Hey there, Four-Wheels

Nestled in the proud American tradition of waste and self-righteousness, somewhere between littering and automatic-flushing toilets, is the Automobile.

Published October 2, 2007 by The Spectrum Online

Nestled in the proud American tradition of waste and self-righteousness, somewhere between littering and automatic-flushing toilets, is the Automobile. Since its inception over 100 years ago, it has been an icon of independence and American stability.

I recall the year we all turned 16, and everyone but me got their driver's license. I was still riding my bike to school while arrogant teenagers sped past, shouting things and pretending to hit me. The fact that I didn't have a car really meant something; it meant something the way it means something to wear high-water jeans or to go to the prom alone.

I graduated almost six years ago, so I can forgive all those jerks who didn't know any better. Kellie Cunningham threw rocks at me, but that's okay – because she was a stupid teenager. If she did it at our five-year reunion, however, she would look like a psycho.

Which is exactly why I was thoroughly disappointed last week when riding my bike home from North Campus. Having spent five years zipping around the hectic streets of Oakland and San Francisco, I am no leisurely bicyclist. Yet, while hugging the right side Millersport Highway and maintaining an above-average speed, I was passed by a car of wild, menacing college youths.

Echoing the high-school morons of my past, they shouted from the window, "Get on the sidewalk!" They swerved at me and had a good laugh about it from the safety of their cushy leather interior.

Not only were these young hooligans impolite, they were also just plain wrong. According to New York State law (and most state laws), bicyclists are allowed – and even REQUIRED – to use roadways over sidewalks. And what's more, "every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any bicyclist upon any roadway" (Article 16: Section 1146, NYS traffic laws).

Thus, I made sure to catch up with my aggressors at the next stoplight, and gliding alongside their car, casually mentioned, "Actually, you're wrong. I AM allowed to be in the road."

"Oh, really?" one of the hooligans asked, with a hint of insincerity.

"Really," I said.

"Well then we'll be sure to hit you next time." The passengers all burst into a fit of bro-ish laughter.

"Have to catch me first."

I smiled and raced ahead through the empty intersection; they still trapped at the stoplight.

When they finally caught up, they did what was probably the least clever thing to do in the situation: they threw a pen at me. Now, why is that funny? I mean, how is that something worth doing at all?

Perhaps it was a section of by-laws that I missed in the College Cretin's Book of Conduct (written in simple language for even the dimmest Long Islander). These by-laws state something along the lines of (1) act exactly the same way you did in high school, (2) take zero responsibility for yourself or others, and (3) always remember that you are better than everyone because you have a car.

And I thought that with all this promoting of bike culture (Buffalo Blue Bike, the article in Generation, the article in The Spectrum, bike racks and bike lanes all over the place – except on Millersport), people would actually get a clue: your car really isn't that cool. And acting oppressed by a bicycle from the inside of a large, heavy, speeding metal box sounds totally stupid.

While automobiles may have been an iconic figure of the past, today they are quickly losing relevance. With a coming oil crisis, I worry about those dependent on cars for transportation. One day they will plonk their fat feet on the gas pedal, and it won't go. That's the day they'll see me freewheel past, and I'll tell them to get their car on the sidewalk.