Confessions of a Green Speed Addict
I want to confess to something many people may not be aware of, I love going fast and am addicted to speed. While at high school and university most of my friends got their speed fix from owning motorbikes, but I didn't share their petrol fueled passion. While I love speed I prefer a more natural high and the roar and smell of an internal combustion engine never quite did it for me (much to my father's disappointment).
When I was at primary school I raced a P Class yacht in Bluff Harbour. The most thrilling moments were when sailing on a run (the wind behind) in strong winds. I would have to hang out the back of the yacht to keep the snub nose from diving into the sea and keep it surfing on the top. The guy wires would be humming, the spray flying and a rush of gurgling water would be passing underneath, magic!
My claim to fame at University was coming second in a downhill bicycle race on a winding stretch of road between two student hostels (Knox and Salmond). I worked out that if I sat on my carrier at the back of my bike I had a lower centre of gravity and, with my feet sticking out, had more control.
I also love skiing fast. My current skis were the top racing slalom skis fourteen years ago and I am aware that when I am traveling up on the chairlifts that my skis are considerably longer than everyone else's (even though I'm barely 5'6"). I struggle with the tight 'carver' turns but love the stability of my longer skis when I hit rough patches at speed.
My most memorable speed experiences were when I cycled the length of the European Alps in the late 80's. I cycled over numerous passes well over 2,000 metres high (including Furkapass at 2,436 m) and the downhills were incredible. With over 10km of continual decent I could get up to some amazing speeds, often passing cars.
In 1989 I had dark hair, a beard and was slightly thinner and fitter. I only wore the helmet on descents.
I guess it is the smell and sound of fossil fueled power that I don't enjoy, it is all dominating and you lose all connection with the world around you. With sailing, skiing and cycling you just have the sound of the wind past your ears and the direct connection with the sea, road or snow.
I tried to pass on one of our Green Party leaflets to a black leather covered motorcyclist today but he refused to accept it because, "The Green Party will take away all our petrol." I didn't have time to explain that the future of transport is electric and I don't think he would have appreciated a lecture on why electric vehicles are actually faster because of their greater torque. I do understand that for him there is no raw mechanical romance associated with an electric engine and there would be no throaty roar (possibly just the sound of a large electric drill). However for the sake of our planet we need to adapt.
In the US a 1972 Datsun 1200 had an electric engine inserted and it now drags off just about anything and can do a 1/4 mile in 11.8 seconds (a 2013 Lamborghini is only 1 sec faster). The TT Zero electric bike race has been run since 2009 and lap speed records have improved from 140 kmh to 176.5 kmh in four years. Formula E races have even managed to include audience participation with tweets to their favorite drivers providing energy boosts. Electric MAGLEV trains exist that can easily travel at 430 kmh and have the potential to do 3500 kmh.
Transport efficiency and the thrill of speed does not have to be based on fossil fuel, the future of transport is already here and oil has no part in it.