Most every cyclist who’s rolled alongside cars for any amount of time knows the feeling, the one that makes you pump your fist at that driver who nearly ran you over, or that one whose tailpipe is emptying its contents into your face, or the one who’s emissions are melting that glacier you liked so much (anger rising, rising). It’s this sort of frustration that makes regular bicycle commuters and eco-conscious citizens of all stripes regularly curse outright at aggressive, too-large-vehicle drivers: “you just wait. You’ll get yours.”
Now some activists in France are dishing out those just desserts to a growing number of SUV drivers in wealthy neighborhoods in the form of empty, but undamaged, tires. The Deflators (or Les Degonfles), a group of French SUV-dislikers tired of the massive vehicles clogging Paris’ streets, have been quietly deflating SUV tires in the dark of night. Repeatedly.
And without damaging the vehicles, it’s essentially just setting free the air within, they argue, but with amusing side effects.
It’s not all late-night pranks, though. Their masked leader has braved a televised debate with the president of the French SUV-owners’ association and is apparently working on some sort of a movement anthem, set to appear as both a children’s song and a dance mix (oh, those savvy French).
Though The Deflators, who also often post fliers and smear mud on the targeted vehicles, have been in touch with sympathizers and potential deflators on this side of the Atlantic, it seems the mischievous Parisians have much less cultural inertia to overcome than their American counterparts in their quest to spread the message that SUVs sucketh throughout the land, what with openly SUV-hostile city officials and a national SUV-owner tax. Also, SUVs in France, according to the Los Angeles Times, make up only about five percent of the market, whereas Americans would be up to their eyeballs in potential deflationary targets, with SUVs comprising about one-quarter of its market.
Of course, that doesn’t mean SUV deflations are a bad idea in America, just a lot of work …