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May 21, 2016, 01:44 AM
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Neistat & Crossfire: a story of 2 cop busts


It wasn't that Neistat was busted for riding his Boosted board on a bike path. It was that he was busted 1 week after the fake test pilot was busted for driving the lunchbox on a bike path. Government budgets must have finally grown enough to enforce those things.

It was a routine 18 miler just after dark. It was completely empty. The vehicle & human had sustained 9min/mile quite easily for 3 miles. Saw 2 cop cars parked next to Walmart. Saw some years ago, so it seemed to be a common beat to park next to Walmart & eat the donuts. The cars were empty. Passed a homeless guy who was standing in the middle of the trail, seemingly confused. In the distance were 2 guys, probably dog walkers.

The 2 guys shined flashlights at the fake test pilot, not uncommon. What was uncommon was the lights followed me as I got closer. Saw they were cops. Then they said "Hey! Can we talk?" It was the 1st traffic stop of a runner for using a robotic pacer, probably in human history.

The elevated heart rate & breathing from running 3 miles made for an intense dialogue. "What is this machine doing! You know motor vehicles aren't allowed! Neighbors & bikers complained about RC cars! There's a $250 fine. We're not going to fine you now, but someone else may not give you the same courtesy!"

As the fake test pilot cooled down, they got more peaceful & asked how fast it went, if I always ran at night, said stick to automobile streets. The fake test pilot drove off the trail at 9min/mile, hearing the fading sound of cop radios calling it in, realizing it was the end of the era of robotic pacing on the bike path & a lot of dreams of machine vision, 7 minute miles on the downhill section, & vehicle mounted camera views. The streets all had enormous elevation gain & were extremely indirect paths to anywhere, compared to the bike path. Some robot aided workouts couldn't be done anywhere else.

Finished 14 more miles on the streets. Suspected it would get a lot more attention from cops on the streets than the empty bike path & sure enough, while debugging after changing batteries, an SUV decorated in Junior Mint logos did an emergency diagonal swerve into a driveway, the culmination of an entire career devoted to finally achieving that 1 car stunt from the movies, all in the name of defending the peace from the robot paced runner.

He looked like Homer Simpson & was more humble than the other 2. It wasn't a robot bust, but he was curious about what the machine was used for, how much it cost, where to get one. Then he drove away when someone needed to use the driveway. Started up again & ran down the road, saw him stopped at a red light as vehicle & runner carried on.

Thought about solutions to the problem. Wondered if the bikers complained about me personally or someone else, if the cops were specifically looking for me, the homeless guy, or there was actually a budget to protect an empty bike trail in the middle of the night from cats. In 3 years of robot pacing on the trail, there were only 2 altercations, years ago. They were times the hardware malfunctioned, the vehicles strayed in front of bikers, but the systems proved extremely reliable ever since. There was only positive feedback.

Neistat showed his Boosted board sneaking back on the bike trail, but the fake test pilot has yet to be so brave except for .5 miles where the streets go way off course. Hill work is a necessity that the trail can't provide, as much as some robot aided workouts are only possible on the trail.

Assuming government budgets haven't really exploded, the odds of getting busted seemed remote. 1 traffic stop had occurred in 3 years of running with vehicles, but mileage with the vehicles was low for most of that time, only increasing rapidly in the last 6 months. 24 miles/week of robotic pacing would now probably lead to 1 cop encounter every 6 months. Some less populated sections might be viable.

Thought of ways to get the rules changed. Bans on motor vehicles originated with the concept of trails not being for automobiles, but have grown to cover every advance in technology. Robots are going to become an integral part of all exercising. The rules have to adapt with the technology someday, but not within my lifetime. On a 25 mile long trail, many towns would have to agree on any change, with years of petitions & demonstrations of the technology. In the end, it would just be 1 trail. If technology was just a little better, it might be worth making a robot dog that looked indistinguishable from the real thing.

There is still an idea for driving based on machine vision, on the streets. This would be easier than the trail because it would have lane markings. The trick is it would follow an intermittent bike lane at a low elevation. It would be a very intermittent autopilot which only worked on sections of roads with uninterrupted lines, but it might be good enough for side cam movies. Unfortunately, the roads with uninterrupted lines are also the busiest.
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