it was deemed illegal for cyclists to use tires narrower than 40mm, due to the danger of getting tires caught in streetcar tracks. On Capitol Hill, where there actually were streetcar tracks, freewheeling was deemed a "bourgeois freedom" and restricted to the elderly (those over 30); tires wider than 28mm were banned entirely as a crime against aesthetics. A narrow sort of aesthetics, to be sure, but PR Capitol Hill was a narrow jurisdiction, particularly after its territorial losses to the downtown retail core and the various colonies, buffer nations, and puppet states of Broadmoor Country Club.

Cycling equipment rules were soon rendered moot, though. A voting bloc of UW freshmen and out-of-town Seahawks attendees (yes, visitors can vote in Cascadia, we have this thing called hospitality) pushed through strict laws first against unannounced passes, then against interrupting conversations to announce a pass, so we effectively couldn't ride on MUPs. Drivers literally owned the roads in Cascadia but refused to pay for their maintenance, so they banned bikes on all roads out of spite after conditions degraded. By 2040 the only bikes to be seen were on advertisements for $6,000/mo studio apartments. Oh, right, and there was that guy with a routine that biked down the shoulder of I-5 near SLU once a year or so, jumping off just in time to dodge the cops; that kept on until the freeway collapsed.

We finally broke the stalemate on transportation when a bunch of laid-off techies and airplane manufacturers, squatting in an abandoned Boeing plant, invented the first affordable jetpack. One declared herself Queen of the Sky, to be succeeded by anyone that could kill her in her dominion. She then proceeded to fall off her jetpack from a thousand feet up before enacting any laws. Because it was the ground that killed her no succession or lawmaking was possible, leaving Cascadia's skies in permanent anarchy, the perfect legal environment for personal jetpack transport. What's the carbon footprint and death toll of the resulting transportation system? It turns out to be illegal to keep count, according to a ruling reached by the Supreme Court of Jesters in the halftime show of a 2046 Sounders-Timbers game. When you're up in a jetpack you can't put your head in the sand, exactly, put there's plenty of room to put it up your own...

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