Saturday, January 18, 2014

Riding Like a Libertarian

I heard him coming, as did everyone for two hundred yards in every direction.  He came up fast on the right, slicing at speed between two cars and leaping over three lanes of traffic to lock himself into the crawling fast lane.

It was a Harley, a Street Glide, modded with a large single exhaust that amplified the already sufficient ruckus of Milwaukee Iron into a din that drowned out everything around it.

The rider was wearing the uniform that identified him as A Loner and a Rebel (tm).  The leather jacket.  The black leather stomper boots.  The little beanie helmet and the aviator sunglasses.  His face, as I caught it for a moment, was red...to be expected in forty degree weather.  

It's why I wear gear designed for function, not to help me pretend I'm an extra on Sons of Anarchy.

He leaped to and fro in traffic ahead of me, roaring in front of cars, tossing himself from lane to lane in a futile attempt to get ahead of the pack. 

I signaled and moved my Suzuki to the far right.  Traffic is best understood in terms of fluid dynamics, like you're dealing with a thick semi-sentient particulate sludge, shoving itself through a pipe on tiny cilia and flagellum.  I knew, ahead, that there was an outlet, and that being in that place relative to the flow would gain me time.

I passed him on the right, moving easily with the new flow created by the exit.  His machine bellowed and snarled as he pointlessly bullied his way into each momentary advantage, and he fell behind me.

I wondered if the rider knew that he wasn't making the impression he thought he was making.  Loud pipes don't save lives.  They just make people dislike motorcyclists.  I'm sensitive to that, as a rider.  No one looks at the roaring, aggressive biker or the testosterone-addled crotch rocket pilot and sees freedom.  "Freedom" isn't the word people mumble under their breath as you tear past them, kids.

Which is a pity, because riding is freedom.

It brings out the libertarian in me, riding does.  I don't ride to be part of a herd or a group.  I have never understood the desire to be trapped in a column with a hundred other identically-dressed loners and rebels.  It looks less like freedom, and more like commuting, or marching in a military drill.

I ride because it's pleasurable, and because it feels freeing to be able to move through traffic like it's nothing.  And I do that, whenever I need to.  When traffic has locked down completely, when the grid has seized up in a vast steel stroke, I move out of it, and into the spaces in between.  Yeah, I know.  I'm a lane-splitter.  It's legal, sort of, meaning it's legal in Europe and in some states.

But I do so quietly and respectfully.  My bike is bright, tall, narrow, and quiet.  When I "filter," which I do in locked down urban traffic, I do so slowly and systematically, and in such a way that I'm not going to startle or upset anyone.

Why should I sit in traffic, if my vehicle allows me to move through traffic without harming others?  Why should I add to the problem, when I can flow through it like light through water, like a subatomic particle through matter?

Use your freedom, while respecting the liberty and integrity of others.  It's the only way you can really claim to be a libertarian.


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