Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Velo Vengeance! Our Day Has Come...

I’m going to come right out and say it—there’s been a lot of arguing here lately. Messengers vs. non-messengers, roadies vs. commuters, and everybody vs. the so-called “hipsters.” Hey, I’m not going to get all self-righteous. I’m all in favor of passing judgement and name-calling. It’s fun! At the same time, though, as cyclists, it’s time we set all that aside for a moment and teamed up against something together. No, not triathletes. (Not today anyway.) Cars.

Look, I’ve got nothing against cars in general. We need them. Many of us own them. That’s not what this is about. This is about being cyclists first and foremost, and about being at the bottom of the vehicular pecking order when we’re out on our bikes. Regardless of whether you don’t own a car or you own three, when you’re riding you’re inevitably going to encounter coffee-slurping, text-message-spewing morons who think the fact that some bank gave them a lease on an Explorer makes them important enough to try to run you off the road.

I thought about this as I read a short piece in the “Talk of the Town” section of The New Yorker this morning about the Smart ForTwo. If you’re in Europe, you’re of course familiar with this car. But here in the US they’re only just appearing on our radar, and will be available for the first time in January 2008. Apparently the president of Smart USA recently visited Manhattan in a Smart car, and the piece offered up an irritatingly delightful sketch of how the locals were alternately charmed, perplexed, and nonplussed by its diminutive size and unusual appearance.

It is small. It is inexpensive. It gets excellent gas mileage. We’re supposed to admire it for these qualities. I don’t. As cyclists we’ve been bossed around by cars for too long. And like the Yorkshire terrier at the dog run who after constantly being terrorized by Rottweilers finally gets a chance to hump a Chihuahua, here at long last is a car we can intimidate and dominate. This car has a shorter wheelbase than a recumbent, the same passenger capacity as a tandem, and a curb weight lower than most people’s Rivendells.

When you’re the kid who gets picked on in school, what do you do when a new kid transfers in who’s nerdier than you? Do you become his friend and team up against your oppressors? No! You pretend to be his friend, and then when the cool kids are looking you push him into the girls’ bathroom.

So I say when these things hit the street we in turn hit them with everything we’ve got. You Euros might not understand this, but here in the US we’ve been “sharing” the road with vehicles that are, on average, larger than your homes. This is our chance to exact payback for years of oppression. And the great thing is that every segment of the cycling population can take part. Just imagine:

--Three or four bearded guys in “One Less Car” t-shirts with SPD sandals and panniers full of organic groceries stopping on their way home from the food co-op to tip one over;

--The Sunday morning group ride swarming around one and forcing the driver to take part in a mandatory motorpacing session;

--Locking your bike up to one when you run into the store. What are they gonna do about it? Or, better yet, just locking the car itself to a street sign;

--Using them for skitching. Messengers have long skitched off of trucks, but like pilot fish they did so surreptitiously and with no say as to the destination. With a Smart car, now’s your chance to be the shark. When your legs get tired, just grab onto the side mirror, rap on the glass, and say, “Dag Hammarskjold Plaza—and step on it!”;

--Some nutcase in a neon windbreaker on a recumbent overtaking one on a stretch of country road, taking quick stock of it in his helmet mirror, and running it into a ditch.

The possibilities are endless. So next time that Hummer driver ignores your right-of-way and almost flattens you at an intersection, take a deep breath and just let it go. Soon you’ll be able to grab a Smart car by the bumper and hold it there while you berate the driver.

66 comments:

Chazu said...

I've occasionally wondered if Grant Petersen reads this blog. I admire his bikes and respect his approach to cycling, but come on, that "curb weight" comment was plain funny.

gewilli said...

damn - beat me to it

and a curb weight lower than most people’s Rivendells.

best line in the whole thing - and there are lots of good lines...

effin brilliant...

curb weight lower than...

BWAHAHAHAH

bikesgonewild said...

...years ago, you carried a silca frame pump w/ a campagnolo metal tip...silca made a lighter plastic version, but you wanted the metal one...

...'bowser' would come running & barking off the lawn...you'd raise the leg closest to 'bowser' to the top off your pedal stroke, so the 'woof' would have to really stretch & then timing your best 'arnold palmer' backswing, deliver a 'pooch' stopping blow to the nose...

...while this method will probably work well w/ a 'smart car', i would suggest lessening the blow...we all know it's not nice being punted into the ditch...

Anonymous said...

When will these cars come to the US? I can't wait for the humping to begin!!

mr.complaint said...

Hasn't this been tried before?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sztUuNNBxbc

Now back to humping a Chihuahua.

Jim said...

Yeah, it may have a curb weight lower than a Rivendell, but Grant will still think it sucks because there's less than a fistful of seat mounting bolt showing when you look underneath seat.

BTW, what makes you think these things are big enough to be capable of motor pacing? I mean, if the average Derny driver sat on one, it'd disappear like suppository.

Russ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dylan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dylan said...

check out the bike rack..

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v425/dylancivic/bikerack.jpg

billy d williams said...

dudes, check out the AEROSPOKES on that smart cart

Matt said...

Hey! My Rivendell doesn't weigh...oh, er, never mind. What will be fun is in a couple of years when they have the once a month Critical Smart rallies, schools of these things twitching back and forth like fish in an aquarium while getting herded by the scooter cops.

bother yam said...

Hey, between the weight of my Riv and my rather prodigious posterior, I'm looking forward to side-swiping one and sending it spinning, just like that dizzy, suburban bitch on the phone in her Hummer did to me.

PAYBACK TIME!

Thomas said...

To matt:

Critical Smart. I just threw up a bit in my mouth.

Anyways, I see that these "cars" are priced from $11,000. That's less than a boutique frame + Lightweights + Record group + other carbon bits. You might want to add that to your description, BSNYC.

Anonymous said...

"Some nutcase in a neon windbreaker on a recumbent overtaking one on a stretch of country road, taking quick stock of it in his helmet mirror, and running it into a ditch."

HA HA HA!!! Oh man that's rich. That's just priceless. Recumbent riders...I will never get it.

Anonymous said...

last picked for kickball, sand kicked in my face, hipsters and roadies silently yet obviously judging me, i think this smart car thing may be just what i need to elevate my self esteem. 2008 might be my year, unless of course they come out with a smart hummer (this is the us afterall).

thank you once again bsnyc!

Anonymous said...

last picked for kickball, sand kicked in my face, hipsters and roadies silently yet obviously judging me, i think this smart car thing may be just what i need to elevate my self esteem. 2008 might be my year, unless of course they come out with a smart hummer (this is the us afterall).

thank you once again bsnyc!

ikiro said...

Here in Eindhoven (you'd might remember that from the Team Time Trial, if not here's a refresher: http://www.ochblog.com/2007/06/24/ikiros_day_off/ ), most Smarts are driven by what you refer to as "three-speed warriors".

So be afraid, be very afraid. At least we got separated bike paths to protect us.

Anyway, keep on fighting in the battle against aesthetic mediocrity.

Russ said...

Given NYC's disdain for cyclists in general, they'll probably allow Smart Cars to drive in bike lanes.

Fritz said...

That was good. Thanks for the belly laugh, especially the part about the Rivs and recumbents :-)

marlo said...

There are lots of Smart Cars in Vancouver already. At first I thought the drivers would be less retarded on the road than regular cars. I soon learned differently.

Slightly Amiss said...

While we wait for the Smart car, why not start with mopeds? Today while weaving through traffic in midtown, a moped speed up past me, then cut me off while realizing almost immediately that he couldn't fit between the two cars I was aiming for. He stopped, I didn't. I did a handstand on my bars, but no damage. He got a busted rear bumper and broken taillight. DO YOUR PART.

Anonymous said...

My clydesdale ass, a full camelbak and my Kikapu. I might stand a chance against this thing. I can't wait! No more small fish in a big pond!

Dan said...

Maybe after we run them off the road, we can rehab them into keirin pace moto--*uh,* cars.

Dan said...

Maybe after we run them off the road, we can rehab them into keirin pace moto--*uh,* cars.

Anonymous said...

it's over between us. i don't love you anymore. j

Andrew Bernstein said...

"At the same time, though, as cyclists, it’s time we set all that aside for a moment and teamed up against something together. No, not triathletes. (Not today anyway.) Cars."

As the sole cyclist working in a store full of triathletes, I'm especially looking forward to this day, though in the mean time Smart Cars will do... great post!

camo said...

I doubht anyone in Texas will buy one of these... maybe in Austin, but not anywhere else. I can dream, can't I? (Of course, in this dream a large truck would shrink to the size of a small yappy dog and I would run over it with my bike... Oooh!)

Anonymous said...

I think this is one of your best posts Bikesnob. Truly brilliant.

AH said...

I'm more concerned about a Smart skitching off of ME.

gwadzilla said...

that is a great number of comments...

the sad thing

the SUV lobby is going to send the SMART CARS and all other smaller cars straight to the Bike Paths!

SCHMART said...

attention all future Smart owners...this anti smart bicycle post is our invitation to show that even tho the Smart is economical and enviromentally friendly, we can still drive too close to bicyclists, pretend not to see them and generally make their life miserable for picking on us..event tho our gross weight is only 1800 lbs i am sure we can bend a few of those expensive alloy bicycle rims....and with 30,000 plus deposits allready in, that's alot of cyclists we can annoy......carma is great...what goes around comes around

Anonymous said...

You don't want to bounce off a smart. There is no give to the frame. It is one hard-ass machine as attested to by the video showing it running straight into a concrete wall at 70. Bounced off, very small crease in the frame, doors still open AND close, windshield still intact. So don't take it for a soft target. It hits you you're toast as is you bike. There is little to no crumple zone. They save all that for the inside to protect the occupants. Good luck to those on the receiving end.

jaelle_n_gilla said...

*lol* Brilliant!

I must say, as a "Euro" I sympathize with the Smart owners, though. It may be fun to start with but in the end it's you and the Smart owners against the off-road trucks.
When a Smart driver looks out his window he's at eye-level with your butt. He knows if he collides with you, his car is seriously damaged. When a Hummer driver looks out.. no wait, that should be "IF", shouldn't it? Well, they don't even see you OR the Smart beside them.
Soon enough, you'll learn to team up against the big ones.
I mean why, WHY do people on NYC (or any German city for that matter) need a truck? This is not the outback, and event here a smart is more likely to bring you to the next neighbour on one gas filling.

Oh well, go hump the Smart if you like. With any luck you'll get the housewife of that Hummer driver.

T. Lyle said...

We have Smart Cars in Denver already too. They are quite fun to intimidate, not hard either.

Constance Reader said...

The line about car tipping on the way home from the co-op with a bike basket full or organic food had me in tears!

I live in Austin, Texas and believe you me -- we cycle-hippies would probably turn this exact activity into a weekend sport. I've already seen a couple of these cars buzzing around town, I think they could get popular here.

And I would join in enthusiastically. I used to live 3 miles from my office and was searching for a commuter bike. My cycling fanatic friend took one look at my office location and said "NO! You'll get killed." And he was absolutely right.

Anonymous said...

only a Smart car until driver gets in then it dumbs down to hipster levels

Anonymous said...

http://newyork.craigslist.org/brk/bik/422230951.html

"All cinzano on your ass"
This is classic

Hannah said...

According to the Times, a horse mounted a Mercedes-Benz on Central Park South yesterday. "[A] second horse ran into the street and leaped onto the hood of a passing Mercedes-Benz, witnesses said. That horse survived, and the passengers in the car, which was badly damaged, said they were not injured."

Looks like you fans among the four-legged set.

Eric R. Smith said...

Bravo! I found your site through the NY Observer article and I'm so glad I did. Wonderful writing! See you out there-- Eric

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Anonymous said...

The author of this is an idiot.

MMMeat said...

the author is a frickin ass moron
we will run over your dumb ass with our smarts

Smartdriver

Anonymous said...

Ah at last like the Boston Red Sox you have become what you hate most...

Anonymous said...

I am a road cyclist and smart driver in NYC. If anyone touches my car I will get out and break your helmet and head with my club. Don't be an idiot man! Show respect if you want to get any

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