At Large

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From Autoweek April 30, 2001
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At Large

Steve Thompson, Autoweek, 4/30/01

Variety isn't just the spice of life, it's the best guarantee of survival. This is true in evolution and also true in automobility. That's why the best thing about today's automotive market is its variety. Different types of vehicles span the spectrum, from bare-knuckles sports cars to mega-trucks in an astonishing array of subtypes of considerable quantity and unprecedented quality. As it always has, through many don't perceive it, this is spectrum of vehicular variety includes motorcycles, which, like our cars, have improved in performance and reliability enormously since the 1980s. Having been the editor-at-large of Cycle World, my view of motorcycles is inevitably more inclusive than those who dislike them, but many car enthusiasts also ride, including a big chunk of AW's readership. Among those is Andy Goldfine, CEO of Aerostich, the company he founded almost two decades ago to make radically innovative motorcyclists' clothing. Andy's tastes in cars run to Audi Quattros and Saab Viggens, but he believes passionately that many of America's road congestion problems can be solved by using motorcycles as transportation and not just recreation. He also thinks a lot of social ills derive from too much reliance on automobiles, which is why he thinks riding a motorcycle ought to be understood and not just as efficient transportation but as what he calls a "social good". Putting his money where is mouth is, Andy sponsors an event gathering considerable momentum among motorcylists; "Ride-to Work Day", scheduled for the third Wednesday in July (the 18th this year). He's established an organization to assist the effort, which includes promoting a clever slogan: "Ride to Work, Work to Ride".

The inescapably anti-car message behind what Andy Goldfine is doing will doubtless offend many. Healthy young bikers who call for the abolition of "cages" but who can't imagine what it's like to be aged, infirm, or terrified of traffic will help inflame emotions the same way the bicycle-Nazis do when they demand we all park our insolent chariots. But none of that should obscure the reality of our vehicular world. We are blessed to live in America (and indeed, most of the developed world) at a time of incredible wealth and with a variety of transportation alternatives, the aggregate of which comprises a transportation system of unprecedented flexibility.

Well, maybe not every from. My horse-freak friends complain even more bitterly than the bikers that their favorite "vehicles" are largely excluded. But I wouldn't be surprised if one day, sooner rather than later, the system doesn't once again include Old Dobbin in ways nobody nowadays expects. As anyone who lived through the last century will tell you, crazier things have happened. Including automobility itself.