Good afternoon members of the Global Traffic Solutions League and welcome to our annual State of Commuting meeting, 2093.
As I look out into the audience and see your relaxed, serene faces, it's hard to believe that just 82 years ago it would have been a very different picture. You would all have braved awful gridlock to get here and your faces would have been contorted grimaces twisted by frustration and despair. But then a great man stepped forward and cured our planet's commuting crisis with a creative vision so bright and bold that it forever changed the way we travel.
I'm referring, of course, to our founder Andrew Clark.
Clark was many things to many people. Prime minister. Writer. Competitive eater. His great hair, rock-hard abs, and soothing singing voice were legendary but he was perhaps best known as a humorist. He wrote the Globe and Mail's "Road Sage" column that drew literally tens of hundreds of readers each week. It was his job to observe people's driving practices and make light of them and it was here that Clark's hyper vigilance and uncanny ability to find fault in others served him well.
Who among us can forget the morning of June 14, 2011? The day commuters were set free. Clark, as was his wont, was stuck in traffic. He'd left at 7:15 to make an 8:30 meeting and it was now 8:45 and he was only halfway there. He sat and stewed. To his right a motorcyclist drove past, carefully weaving through the cars. Here, I'd like to quote directly from Clark's autobiography, You're Welcome: "I watched that biker snake through the gridlock and the solution appeared in a flash. As a columnist, the bulk of my time was spent looking for bad driving; looking for stupidity and laziness. It was never hard to find. There was only one group that seemed to be above the usual flaws - motorcyclists. They often seemed to obey the law. They did shoulder checks. They signalled. When it came to accelerating, braking, and cornering, motorcyclists were solid. Once in a while, you'd see some yahoo speeding through highway traffic pretending he was Miguel Duhamel, but that was it."
"It was then I knew that the only way we'd cure gridlock and bad driving would be to force everyone who wanted to drive a car to get a motorcycle licence."
The logic was simple. Driving a motorcycle requires more skill than driving a car. The rider is exposed and he must actively drive the bike. Or as Clark put it: "When was the last time you saw a guy speed by you on a Harley texting?" Motorcyclists are careful drivers because they have to be. It's the more dangerous form of travel. When bike meets car, biker is generally the loser. So why should it be easier to get an automobile licence?
We all know the rest of the story. Clark formed his own political party and promised to, along with forcing automobile drivers to first learn how to drive motorcycles, give everyone a free iPad. In 2015, he was elected in a landslide.
At first there were many critics. What about the elderly who have never ridden a motorcycle? What if motorcycles are against your religion? What if someone lost his high school girlfriend to a "hero on a Harley" and has a mental block against bikes? What if someone drives a scooter? What if it's just too hard to ride a motorcycle? To these and a thousand more questions Clark's answer was, "Then he or she shouldn't be allowed to drive a car."
"It ticked off a lot of people," Clark recalled. "But the Chief Clerk of the Privy Council kept most of that stuff away from me."
The effect was almost immediate. Millions of people failed to earn their motorcycle licences and as a result lost their driver's licences. But guess what? Those were the idiots who were texting while driving, never signalled, enjoyed speeding, and drove irresponsibly. They should never have been behind the wheel of a car in the first place. So those people took the bus. The roads cleared. There were fewer single occupancy vehicles because solo drivers chose to ride their motorcycles. Carbon emissions decreased. As a country, Canada became cooler - Fonzie cool.
Of course, the irony was that Clark himself never drove a motorcycle. As a child growing up in London, Ont., he'd seen a bad accident in which a motorcyclist had been killed. Walking home from school he'd passed the scene as the paramedics were cleaning up the biker's lifeless corpse. This left him with a lifelong reticence towards two-wheeled transport.
"But I was prime minister," Clark wrote. "So I exempted myself from the legislation and whenever I wanted to go somewhere I just had them close down the roads."
It's true that most of Clark's other policies were abject failures. His attempts to rename Quebec New British Columbia and sell Prince Edward Island to the Spanish, were just a couple of reasons that Canadians had him exiled to Sacramento, Calif., where he still lives today.
I have here a letter from Clark, sent earlier this week. He asked me to read it to the Global Traffic Solutions League. "Sure. I solved the world's commuting problems. But I live in Sacramento now and we must be ever conscious of the threat of traffic congestion," he writes. "If we once again find our highways clogged and city streets blocked, I have but two words - helicopter licences."
Follow Andrew Clark on Twitter: @aclarkcomedy