Having a flat tire is frustrating as it is, but finding out that someone flattened your tire to prove a political point is infuriating.
A U.K.-based activist group called “The Tyre Extinguishers” that goes around deflating tires is now taking its nefarious activities to the U.S. They claim they’ve deflated tires on dozens of SUVs in several major cities, including New York, Chicago, and the Bay Area. They plan to hit cars parked on the street across the USA.
The group claims even low-fuel, economy SUVs significantly contribute to climate change. The Tyre Extinguishers has no official leadership but encourages individual people through social media to copy its actions, supplies a political letter people can leave on victims’ cars, and has a link to its manifesto.
The group cites climate change as the primary reason for its actions. Even the UN has called out SUVs for their impact on the environment. The Tyre Extinguishers claims SUVs pose a greater danger to pedestrians and other road users, along with their health risks of higher air pollution.
As for the group’s ultimate goal, it hopes “to see bans on SUVs in urban areas, pollution levies to tax SUVs out of existence, and massive investment in free, comprehensive public transport.”
The Tyre Extinguishers website shares guides on how to spot an SUV and how to deflate its tires safely. Specific instructions are given to target “wealthy/middle-class areas” that are more likely to feature these vehicles. Hybrid and electric vehicles are considered “fair game,” as well, with the group citing the high environmental costs of producing and running these large vehicles.
The typical tactic used is to place a lentil or piece of gravel into the valve stem, depressing the valve. The valve cap is then screwed back on, holding the debris in place and allowing the air to leak out. This lets the activist flee the area while the tire slowly continues to deflate. The group advises its followers to practice on bicycle tires first before taking action on SUVs in the field.
Fundamentally, it’s a method that’s far easier and safer than outright slashing tires. It’s also more likely to inspire annoyance rather than sheer outrage.
As with most political movements, there’s a leaflet involved, which is placed on vehicles targeted by the group. It notifies the owner that the vehicle has been disabled and the group’s reason for doing so. Owners are advised that they will have “no difficulty getting around without your gas guzzler—[by] walking, cycling or public transport.” The leaflet has been translated into 10 languages.
Deflating people’s tires is unlikely to win the group many fans or inspire SUV owners to make greener choices. Instead, the overall goal is to step up operations to the point where it is “impossible to own a huge polluting 4×4 in the world’s urban areas.”
In point of fact, even if The Tyre Extinguishers deflates a couple of thousand tires, it will not make much of a dent in the way people live and get around. Many multiples of a few thousand tires would have to be deflated for this group, which I view as a low-level form of terrorism, to have any measurable impact on society.
In the meantime, a handful of SUV owners will wake up frustrated now and then to find another leaflet and another flat tire.
If you should become a victim of The Tyre Extinguishers, the first thing you should do is call roadside assistance, which will dispatch a 6 mpg smoker tow truck to come and run its onboard gas compressor to fill the tire with air and put that supposed gas guzzling SUV back on the road with that 6 MPG service truck.
In addition, messing with people’s personal property could be very dangerous, as you don’t know how people will respond if they catch the terrorist in the act of vandalism. It could be ugly.
Is it too harsh to replace the word “activists” with the word “terrorists”? While that is up for debate, temporarily disabling one’s private car is not likely to inspire anyone—let alone motivate someone to go out and buy an electric vehicle.
What would you do if you were to fall victim to a tire deflating? A tire slashing? Your comments should be interesting.
There is so much more to discuss on this, put your comments below, and let’s start the conversation.
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