Shutterstock

A real-world screening of Speed ended with a small miracle of bureaucratic coordination.

It started with a trip to a supermarket. It ended with a high-speed chase, a frantic call to police, a highway-bound ballet, a border crossing, a ditch, and a guy who is very, very lucky to be alive.

Frank Lecerf, from his home in Pont-de-Metz, near the French city of Amiens, was making his weekly trip to the supermarket in his Renault Laguna. He was going 60 miles an hour when the car's speed dial jammed. Lecerf tried to brake. Instead of slowing, though, the car sped up -- with each tap on the brake leading to more acceleration. Eventually, the car reached a speed of 125 mph -- and then remained stuck there. For an hour.

Lecerf, frantic, called the police from his car -- and they sent an escort that The Guardian describes as "a platoon of police cars" to help him navigate a highway full of fellow cars and get them to swerve out of the way of the speeding car. (Lecerf stayed, appropriately, in the fast lane.) What resulted was a small miracle of technological coordination: Responding to emergency services' advance warnings, three different toll booths raised their barriers as Lecerf approached. A police convoy ensured that roads were kept clear for the speeding car. Fellow drivers, obligingly, got out of the way. Emergency services patched Lecerf through to a Renault engineer who tried -- though failed -- to help Lecerf get the speeding car to slow down.

"My life flashed before me," Lecerf later told Le Courrier Picard. "I just wanted it to stop."

[optional image description]
Lecerf's general route was unexpectedly international, starting in France and ending in Belgium. (Google Maps)


Finally, it did. The goal everyone had been working for, coordinating for -- the speeding car running out of gas before its Newtonian nightmare ended in violence -- was achieved. Lecerf's car, finally out of fuel, came to rest in a ditch. He had driven, ultimately, from Pont-de-Metz in northern France and through the French coast up through Callais and Dunkirk, eventually crossing the border into Belgium. The little Renault stopped, finally, in the town of Alveringem. 

Before it did, though, Lecerf was stuck in his speeding car for an hour. (It's unclear what, exactly, went wrong with the car -- though Lecerf's upcoming lawsuit against Renault should help to figure that out.) The man and his vehicle and his communal, ad hoc escort ended up traveling 125 miles together before they got their Hollywood ending -- an ending made possible not by individual heroics, but by collective effort.

This post originally appeared on The Atlantic.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Perspective

    In a Pandemic, We're All 'Transit Dependent'

    Now more than ever, public transportation is not just about ridership. Buses, trains, and subways make urban civilization possible.

  2. photo: A cyclist rides past a closed Victoria Park in East London.
    Perspective

    The Power of Parks in a Pandemic

    For city residents, equitable access to local green space is more than a coronavirus-era amenity. It’s critical for physical, emotional, and mental health.

  3. Coronavirus

    The Post-Pandemic Urban Future Is Already Here

    The coronavirus crisis stands to dramatically reshape cities around the world. But the biggest revolutions in urban space may have begun before the pandemic.

  4. photo: San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency employees turn an empty cable car in San Francisco on March 4.
    Transportation

    As Coronavirus Quiets Streets, Some Cities Speed Road and Transit Fixes

    With cities in lockdown and workplaces closed, the big drop in traffic and transit riders allows road repair and construction projects to rush forward.

  5. Equity

    These States Are Sowing Confusion About Cities’ Power to Fight Covid-19

    Mixed messages on the legal concept of preemption are confusing cities that want to pass stronger Covid-19 actions, like closed beaches and shelter in place.

×