motorzing Katy Trail

Our God-given rights of internally combusting are being looked after by a freedom-loving Missouri legislator, state Rep. Jay Houghton (R-Martinsburg).

Houghton is the sponsor of House Bill 2047, a measure that would open the Katy Trail, the 237.7-mile St. Louis to Kansas City hiking/biking route, to limited use by all-terrain vehicles and golf carts.

Houghton’s argument, apparently, is that the nation’s longest continuous trail of this nature is not for everyone under current rules.

He’s correct. It’s for people who want to 1) Walk or 2) Bike, the same way that rivers are pretty much limited to those who wish to 1) Boat or 2) Swim.

Houghton says older and disabled people should be able to use the trail, too, so his bill would allow those motorized devices four days a month. He suggested the first and third Monday and Wednesday of each month.

Given that Houghton also has introduced House Bill 2046 that would require bicyclists to ride on county roads with 15-foot tall orange flags attached, it seems we can safely assume that the representative at some point has had an unpleasant encounter with a biking-rights Nazi.

I’m guessing it didn’t happen in Martinsburg, a metropolis of 304 souls in Audrain County in mid-Missouri. However, it could have.

Who among us, driving a fossil-fuel burner, hasn’t been impeded by a middle-of-the-road cyclist not so subtly asserting his right to the road, even if there were plenty of room to get over to the side?

These people are generally dressed in colorful biking gear, weigh 117 sinewy pounds, ride bikes that cost more than your car and throw a disapproving glare when you finally get around them.

Jay, I feel your pain. It’s hard to suppress the fantasy of nudging one of those guys into a soft ditch, just once. But that would be wrong.

Instead, they should be encouraged to go where there are no cars, trucks or ATVs. Separate but equal, I say. So don’t go mess it up with these kinds of bills.

I do not know Jay Houghton, but being in the analysis game, I can come to some reasonable conclusions. I’m guessing that being from mid-Missouri, and being a Republican, he professes to be a conservative. Sure it’s an unfounded, wacky, out-of-the-box, wild guess, but I’m going with it anyway.

Houghton chairs the Agriculture Policy Committee in the House, which means he’s there to stand up for Missouri’s farmers. For better or worse, the average age of the nation’s farmers has been climbing. As of 2012, it was 58.3 years, according to the Census Bureau.

Now, farmers are known as hard workers who do demanding, grinding labor at a pace us non-farmers can hardly imagine. They are not known for their physiques – they’re too busy working to worry about that. Plus they like to eat pies and fried chicken and other good down-home food.

From an image standpoint, it’s hard to conjure a bigger contrast than your average Missouri farmer compared with one of those road-hogging, tights-wearing bicyclists.

See where I’m going here?

Being a successful politician elected three times to the House, Jay Houghton must know his people. Odds are they wear bibs, and not the kind they put on their skinny chests at the start of a race.

It’s not just their appearance, either. Farmers tend to belong to organizations like the Farm Bureau, which is majorly conservative and effectively lobbies on behalf of its members.

And what about those skinny people on bicycles? Scratch one and you’re going to find a tree-hugging, citified, recycling, tsk-tsk-ing liberal who drives a hybrid vehicle when forced to go somewhere beyond bicycle range, but who may do penance for it by purchasing carbon offset credits.

Somewhere along the line, one of those people must have crossed Rep. Jay Houghton, or maybe one of his people, and now it’s payback time.

I am not a huge bicycle or hiking guy. Maybe if I were, I’d be a little less huge. But I have been on the Katy Trail a few times. It’s very peaceful and enjoyable and quiet. The biggest hazards, to paraphrase a recent president, are misunderestimating the distances between towns and running out of water. For the very occasional cyclist, chapped thighs have to be pretty high on the list, too.

But danger-wise, your biggest chance at injury, in this view, is getting rear-ended or sideswiped by Speed Racer or one of his gang.

Here’s the thing, though. The Katy Trail was built for those guys, as well as the more casual cyclist and for walkers. No one forces any of us to go on the trail, and after a time or two, we understand what’s going to be there.

The whole deal was set up for muscle power. Even on a limited basis, ATVs don’t belong. Through-walkers taking a week or two to cross the state couldn’t avoid them. Plus, even the limited days could be the camel’s nose under the tent. Pretty soon they’d want more; then the motorcycle people would want access. Then Mini Coopers and riding lawn mowers. Pretty soon, you’d have all manner of powered vehicles on the trail.

I have to side with the tree huggers on this one. Just watch out for Speed Racer.

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