A ban on wheelies goes too far

Jan. 06, 2013 @ 12:25 AM

Illinois legislators aren't keen on wheelies.

It seems a lot of big-shot lawmakers aren't.

By now, most alert consumers of news and entertainment have chuckled over the many reports on the spate of new laws, many of them a bit oddball, taking effect in various locales across the country in 2013.

For instance (according to stories from Reuters, ABC News, the Christian Science Monitor and several other sources):

• In Wellington, Kan., the city will restrict the number of cats per household to four, prompting many of Wellington's crazy cat ladies to warn, "You can have Poof-Poof, Mr. Sprinkles, Whisker Doodle and their 67 brothers and sisters when you pry them from my cold, dead and partially consumed fingers."

• In North Carolina, it is now a misdemeanor to steal used cooking oil, but a felony if the grease is valued at more than $1,000, which makes robbing a KFC an even riskier proposition.

• In California, correction officers and law enforcement officials are now prohibited from having romantic encounters with prisoners during transport. I suppose, up until the stroke of midnight on Dec. 31, if the prison van was a-rockin'...

New laws cover everything from self-driving cars to the rerelease of feral hogs into the wilderness (the first one is OK, the second one is not, according to state statues), but the one that caught my attention was the Illinois wheelie ban.

For those unfamiliar with the term "wheelie," Merriam-Webster defines it as "a maneuver in which a wheeled vehicle (as a bicycle) is momentarily balanced on its rear wheel or wheels." I was so amused that Merriam-Webster defined the word "wheelie" that I began looking up other funny words, falling far behind on this column but learning a valuable tidbit: Merriam-Webster does not define "badonkadonk."

Illinois isn't so much concerned with bicycles popping wheelies as speeding motorcycles performing the maneuver.

"If the motorcycle is driving down the road riding a wheelie and they are exceeding the speed limit, it is a minimum $100 fine," Illinois State Police Trooper Dustin Pierce told WEEK-TV. "There's court costs on top of that which can bring the fine amount up to close to $400 in most counties in this area."

I was curious. Do other government entities ban wheelies?

They sure do, I learned in my research after looking up several additional words on the Merriam-Webster website.

States and towns, even some entire countries, outlaw the maneuver and penalties range from careless and reckless driving citations to being flogged on the town square by a local magistrate in a powdered wig, but maybe not that last one.

Still, there are dire legal consequences in many areas for the sweet, sweet maneuver that I have performed — both successfully and unsuccessfully — on every motorized two-wheeled vehicle I have ever ridden, from four horse-power mini bikes to dirt bikes to a weird little mid-60s Harley-Davidson Sprint that ran occasionally.

I gave all that up early in my marriage when my wife said she wanted a husband and not an organ donor and now have nothing on two wheels except for a worn-out bicycle with squeaky brakes, but I remain a fan of the wheelie.

I'm just glad Evel Knievel isn't around to witness this War on Wheelies. It would break his heart, much as horrific crashes broke 35 bones in his body during his daredevil career, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

Today, I am forming a new organization, the International Association of Wheelie Enthusiasts, and booking our annual convention at the United Center in Chicago, which will pump millions of dollars into the city and state economies, and promptly cancelling it as a protest against the state's oppressive wheelie laws.

It's time to take a stand. Poof-Poof, Mr. Sprinkles, Whisker Doodle and their 67 brothers and sisters agree wholeheartedly.


• Scott Hollifield is editor/GM of The McDowell News in Marion, NC and a humor columnist. Contact him at rhollifield@mcdowellnews.com.