Chicago Sun-Times

Hollywood Harsh on the Carless

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The other day I was biking home from work when I was brought up short by a guy driving his car in the bike lane, while talking on his cellphone - in other words, breaking two city laws at once and being a jerk. I had to maneuver around him, and reminded him, through his open window, that he should get out of the bike lane and off his phone (No, I didn't swear, and yes, I promise to stop lecturing people on what the law is while I'm in a smaller vehicle). He swore at me and yelled that I was on a bike because I "couldn't afford a car."

I do own a car -- a fully paid-off car. I ride a bike a couple of times a week because I need the exercise. But in reading the frequently heated comments after bike articles, I always run into this notion -- that people are on bikes because they can't afford cars, not because they like bikes. This seems to be a delusion sustained by Hollywood, according to this article by transportation writer Tom Vanderbilt. He cites all the movie losers who don't drive, like the Ben Stiller character in "Greenberg" or Steve Carell's bicycling 40-year-old virgin. He wonders if this is because screenwriters live in Los Angeles, the car-culture capital.

He also wonders if this approach to non-car transportation is changing -- the comedy "500 Days of Summer" has a California couple actually taking a train to a San Diego wedding. But I think Vanderbilt is forgetting some of the cool film depictions of bicycles from the past -- like "Breaking Away" or "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," or train movies like "North by Northwest." No one called Cary Grant a loser for riding the rails.

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It's a question of culture. Some drivers quickly forget that they are pedestrians too after they sit in their cars. And the same story may cause with themselves.

That guy that hassled you sounds like a real jerk and it is too bad that you had to cross paths with him. I wa lways try to make as much room as I can for bikes for the mere selfish reason that I don't need the hassle of making contact with a cyclist. That said, bicyclists really need to follow all of the rules of the road in order to be respected on the road. The laws are there(ostensibly)for safety reasons. I notice that most cyclists are too lazy to wanto to stop and re-start at lights and stop signs.

Mary, I always thought it interesting and odd that we say "ride" a bike, and "drive" a car. It is really quite the other way around.

Drive a bike.
Ride a car.

Great story.

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This page contains a single entry by Mary Wisniewski published on August 2, 2010 11:00 AM.

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