A continuing tale of life in the boonies

No. 179

The new world order: bicycles

In the wake of Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf's decisive victory in the Gulf, Farmington authorities are set to leave their own mark on the international community by urging passage of a Hobbesian bicycle ordinance designed to have a major impact on cyclists throughout the American continent.

If Article 22 is approved at town meeting on March 13, police will have the legal wherewithal to severely disrupt the heavy foreign bicycle traffic wending along Route 153, part of the Great Eastern Bike Route between Canada and Mexico. The masterstroke of this proposed ordinance is contained in Part A which reads unequivocally, "It shall be unlawful to ride or operate any bicycle upon any way within the Town of Farmington without first having registered same with Farmington Police Department."

Let us ignore those few detractors who have insolently dubbed this legislation an unenforceable piece of nonsense, and pay heed to the well-known legal mind of Mr. Abu Woodchopper, as he deftly handles public enquirees regarding such a vital new bicycle law:

Q. from N.H. Tourist Board - Whom will this ordinance affect?

A. - It is aimed to put Farmington and the police department into the national spotlight by impeding as many people as possible. Anyone who places a foot on an unregistered pedal on any road in Farmington will be liable to have his or her bicycle impounded at their own expense, dragged into court, fined up to $100 and forced to pay a registration fee. It will affect Canadians, Mexicans, Middletonians, Miltonians, New Durhamites, people from Rochester, tourists passing through town, weekend vacationers, day visitors, and, of course, there will be collateral damage to the entire population of the town. This is an exciting concept. We are talking thousands of offenders per year. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. Long, unselfish hours of overtime for police.

Q. from Manuel Noriega - How can this ordinance possibly be enforced on non-U.S. citizens?

A. - Just watch us, buddy. On March 14, the day after voters pass this ordinance, Operation Bicycle Storm will go into action. Road blocks will be set up on Route 11 at the Rochester and New Durham town lines, and similar outposts will be manned on Route 75 near Milton and Route 153 at Middleton. Unregistered bicycles crossing into Farmington will be seized and stuffed in the old town hall coal bunker. Constant electronic surveillance will pinpoint illegal bikes sneaking through town by lesser used routes like Ten Rod Road and Meaderboro Road, and these pieces of transportation shall be subjected to rocket attack. Unregistered bikathons will be carpet bombed and some streets may have to be mined permanently. Meanwhile, the pothole on River Road will be kept up to snuff so that bicycle travel in this sector continues to be impossible.

Q. from Michael Walls (Head of the Transportation Bureau of the N.H. Department of the Attorney General) - Do you know the town has no jurisdiction to enact an ordinance which impacts upon the passage of bicycles on a state highway, and that if people are charged they should plead not guilty in court?

A. - Let 'em. Voters in Farmington should not be intimidated by the threat of lawsuits. We shall fight them on the highways, we shall fight them on the beaches ...

Loud interuption from the bleachers - Hey! Lancelot Shores is a private road, mister. Remember the town voted not to accept it. You ain't got no jurisdiction on that beach. (Ferocious gaveling wins back order)

Q. from a local anthropologist - Is Farmington Woman's Club at the back of this ordinance and what does the town attorney think?

A. - The police department drafted it all by itself and Don Whittum thinks that as long as the ordinance is posted in Quebec, Montreal and Toronto telling Canadians they pass down North Main Street at their peril, things might not go that disastrously in court.

Q. from a second anthropologist - Can legally blind cyclists register their bikes in Farmington?

A. - Certainly, provided the bicycle has a warning device and a light if used after dusk.

Q. from Mr. Rantin Ramgunshoch - Doesn't Dover have a voluntary bicycle registration system costing 50 cents? No impounding. No fines. Couldn't we just have that?

A. (angrily) - Never! That liberal stuff simply shows what a namby pamby police department they have. Authorities should not be afraid to govern harshly and citizens should not balk at handing them the power to crush dissent. Go read Leviathan, why doncha, it's all in there. Farmington selectmen already permit $1,000 fines for cycling on sidewalks, and this latest ordinance merely allows police to tighten their grip on the nation's cyclists. We're not even talking hangings on Saturdays, not yet anyway. Vote down this ordinance at town meeting and you are inviting bicycle anarchy.

Shout from the back of the hall - Vote it up and you'll make the town a laughing stock. (Cheers of agreement echo round the bleachers)

An attempt to gavel the meeting back to silence proves futile, and further questions are drowned out by the colorful sounds of scuffling, suppression, bicycles being impounded, distant hoots of laughter, helicopter gunships, Fitch knocking doors to check registrations, cyclists in the police cells below yelling to each other in Spanish and French, the agonized cry of a legally blind person pedaling into Hackett's Crevasse, bikers fighting over cords of wood on Main Street and attorneys singing all the way to the bank...

March 11, 1991

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