Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The laws of nature vs the nature of laws

Sometimes humour, even dark humour, accomplishes more, in a single sound bite or hastily drawn cartoon, than reams of newsprint, gallons of ink, and endless 'breaking news' segments can manage.

That's the way it was today, the fifteenth day of December, with sixteen short days until the calendar rolls into a brand new year.
There was a cartoon in the morning paper. Picture a boomer in shorts and flip-flops, sitting in the rain at a tiny Montreal sidewalk café table for one, kicking back over a bottle of cheap wine, and raising his glass in an ecstatic toast "We did it! We've abolished winter!" Inside the café sits a hunched over morose looking guy thinking "the ultimate boomer achievement..."

The laws of nature may seem immutable, but by now we ought to know that, just like man-made laws, they can and do change. We can change them. For better or for worse.

Here in Quebec, a few years back, after hundreds of years of cold snow-laden winters, we finally caught on and made it unlawful to drive a motor vehicle on or after December 15th unless all the wheels have snow tires. I can tell you from experience that it makes an incredible difference... in the snow.

Last winter we were in Toronto when there happened to be a huge snowfall. Ontario has no winter tire law. Our SUV with all-wheel-drive and awesome huge snow tires was a tank!! The locals with their all-season rubber, even those with four driven wheels, were crawling, slipping and sliding, while we motored past them smiling, and whistling a happy tune.

As Susan and I headed out in a light drizzle to run some errands this morning, in that SUV with its enormous paws, Susan said "If you put the Vespa away, you could move the Civic in, and we'd have more room in the driveway." Little did she know that today I was planning on hopping on the Vespa to buy more presents for my lovely bride. Yes, it's mid December and riding is still an option. Or... was an option.

As we drove down the boulevard, a police car had pulled over a sport bike. No winter tires eh?

My heart sank, and I no longer cared whether the drizzle let up later on. Sheesh! Even if I had a pair of Heidenau winters for the Vespa, I can easily imagine a fruitless debate with a clueless man in blue.

The moral of this winter tale is, that we, and by "we" I mean mankind, are not very good at making or changing laws, either the mighty laws of nature, or the puny laws we make up as we go along. Really, I can't ride on December 15th when it's balmy out? There goes the silver lining in my cloud of climate change.

Maybe that is the ultimate Quebec boomers' achievement: wrong on both counts.

And so ends the 2015 riding season. With a whimper and a sigh.

12 comments:

  1. Luckily that type of "law" doesn't exist here in Colorado....I'm all for snow tires on cars, they work great. For motorcycles? Not so much. I have started carrying chains on the rig along with the recovery gear, just in case.

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    1. Dom I was not a fan of the snow tire law at the outset. I suspected it was a government run bonus program for tire retailers. I now support the initiative. When everyone has to have proper winter tires on all four wheels it makes a big difference for all road users in the winter with fewer slowdowns and tie ups because of people being unable to drive due to the weather.

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  2. You'd think that a "law" like that shouldn't be necessary. Especially since a law like that is trying to make rules based on generalizations.

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    1. You are right of course. But the fact is that people will cut corners without regard to how it affects the rest of society. The problem with the generalizations is that the cutoffs have to be arbitrary if the law is going to be capable of enforcement. The inconvenience that results, like preventing me from riding when the weather would otherwise allow it, is the price I pay for not having hapless idiots rear-ending my car in snow, ice or slush.

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  3. Wow. They make snow tyres for motorcycles? Who knew. I should buy some and hang them on the shed wall as decorations.

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    1. Steve Williams switches to Heidenau snow tires each fall.

      I always thought they were real snow tires, but on Heidenau's US site the closest I saw were all-seasons. To make my Vespa winter legal here, they would have to be real snow tires.

      Not sure that people in Key West would understand 'snow tires', much less discern a snow tire from a regular tire.

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  4. Same in Germany, David. No winter tires... and you drive pretty much uninsured. That also goes for two-wheelers. If the weather stays like this, Montreal can be Miami North ;-)

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  5. I didn't realize you needed snow/winter tires after a certain dates. To me that doesn't make much sense until the snow flies and then only if it sticks for months without melting.

    People are still using studded tires around here, regardless of any snow on the ground and it just chews up our roads. Would be better if they just used winter/snow tires. Of course Oregon doesn't even allow salt on the roads so what do I know. :-)

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    1. Studded snow tires on a Vespa, now that would be an interesting ride. Maybe Steve Williams will give it a shot and let us know how it goes.

      Oh, and if we gave up on road salt, we'd all have to move to Oregon!

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  6. Wow -- that's quite a law. You must have no crime in your town if cops have time to pull over bikes based on their tires. We don't have any kind of law like that in Philadelphia. With the near-70-degree weather last week, pretty much every scooter and motorcycle in town was out and about, commuting to work or doing Christmas shopping. ~ madthrottle.com

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    1. Welcome Liz! I checked out your blog and very much liked what I saw. Tomorrow I'll add it to the sidebar.

      All this unusually warm December weather is certainly not unwelcome, but certainly not good for the planet.

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