How to Determine a Speed Limit

We find Rent-A-Friend standing in the middle of a wooded area, next to his rad BMX bike, near a newly discovered path through the woods. With him are Blue Beard (the Post Modern Pirate), Tom (from accounts receivable) and their argumentative friend, Carl, all standing with their own sweet bikes.

boys on bikes copy

RAF2K: This path is awesome! I say we hop on our bikes and see how fast we can go! I’ll bet I can reach 100 miles per hour by the time I get to the bottom of that big hill.

Tom: That doesn’t sound safe. I think we should agree to only go so fast- say, 30 miles per hour.

RAF2K: I don’t think I can do that. Especially on that wicked big hill. Well, I COULD, sure, but I really don’t want to.

Carl: Tom’s right. You’ll kill yourself. You can’t go that fast. The speed limit on this path is 45 miles per hour.

Blue Beard: There is no speed limit. It’s a path in the woods! Probably made by a herd of elk or something. We can go as fast as we want! No restrictions!

Tom: We’re gonna die.

Carl: Just because there’s no POSTED speed limit doesn’t mean there is NO speed limit, Blue Beard. We can determine these things for ourselves with science and reason! And reason tells me that 45 miles per hour is a fast enough speed which will allow us to survive the trip.

Tom: Actually, there is a posted speed limit. Look over there. [he points down the path]

RAF2K: I see it. It says “25 miles per hour, especially on that wicked big hill.” Aw, man.

Blue Beard: I don’t see anything.

RAF2K: You’re looking the wrong way.

Blue Beard: There is no wrong way.

Tom: I guess we have to take it slow on that big hill.

Carl: Not too slow. We can go 45 miles per hour.

Tom: The sign says 25.

Carl: I don’t care what the sign says. I don’t need to read some ancient sign posted by who knows who to tell me what the speed limit is out here. It’s obvious to anyone with a brain that the speed limit is 45 miles per hour.

Blue Beard: I have a brain, and I say there is no speed limit except the one we decide on, and I’m with him [pointing to Rent-A-Friend]. We’re going 100 miles per hour. Or more!

RAF2K: Hold on. I think we need to obey the posted speed limit.

Blue Beard: Nice one, Tom. You’ve turned Rent-A-Friend into a fundamentalist.

RAF2K: It just makes sense that, if there is a governing authority over this path, they have the right to set the speed limit, and we have the responsibility to obey it. They probably have a good reason for choosing the speed they chose.

Blue Beard: We don’t need any governing authority. We can set our own speed limits.

Carl: Yeah, and it’s 45.

Blue Beard: It’s 100 miles per hour you soggy beach bum.

Tom: We don’t have the right to set the speed limit. It’s already been set!

Carl: By who? Someone I’ve never seen who left this old sign? Even if that sign was put up by some supposed authority, he’s obviously wrong. The speed limit isn’t 25, it’s 45.

RAF2K: How do you figure that, Carl? It seems to me that there is no speed limit unless it’s set by an authority. How can there BE a speed limit if there’s no authority to set the limit? And once he does set it, how can he be wrong when it’s his declaration which makes it so?

Carl: Like I said, anyone with a brain can figure out that the speed limit is 45 based on the fact that going faster than that would be dangerous.

RAF2K: Nah, I could go a LOT faster than that.

Tom: Maybe, but you’d never survive long enough to hit 100. When you consider the angle of incline, and the stress rating of the critical components on that bike, I think you’d find systemic failure well before you hit 88 miles per hour.

Blue Beard: And he’d wipe out in a blaze of glory! Why do you namby pamby sissy pants feel like you have to set boundaries on us because of what YOU think shouldn’t happen? If the man wants to look death in the eye, let him go as fast as he pleases! We’ll bury him and his bike at sea!

RAF2K: Thanks. I think…

Tom: I’m just saying there’s a good reason for the speed limit. I’m not setting a speed limit. It’s already been set. Look at the sign.

Blue Beard: I don’t need to see some mythical sign. I’m the master of my own fate and none shall tell me how to live out here- out here where a man is free to do as he pleases!

Tom: Actually, this is a state park. That’s why we had to pay five dollars to get in.

Carl: And I’m telling you that the sign is wrong. It’s been put up by some ancient kill joy who apparently had no understanding of physics. Even you said his bike could take up to 88 miles per hour.

Tom: His bike, maybe, but most bikes aren’t as rugged at his. My bike wasn’t even built for this terrain.

RAF2K: Hey guys, here’s how I see things. If Blue Beard is right, and there is no governing authority out here who has set an official speed limit, then we are free to do as we please, even if it means getting killed in the process. There is no OUGHT, only the knowledge of what might happen if we make certain choices.

Blue Beard: And we shall face oblivion like men!

Carl: Says the guy on his sister’s bike.

Blue Beard: Shut yer face, Carl! It’s a man’s bike anyhow. I should know. I bought it for her so I could borrow it.

RAF2K: But if Tom’s right and the sign was put there by the State, then we have the responsibility to obey it, otherwise we’re breaking the law. It’s merely ought vs want, depending on if there is an authority who’s set the speed limit.

Carl: Hey! When am I right Mr Smarty Pants?

RAF2K: Well, Carl, you’re trying to argue for an actual speed limit which we all should obey based on what you think is safe. But that doesn’t make any sense. Even if you’re right about the safety, it doesn’t follow that we all then have some speed limit imposed on us by that fact. All you seem to be doing is helping Blue Beard figure out the speed at which our choices become unsafe, but as he said, that doesn’t mean we have to slow down. It just means we can figure out that we’re going to wipe out because of it.

Carl: That’s insane. When you can use your brains to figure out where danger is, that’s reason enough to set limits and boundaries!

RAF2K: And if I want to live dangerously?

Carl: Then you’ll get killed!

Blue Beard: No one lives forever!

RAF2K: But that alone doesn’t make a shouldn’t or should. When the authority over us sets a limit, most likely based on their determination of what would be most safe, then we ought to obey it. Otherwise they have the right to punish us, or in cases like this, we’ll wind up hurting ourselves because of our rebellion.

Blue Beard: I choose rebellion!

Tom: And you’re also choosing to break every bone in your body on the way down that hill.

RAF2K: Here’s how it stands. If Blue Beard is right and there is no authority set speed limit, then we can go as fast as we want. In that case, we would be wise to have Carl and Tom figure out the maximum speed our bikes could take before they fail, and then decide if we want to go under or over that limit. But whatever the consequence, there is no law above our own wants. However, if Tom’s right and that sign is set by the State, then we have a responsibility to obey it.

Blue Beard: Here’s how I stand- I’m going to race down that hill as fast as I can for my own glory! I believe I will be just fine, because I believe my bike can take ANYTHING!

Carl: Well I happen to know that your bike will never survive the journey, and we’ll be dragging your mangled body to a hospital before the day is done, regardless of what you believe.

Tom: I’m going to obey the posted limit. What are you going to do Rent-A-Friend?

RAF2K: I’m going to take a closer look at the sign. I want to make sure I know what it says, and who it was that said it. You guys want to come with?

[This is the choose your own adventure part of the story. It’s really you who stands on this path. Will you look into the signs left by the authority over us? Or will you race toward oblivion without stopping to learn the truth? Choose wisely, and thanks for letting me be your Rent-A-Friend.]

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About rentafriend2000
Rocking my 40's with a heart full of love and muffins, science and technology. Jesus loves me and wants me to totally rock! And I am here to help.

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