Bike for Your Rights


“Don’t Let Special Interest Groups Tell You Not To Let Bureaucrats Tell You What Size Beverage to Buy”


Times were tough in New York following Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s highly-contested anti-soda campaign, which waged war on the sugared-beverage rights of peace-loving not-quite caffeinated-enough New Yorkers. For the uninitiated, I’ll inform you that the mayor’s idea was to ban soda cups over a certain size to make a small splash in the fight against obesity.

If you were to ride public transportation in those days you would mistakenly have the impression of uniform public assent. The city-run subway system had a monopoly on soda-related messaging and the message was a thumbs-up all the way on the mayor’s plan. Subway trains are a propagandist’s wet dream– first, because passengers are a captive audience, and secondly because, with so many people to avoid making eye contact with, they turn their faces, eyes, and spongy brains to absorb whatever messaging confronts them. And, with some cars only featuring one theme of ads, whichever point those brightly-colored mini billboards make will be reinforced over and over and over again at varying degrees of proximity throughout one’s commute.

The most effective subway ad (in my opinion) showed a map that demonstrated to New Yorkers how far they’d have to walk to burn off the calories of a single 24 oz soda. It was pretty damn surprising. The line extended from midtown Manhattan into Queens. Presumably, there was a 7-11 nearby to that point in Queens which one could purchase to energize them for the long walk home.

With the spring, I converted from community by subway to traveling by bike. From my two-wheeled perch I began to see signs of a flourishing resistance movement above ground, sponsored no doubt by the corn syrup titans and cup-making moguls of the world. The crafty soda liberation front (those principled “pro-choicers”) dispensed billboard-bearing trucks through city streets featuring the silhouetted image of a slender-yet-beefy man holding up his Big Gulp-sized soda in the triumphant posture of a true American hero. The  accompanying slogan said “Don’t Let Bureaucrats Tell You What Size Beverage to Buy.” Who says the days of Mad Men are over? These guys totally nailed it.

Once you read it 2-10 times, it was totally inspiring. “Yeah!” I thought. “Why should I let bureaucrats like Mr. Fancy Pants Michael Bloomberg tell me what size beverage to buy? I’d much rather have Mr. or Mrs. Coca-Cola tell me what size beverage to buy.” Thanks for the reminder, moving billboard.

It’s hard to know whether the positive health benefits of biking were offset by the negative impacts of attempted brainwashing, but I think I came out alright.

The ban on oversized beverage cups was overturned by the New York Court of Appeals in mid-2014. A decision that will hopefully pave the way for all-you-can-drink trough-sized containers, which, for the cost of a subway ride, will provide a family of 5 with all of their daily caloric needs.

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