The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday February 8th

Zen and the art of bicycling

Someone yells “Passin’ on your right.” I hear this harried phrase accompanied by a jaunty bell ringing.

If I don’t move quickly enough, then I face being plowed over by the oncoming biker. Even if I somehow manage to survive, I’ll still be the victim of a look of disgust.

After all, I slowed this bike rider’s pace. I should have known better than to glance at my phone on such a treacherous walkway. The biker was even nice enough to ring a bell to make me aware of my current state of endangerment.

Who am I to use the sidewalks for, well, walking?

As I jump aside and realize I have indeed survived, my initial anger is followed by a thought: Maybe the glare is justified. Perhaps, like the cross-quad bike riders, I should aspire to implement efficiency in more ways than simultaneously drinking coffee, text messaging, and walking to class.

Maybe I’ll try to concurrently attend class, write this column and ponder how on earth Glee became the television sensation of our generation. As long as I’m striving for the same efficiency as the bike riders, all is well.

Even if they try to kill us, bikers have their lives together, and we should learn from that.

After all, their methods of efficiency are going to get them to class ten minutes early as I lag behind the slow pokes who decide to turn their swag on just as I step behind them. As the efficient biker takes a seat, says good morning to the professor, and responds to a few e-mails before class begins, I’m racing into the back of a huge auditorium, fighting for a seat, and rushing to get my notes open before the lecture begins.

Which makes me more afraid, the impatient bicycles nearly mowing me down and scattering my books, or the thought of them, and others, excelling while I’m left behind in their dust? Certainly it’s the latter. And it’s something we address daily.

Many UNC students come from schools where they were rarely challenged by their intellectual equals. Our résumés were extensive and the leadership positions we held were unmatched.

Like Chancellor Holden Thorp (according to UNC-system president Erskine Bowles, anyway), a lot of us had never failed a test or even made a B — we always made A’s.

When accustomed to being one of the best in a particular setting, it’s tough to transition to a setting where your contribution of excellence is suddenly not the only product in the market. So what’s the best way to deal with this?

In my first year, I’m taking a lesson from the bike riders: to be energized by competition.
While I’m not brave enough to pilot through the Pit sans helmet at lunch time on two skinny tires, I can surely take other steps toward maximizing productivity, and so can our freshman class.

One day, we will figure out what it is that we’re trying to produce here. Eventually, we’ll find out which routes will lead us back to the excellence we achieved in that small high school environment with few competitors.

So look out UNC, we’re passing on your right.

Hinson Neville is a columnist for the Daily Tar Heel. He is a freshman business major from Roanoke Rapids, NC. E-mail Neville at

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