Friday, April 22, 2011

Every Month Is 'Bike Month'

With so many press releases for "Bike Month" events circulating as May approaches, I am starting to feel like a real grouch deleting them or replying "No thank you." But I have to stand by what I believe, or else where would I be? And I believe the idea of "bike month" to be damaging to the very thing it aims to achieve - which is making cycling accessible to the non-cycling population. It seems to me, that the nature of the event, as well as the tone of the promotional materials that accompany it [note: link added 4.23.2011], reinforce, rather than dispel the notion of cycling as something out of the ordinary - an activity reserved for special occasions and organised events.

Granted, "Bike Month" has a festive ring to it that may increase the immediate visibility of cycling. But, as someone with professional experience in the psychology of marketing, I question whether the results are ultimately positive. After all, how useful is this increase in visibility if all it does is reinforce the "cycling = a once-in-a-while activity" or "cycling = weird fringe subculture" associations that the non-cycling public already holds?

It is my view, that in order for cycling to be accessible to the general population, it needs to be normalised and depoliticised.  "Anybody who wants to ride a bike can do so any time they like," is the only message I see as being productive. You do not need to wear special clothing. You do not need to wait for a special month. You do not need to be "community oriented," athletic, health-minded, or an environmentalist. And you do not need official propaganda to tell you it's "good for you," accompanied by paradoxical instructions that make the whole thing sound complicated and dangerous.

Cycling is not a cult, political group, or evangelical religion that requires recruitment events with free food and trinkets. Every month is 'bike month.'

98 comments:

  1. I totally agree!

    Biking = all the time ;)

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  2. Yeah, absolutely. The simple fact is that in a lot of cases, using a bike makes sense. That's it. There's no big secret or fanfare or special society. Just get on and go where you're going, then come back again. It's actually rather boring, if you think about it (in that it's entirely non-sensational, non-newsworthy).

    Also, Trina says "I really appreciate her point of view" :)

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  3. I totally agree Biking=all the time. I still sign up for logging miles with May bike to work stuff mainly because I like to be counted and have whatever political impact that may make. I am even feeling like making a team this year of more than just me. It would consist of people I work with that also bike all the time anyway.

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  4. I think that is what annoys me most about "Bike Month" or "Bike to Work Day" or whatever - it's what I do *every* month and damn near *every* work day. The only exceptions are for blizzards and spring storms. Even then I consider the timing - flooding on the way to work, alternate transport. Flooding on the way home, hell, I'll dry off.

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  5. See, I'm not so sure. First of all, if someone was sorta kinda thinking about trying that whole biking thing, it might be the final push to get them in a saddle.

    But from my own experience: I had been a sometimes-commuter cyclist for about a year when I first heard of Pedalpalooza, the 2+ week long bicycle party in Portland. I only went to two events that first year (a series of short films called Bike Porn and the World Naked Bike Ride), but it gave me a totally different attitude towards my bicycle.

    And suddenly I wanted to be on my bicycle all the time, and I wanted to ride it everywhere. Instead of just a way of getting from one place to another, it was also a way to have a good time with other people. I have no problem admitting that Pedalpalooza made riding my bicycle seem like something the cool kids were doing, and I could join in merely by also being on a bicycle.

    But I'm quite the extrovert...and big events, obviously, are going to appeal to me, as they're chances to see my friends and/or meet new people.

    I can see "Bike Month" as something that might not appeal to introverts or people who just generally aren't "joiners." But for extroverts like me, that kind of thing often works.

    As a side note: I find that showing that cycling is fun works better than lectures about health or the environment. It shouldn't be a chore.

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  6. One can be an extrovert and not a joiner, but never mind : )

    To be sure, I by no means expect everyone, or even most, to agree with me. But this is honestly how I see it and why I do not participate in promoting these events.

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  7. Bike to Work Day expands to Bike Month expands to Bike Life.

    It's a pipe dream, organically grown.

    Having said that it's important to get off the bike and park it at various points in a life.

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  8. I mostly agree with your concerns, but I do think there can be some value in simply getting people motivated to go ride their bike, because then they might discover how fun it is and keep doing it. I guess basically what April described experiencing. If people don't try it, then won't find out that it is fun and easy, so how do we get them to try it in the first place?

    But I do also get worried that it makes bicycling seem unusual and not normal. And the concerns you expressed in this post describe *exactly* how I feel about Earth Day. I fear that Earth Day gives people one day to alleviate their guilt and then they can go back to their normal, less earth-friendly lifestyles the other 364 days. I don't mean to derail the post, however; the parallel with my feelings on Earth Day just struck me so strongly when I read your words.

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  9. Amen to this. I'm not a joiner, I'm not an environmentalist, I'm not an activist and I honestly don't much care whether others ride, walk or snowmobile to work. When Bike Month and its associated marketing efforts come along, I'm reminded that my return to the bicycle was impeded, rather than assisted, by most of how cycling is presented and promoted.

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  10. As someone who bicycles every day and from time to time snickers when I hear about "Bike Month" ("Bike Month? I bike every day! Ha!"), I agree with the general sentiment you are trying to express. However, I won't go as far as you and say that Bike Week/Month/Whatever is detrimental to promoting cycling in general.

    Sure, Bike Months can be ridiculous, especially in the hands of particular advertising agencies, local governments, etc. No Bike Month had encouraged me to be regular cyclist, or even pick it up in the first place.

    But just because it doesn't work for me, doesn't mean that it can't work for others. Some people need the reinforcement. Some people need to see that biking can be fun. And most of all, some people need to see that other people are doing it. Not everyone is appropriately strong willed and will take on bicycling even though no one else they know does it. Some folks might check out a bike blog (like yours) and motivate themselves to try cycling. But they might have a bad experience and then give up, if there is no one else around that can offer moral support.

    Yes, Bike Day/Week/Month/Whatever is a gimmick. Gimmicks don't work on everyone, but they work on some. For that, I'll quote what Kent Peterson said on his blog regarding the #30DaysofBiking:
    http://kentsbike.blogspot.com/2011/04/30daysofbiking-power-of-gimmick.html

    But here's the thing. Gimmicks work. I found this out back when I was the Commuting guy for the Bicycle Alliance of Washington and in various conversations over the years with hard core bike geeks. A surprising number of passionate bikers got their start because of some gimmick like Bike to Work Day or some bike commute challenge. I refer to these things as gimmicks not to disparage them but because they don't seem essential to riding. But again, gimmicks like these work.

    Just because you don't care whether others ride, walk, or snowmobile to work, doesn't mean that other people might.

    As someone said, "Different strokes for different folks."

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  11. We dont have a "bike month" over here in NL. Everyone has bikes and if you don't bike you're weird or invalid. Biking is the norm and I'm looked at kind of weird because I squee giggle over bikes, take photos of them and find them fascinating. Here a bike is pretty much a bike-- except for high end race culture. That's a whole new ball of wax I'm not ready for yet. lol

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  12. Only way to make ppl bike more is to make it attractive. I posted my pov on a politicians blog not long a go, what I said was; there is no way ppl will faveour the bicycle if society makes it look like a 2nd hand choice by not keeping snow and debris (glass) off the dedicated paths we are by law forced to use. And if we have no special rights on the highway (space), only daredevils like me will ride there! I hear ppl all the time complain about the lack of space on the highway, and tha they dont dare ride there. This imobilizes ppl w/o cars from longer distance travel, where I live there is no bus (rural Sweden). Bike month is only a campagin for the BS bike shops who sells BS bikes that arent suitable for ordinary ppl! These shop dont give a shit about real cyclist or the culture!

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  13. I disagree. Your blog probably wouldn't exist if cycling wasn't on the margins. It is a subculture and I believe it a choice I make for a number of reasons, and political action is one of them based on my beliefs. I realize that not everyone, as Mike above proves, sees it my way. But we are all the converted. We see the value, enjoyment, health, fun of it, but others need events to raise consciousness. I don't need Earth Day for me, I need it for the others who don't think about it at all. If you're already marginalised, what damage can it do? Now if our delusions of bicycling as a mode of transportation becoming a mainstream act were actually true, then Bike Month wouldn't be needed...until then we should support Bike Month and Earth Day...and the Easter Bunny.

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  14. This is from someone who avidly rides + repairs his bike year round, for whatever reason bike month makes me cringe - maybe it's an issue of pride but I don't want to be associated with the events at all. It turns something I see as integral and an extension of myself into something almost unwholesomely hokey and marketable.

    I do like when there are workshops on bike maintenance and repair put on by local bike co-ops and basement mechanics. I think the best way to involve people with their bikes and get them to commute at least 3 out of 4 seasons is to teach them skills to do their own repairs. It's no longer a month about riding a metal contraption, but it's a month riding YOUR bike repaired and maintained by YOUR hands.

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  15. I respect your opinion, but really disagree. I think Brackcycle is on to some truths here. Do you disagree with Black History Month? Is learning anything about blacks contribution to America a fringe thing? How do you feel about Memorial Day (before you respond, know that I'm a Veteran)Is thinking about a soldiers sacrifice a fringe thing? I don't think having a Bike Month makes biking a fringe activity. But the reality is a terribly small percentage of people bike for any reason, much less transportation/car replacement. And LOTs of people have misconceptions about just where we belong (Hey idiot, get on the sidewalk!) So I applaud anything that raise the visibility of cycling. Critical Mass, Bicycle Sundays, Ciclavia, and Bike Month. Kansas just passed a 3 foot passing law, if biking was such a fringe activity we wouldn't need the state telling every motorist to do what should be a normal, respectful, safe thing.

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  16. On the other hand, it is a more positive message towards cycling than the Toyota commercial showing the Toyota lugging the "toy" bike off to the recycling center...

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  17. Bike month isn't for us. 'Us', being the people who read this blog, and ones like it. Just like bike lanes aren't really for 'us' (we know how to ride with traffic, right?), they're there to encourage and remind people that you can ride a bike on the road. Bike month is a nice way to remind people that bikes are a choice they can make.

    I'm sure many of us here didn't just start biking every day. You gotta start someplace. Bike Month might just be the gateway drug to Bike Months, or Bike Life. I'm all for it.

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  18. I'm torn on this issue. I agree with your post. We don't have bike month events here. Instead the local bike club does semi-annual events called Sun-cycle in July and Snow-cycle in January. Snow-cycle this years was exactly as you describe it. Go out and spend hundreds of dollars to refit your bike and wardrobe for snow biking.

    On the other hand.... a few well run workshops at this time of year on spring bike maintenance would be really helpful. This is the point where recreational cyclists start turning up. A clinic with a discussion about bike to work Fridays or something to get people started would be nice.

    I think if you tell people you want them to give up their cars, they panic. Encouraging people to just give it a try once in a while works better in my experience.

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  19. I too bike to work every day (even in blizzards). I do not think this promotion need make us feel defensive or superior.

    You do not have to approach the message as meaning only May is for bikes. Why not approach and disseminate the message as: “May is bike month, and so are the rest of the months,” or, “Make May your first bike month, of many to come.” Once you get them interested in biking in May, it will carry over to the rest of the year.

    May is eminently suited to capturing new ridership. People are stepping out of their cold winter lairs, and embracing with relief the first feeble rays of a spring sun. They are seeking new outdoor activities, long denied. Why not introduce them to the bike? Show them how much fun cycling in spring can be, as an outlet for all their pent up winter energy. The joys of other months and seasons will reveal themselves in due course.

    One must begin in some month. May is probably a good one.

    Garth-

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  20. To me "bike month" = "It's January 1, I'm joining a gym!" Works for some, perhaps, but alienating to many others.

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  21. Alfred FickensherApril 22, 2011 at 9:59 AM

    My perception is that the very people who'll be promoting a "Bike Month" are the very ones the public already sees as militant traffic-law-breakers all dressed up in variations of Ronald McDonald uniforms.

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  22. as i'm reading this blog i'm looking out the window from the local coffee shop at the few bikes parked in the rain and many cars zipping by. these bikers will soon join the cars on the wet, low visibility, streets and i'm thinking anything to get them on the same road with less hatred and more cooperation is a good thing. if a month is needed to create a critical mass, a reminder, i'm all for it.

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  23. I kind of like Bike to Work Week (aka Free Breakfast Week)

    is Black History something that isn't considered except on Februarys? Or poetry a thing that people read on months except April? Do you only think about your parents on Mother and Father's days?

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  24. Bike Month works at multiple levels. I see your point with respect to the individual, but for companies or cities Bike Month might help focus efforts, get that bike rack installed, finish that trail, or organize that community bike ride. It might even get city planners to think about including biking in their transit plans.

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  25. Brackcycle said:

    "Your blog probably wouldn't exist if cycling wasn't on the margins."

    Brackcycle, your whole post is very astute. Whether you like it or not, when you get on your bike, you're in the out-group, the minority. Maybe not in your own eyes, but in most people's eyes. That's simply the current reality.

    When I started riding to work, "Bike Month" allowed me to roll up into a group of people who did the same thing I did. It was a welcoming and comforting thing after battling traffic alone with my relative inexperience.

    The best thing we can do to really make cycling the norm isn't to bitch about it in private or preach to the choir, but to go to the meetups downtown during "Bike Month" and say, "Hello, how was your commute this morning? Did you just start riding to work? You say the route you took was scary? Let me tell you the route I take every day, I find it much easier. I hope you will too!"

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  26. on the other hand, Bike Month is a good time to celebrate the grand American tradition of bicycling in all its many forms, and it's also a good time to use the increased popular awareness to encourage local government and business to make bike-friendly moves.
    Bike Month is a great time to launch a bikeway project, or to install an improved bicycle parking, or even offer free coffee to bicycle commuters.
    Bike Month specials should be come to be expected the same way that Presidents' Day sales have come to be.

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  27. I'd never heard of Bike Week until I read this blog entry and was curious so went to their website listing events. I agree with you that most of them seem like a waste of time. On the other hand, I did not see any workshops listed likely to tell the participant that cycling is "good for you" or that would provide paradoxical instructions that make the whole thing sound complicated and dangerous." I imagine most folks who participate in these kinds of events are motivated by social rather than political reasons.

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  28. "Do you disagree with Black History Month?"

    My non-cycling political views are irrelevant here, so no comment on that. But I'd say that about half of my African American friends find the idea of Black History Month offensive.

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  29. "Your blog probably wouldn't exist if cycling wasn't on the margins."

    This is one of those things that we could never prove or disprove, because cycling is indeed on the margins and my blog exists. Also, the very thing that inspired me to start the blog was looking for a "norma;" cycling experience at a time when that did not seem to be easy to come by.

    On the other hand, blogs do exist about popular, non-marginal topics and activities. Blogs are really about an individual's take on something, not so much on the thing itself.

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  30. Obviously for us, every month is bike month, although I'm hoping the month of May is a lot more pleasant than that of April!

    I have a slightly different view about events celebrating bicycling condemning us as a freakish minority. The world is full of people whose interests have social events at which they gather- swing dances, classic car rallies, music festivals, architecture conferences. None of these events consign their participants to freakish minority status in the eyes of others. At the same time they can foster stronger interest in the activity through peer reinforcement in the participants.

    Perhaps if I only identified as a bicyclist I would worry more about there being some stigma from bike months, but just like a swing dancer, that's only part of what defines me. I also understand why you think that making something "special" could put off out-group members, but I doubt that many outsiders even know about it, and those who do, are likely to be the most susceptible to at least trying biking during those lovely first weeks of summer.

    I understand how some of the promotional propaganda of the bike month or week can be grating, but I feel like it's a great chance to meet people who also like to ride their bikes. Since transportation biking is a pretty solitary activity I rather enjoy the chance to enjoy a (free) breakfast with my fellow commuters. Often we approach things quite differently, but that's interesting too.

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  31. Velouria said...
    "You do not need to wear special clothing."

    If by this you mean that street clothing is ok and lycra isn't required I'll agree. However, I will remind all that bright colored street clothing is very preferable to muted colors like browns, blacks and dark shades of all colors. I call these darker colors "funeral colors" 'cause they may cause your funeral.

    It is the cyclist responsibility the ensure that the are conspicuous to the surrounding traffic so as not to blend in with the background.

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  32. Interesting discussion, I agree with the folks that have mentioned bike maintenance workshops being held, especially this time of year when most people are just pulling out their bikes for spring/summer.

    Encouraging all sorts of riders to get on the road, whether it's to dinner, work, or weekend centuries, it's bound to make a difference at some level. More bikes on the road create awareness and in return, lanes are striped, sharrows painted, etc.

    I think it most positive to lead the newbies by encouraging them to try it, who cares what the inspiration is behind the motivator?

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  33. Hi, on a completely different topic, what is that pannier in the first photo? I've been having a great dialog with Troy at Philosophy after discovering the company through LB. But I don't think it's one of those is it? Thanks!

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  34. I agree wholeheartedly with your thoughts (Earth Day, etc.--all the same...ugh). That said, we promote Bike to School Month this month at my daughter's K-8 school-with helmet fittings from the local bike group, help for parents finding the best routes, etc. The point is to get families started biking to school, in hopes that after they see the benefits, fun, and relative ease, they will continue. Every year after the "help" offered this month, there are always more and more bikes parked regularly at the school rack--long AFTER "bike to school" month is officially over. Can't argue with that!

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  35. I'd respectfully disagree with this post as well. I've never done Bike Month events, but I consider it more of an awareness-raising effort and a nice introduction and form of encouragement for novice bikers or people who might be interested and are finally tempted onto a bike by the combination of beautiful weather and public events and so on. It's not as if Bike Month encourages people just to ride for that one month and stay in their cars the other eleven! Obviously there are cyclists who are "joiners" or passionate public advocates and those who prefer to just enjoy and do their own thing. I'm not so into the big group events or anything, but I'm happy to know that they're going on--when it comes to getting more bikes on the roads, I'd say "by any means necessary""

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  36. MachineAge - Good eye : ) It is a handmade boxy leather pannier by Cristobal &Co. Let's just say that after my "heel strike" and "mounting systems compared" posts, I will be reviewing panniers for a while!

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  37. ^ assuming you don't mean the green one by OYB that I reviewed here.

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  38. "when it comes to getting more bikes on the roads, I'd say "by any means necessary'..."

    Several of you have expressed this sentiment as a means of disagreeing with my post, and this makes me think that you misunderstand the basic premise of my argument. I do not think that "Bike Month" will get more bikes on the road (beyond the organized activities that are part of the festivities), possibly the opposite.

    Though it is not my explicit agenda to "get more bikes on the road," if I were hired as a consultant by an entity that did have this agenda, my professional recommendation would be against the idea of "Bike Month".

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  39. Peppy (the cat hair is part of the design cat)April 22, 2011 at 2:49 PM

    I will also be reviewing panniers, more specifically their sleeping-in-worthiness.

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  40. Fair enough. And, your writing skills and viewpoint do a lot to encourage readers as they continue to draw me to your blog on a regular basis. However, I wonder if you would have such a solid following of devoted readers if cycling in the way you see it was the norm? As the person from NL (Netherlands?)stated earlier, where biking is the norm, his bike fetish isn't really shared by others. I guess I cannot prove or disprove that.
    Also, my interests dictate what Blogs I read, the person's take is obviously important, but it still comes second, since cycling is what drew me in. Your Blog is indeed a popular cycling blog, but I'm not sure if your take on things would interest so many if it wasn't part of such a committed subculture. I didn't mean the last comment as a shot at you, just that I don't think you can separate the take on things from the subject that you write about so simply.

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  41. I do not think that "Bike Month" will get more bikes on the road (beyond the organized activities that are part of the festivities), possibly the opposite.

    Do you have any facts to back this up, or is this just your opinion? From the quote that I snipped from Kent Peterson's blog, there is anecdotal evidence it "works". I know that the plural of anecdote is not data, but it's a start.

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  42. Brackcycle - I most definitely see your point. But on the other hand, how do you explain the popularity of blogs about cooking, various forms of DYI, and home decoration?

    Also, based on personal experience I do not entirely buy the "in the Netherlands/Denmark no one is interested in bicycles" narrative. Some of the most ardent vintage bicycle collectors I know are from those, and other countries with high cycling rates. The more reasonable explanation, in my view, is that since so many people cycle in these countries, the percentage of enthusiasts and collectors among cyclists is much smaller. But this is due not so much to the paucity of velo fetishists, as to the abundance of cyclists in general...

    Think of it also in terms of cars: Car ownership and driving are popular and mundane activities in the US, yet there are still car enthusiasts/fetishists/collectors. Probably plenty of car blogs, too.

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  43. adventure - It's my "professional opinion" based on my understanding of how human psychology works when it comes to persuasion and attitude change. As you point out, there are no facts available regarding whether Bike Month is directly responsible for "getting more bikes on the road." Anecdotal evidence is a contradiction in terms. All we have are opinions at this stage.

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  44. I shouldn't really comment, as I'm pretty vague about what Bike Month means in different parts of the country. But my guess is that, as others have said, having a specific month highlighting the bicycle seems likely to help as a push in the right direction for city planners who may be considering bike friendly traffic lights/lines in the road/bike lanes, etc. My sense is that administrators like to have this kind of thing to celebrate what they *have* managed to do, as well as to remind them to do more.

    But I agree too with what Velouria has said elsewhere (which relates to what some people have said in comments) that some of the would-be "empowering" incentives to new bicyclists were the kind of things that deterred me for many years - when I was in college there were lots of do-your-own bike maintenance workshops etc, and it gave me the impression that one was morally or practically bound to do one's own basic repairs, that those skills and the strength needed somehow came with the territory, and that if one couldn't mend a flat one shouldn't be out on the road. (Not to mention the unmentionable topic of safety equipment ...) I'd guess that some readers do in fact think those things! And cell phones these days make things a lot easier if something goes wrong, so I suspect that in the 80s/early 90s there was more truth about the need for basic skills; on the other hand, there were more public phone booths in those days, too...

    But as lots have said, this kind of thing varies so much according to what events bike month promotes in different towns/communities, and what skills, preferences, tastes, etc individuals have. This blog has really helped me as a new bicycler for lots of reasons, but most of all because of its mix of technical/practical discussion and aesthetics that mesh very well with my own preferences (the unity of form and function, and an awareness that elegant or even frivolous appearance of bikes and accessories can actively assist with function, if it increases one's pleasure in using a bike!)

    On the other hand, most of my friends round here are perplexed by the amount of aesthetic pleasure I get out of the bikes, even if some of them are beginning to get inspired about getting more use out of their bikes by attaching racks and panniers instead of carrying everything by back pack. So clearly it depends what clicks with an individual.

    Oh, and on the third hand, although I've been randomly complimented on all my bikes, the Pashley gets by FAR the largest quantity of random comments, and from by far the greatest variety of people, including lots of midwestern blokes that stereotypically wouldn't be expected to be wild about English bikes with huge basket, skirt guards, loop frame, etc. I don't know if seeing it and chatting makes them rush home to their garage to unhook the mountain bike or cruiser (I'm stereotyping there based on what I see on the road and the in LBS). Sorry about the long babble!

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  45. "...My sense is that administrators like to have this kind of thing to celebrate what they *have* managed to do..."

    Agree with you there. And keeping in mind that administration budgets are finite, money spent on Bike Month is money that could have been spent on, say, more infrastructure... Just saying.

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  46. Velouria--
    Then what would your response if you either heard from someone else, or if people directly tell you:
    "The Reason why I got into cycling (or reason why I stuck with cycling) was Bike Week/Month/Whatever"

    As for persuasion and attitude change, I think the successes (if there are any) can be tied to people who were receptive of the change (i.e. wanted to become a bicycle "commuter") rather than those who had little to no interest in it previous to the event.

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  47. Responding to Velouria at 3:18: no kidding about priorities! I agree. But I wish spending choices in most private and public contexts were made as rationally as your comment implies. My pessimistic guess is that if administrators weren't spending the money celebrating bike month, they'd spend even less money on bike and pedestrian friendly infrastructure, rather than more. At least if a local authority makes lots of noise about bicycles it often encourages citizens to bug them about putting their money where their mouth is (partly for positive reasons, that it gives one hope of getting a reasonable hearing for one's requests). But again, I'm making wild guesses and generalizations!

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  48. "Then what would your response if you either heard from someone else, or if people directly tell you:
    "The Reason why I got into cycling (or reason why I stuck with cycling) was Bike Week/Month/Whatever"


    Unless that statement was given as part of a well-designed study, my response would be "that's nice." Similarly, my response to someone say "What the f*ck is up with all this biking crap again!" would be "that's too bad." I personally have heard the latter sentiment expressed more than the former, in response to things like Bike Month, Critical Mass, Halloween Ride, and similar activities. That still does not make it evidence though.

    Re persuasion and attitude change - As I said, this stuff is part of my academic and professional background, and I don't mind saying that I happen to know a whole lot about it. There are different processes at play depending on the specifics of the situation, and it would be difficult to explain it all in the comment section here - I've taught semester-long courses based on just this topic. Maybe I could tie it into another post later.

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  49. I admit.. there are some collectors out there- and they have magnificent bikes! All you have to do is type in "oldtimers" into www.marktplaats.nl and you will find people who buy and trade much older bikes... But... on the whole, I haven't run into any people who are interested in bikes like I am here. It could be that I am still very new here or that I can't find the right hobby clubs. I've searched for something like the Tweed Run here and it's non-existent.

    So far my experience is that all of my friends, classmates and family think I'm crazy over bikes because I'm an American living here. They see thousands of bikes every day and it's boring to them. Gazelles and the like are fished out of the canals every week. They litter the sidewalks when abandoned. Rusty old beasts are thrown in the bushes and are considered a nuisance. My mother and father in law would laugh at me when we walked down town because I stop to look at them all!

    Hopefully someday I'll find more people who are interested like I am.. until then, I'm very thankful for blogs like this one!

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  50. Re: persuasion. That would be more inneresting than pannier reviews, and perhaps more lucrative. Some sort of LB pay-per-view.

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  51. I am very curious, and hope you will answer this with question with the the earnestness it is asked, As a professional, what would you suggest for groups and cities to do to promote cycling? To educate the mean, uninformed anti-bike individuals? And get lawmakers to provide funding for bike infrastructure (if that is something you think is a "public good"?

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  52. So...are you saying that the percentage of fetishists would be smaller? That sounds like a reduced number of people in relation to its population who could possibly be interested in the enthusiast/fetishist/collector side of things and that the subculture does have a lot to do with the percentage of readers you would attract.
    As for DIY blogs, etc. , massive mainstream population + relatively small percentage of committed followers = hugely popular blogs compared to a cycling fetish blog in Amsterdam.

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  53. GR Jim - As a matter of fact, I get loads of requests for pannier reviews; it's one of those things where people are always looking for the "perfect" one. So even though these reviews may not be controversial enough to start a comment pile-up, I think overall they are more useful than these op-ed posts.

    Lucrative? If I wanted lucrative, I'd go into corporate consulting full time. Instead, I like art and bikes. What can I do.

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  54. personally, I think it's somewhat fallacious to equate things like Bike Month with Critical Mass, even if both are, in their own ways, celebrations of bicycle culture. Similarly it might also be somewhat fallacious to say that promotional events like Bike Month are counterproductive because some people are prone to use it as an excuse to complain about cycling advocacy. It's like saying that Pride marches are counterproductive because it just give homophobes another reason to complain about the outrageous fabulousness of gay people. Those folks will complain anyway, and their voices are noise in the argument. What's more worthy of investigation is whether individuals who are neutral on the topic will be swayed by the event.

    If the events are positive and talk about bikes as a fast and easy way of navigating a city, or as a convenient method for getting exercise, or just as an enjoyable alternative for savoring a journey between two points on a map, then I'd welcome those ideas regardless of whether a lot of it happens in one week, one month or one year. On the flip side, if it's about how bike are holier than cars or about how cyclists are cooler than pedestrians or about how bikes rules but T passengers drool, then, once again, it doesn't matter if it's happening in the scope of a week, month or year-round basis; such polarizing topics are going to have limited utility regardless.

    So, yeah ... Critical Mass? No thanks. Bike to Work Week and giving friends an excuse to meet for a commuter breakfast? Yes please. Close down a street to automobile traffic like what they do to Memorial Drive in the summer? Uhh ... I wouldn't mind if that went away, actually. more Redbones block parties? Yes please, again.

    But decrying any public celebration of a bicycle simply because it gives a few folks a reason to raise a hue and cry? That's giving in to intimidation, I think.

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  55. Cris - I didn't exactly say any of those things : )

    Bike Month is fine as a celebration, if that was its end goal. But the way I understand it, it aims to promote cycling in the sense of getting non-cyclists to cycle (in that way being quite different from Gay Pride).

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  56. davidrestes - Good question, and admittedly I was being negative in my post without offering alternative solutions. I do have suggestions and will try to dedicate a post to that next week.

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  57. ah, my point was more in response to your 3:31 comment, though on re-reading I see that you did raise it as another example of how such anecdata isn't useful, so my apologies on the misread.

    All the same, I won't get too much into the nature vs. nurture debates of gender and sexuality issues, but I would still advance an argument that, at least prior to Will and Grace and other indicators of the journey of gay subcultures into a closer portion of mainstream acceptance, a large element of early Pride was in showing closeted individuals that there were segments of society that do accept homosexuals and it was ok to be out about it. So, I would still contend that there is a 'recruiting' aspect to Pride mixed in with a general celebration of culture.

    Much in the same way that Bike Month may have activities targeted at encouraging folk to ride more often, it also functions as a point in the calendar to organize parties, have 'sexiest commuter bike' contests and host film festivals. And, sure, such things should happen year round. But it's also kind of nice when some folks collectively choose to have a bunch of these events going on in close proximity to each other.

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  58. Hmmm. While I can see how Critical Mass or other mobby events could irritate non-cyclers, I can't really see something like Bike Month having an actual negative effect. For one it's not as if it's one big annoying event, or disrupts any normal part of city life. And even those types of things ( and I speak as someone who used to live in one of Boston's prime neighborhoods for every-weekend parades, road races and other events)--while it's annoying to go out and find your local coffee shop overflowing with people, I can't say it ever made me say "no way am I ever going to run a 5K, walk for cancer, support Gay Pride, etc.") I do think seeing more visible cyclists can be a tipping point--not for every growling get-off-my-road type, but for the huge number of people who loved to ride as a kid but haven't ridden as an adult, or who have a bike in their basement but never use it. They're not exactly "non-cyclists"--they just need a nudge to drag that bike out and take it for a tuneup and get back on it.

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  59. Here here! It's coming up the May bike to work week hoopla and it is tiresome although it has it's merits. The PR, the press, the feel goodness, the pats on the back for biking one day to work. Then what, go back to driving after it's done? It's especially hard where I live to see people actually out biking because it's bike month/week/day when normally they wouldn't dare because it is "dangerous".
    The downside to this getting people who don't normally bike is that it becomes a novelty and also because it might actually deter them from cycling! If they are out of shape, grab the home depot or canadian tire bike in their garage and bike the however many kms/miles to work, they might hate it! Is this supposed to be good for me? Someone in fairly good shape might have fun and get back into it, but I wonder how many converts there are. Spring is a good time to get back into cycling but for those who haven't done it in years need help, to be reminded that it will be a bit challenging at first, they might get bike bum from sitting on a saddle for the first time in ages, they need to build up their strength, need help picking a bike that fits them and to NOT BE SCARED! So in my mind the bike to work organizers need to be more proactive about these issues.
    So while I applaud governments for promoting cycling, it should be something done year round with regular bike safety classes, education about infrastructure and money put into bike lanes, safe bike parking and real incentives to bike. Free breakfast one day a year isn't going to cut it. A publicly funded central bike parking centre with free morning snacks, showers and bike mechanics on staff-now that would be awesome.
    Another thing would be for governments to promote the local bike kitchens that salvage and rebuild bikes. Not only could they help potential cyclists get a decent lugged steel commuter, they could also save oodles of bikes from sad misuse. Kudos to all the bike kitchens out there who help people.
    The weirdest thing I have seen are the earth day pledges to go car free for a month. People are guilted into it. People with kids that need to be in 5 different places in a day. I live in a rural area, the bus system is okay but huge gaps in time and service. The distance between communities and services isn't bad but very hilly and mostly on highways. So, people were too scared to bike, didn't have the bikes set up for commuting or trailer bikes and buggies for kids and gave up.
    So, there do have to be incentives and reasons to get people on bikes and the easiest one is money or lack of it. I've always biked day in day out, but I had a car for a few years when I moved to a remote area far from anything. But at some point the car injuries piled up which I couldn't afford to fix, the insurance ran out, couldn't renew, so I got back on my bike and moved closer to services. People still need to go to work, school, shopping even if they aren't into cyclocross, road racing etc.. If the bus service is bad or one hates being on buses(phobias, aversion to boredom,motion sickness, ?) then eventually one will get on that bike that's sitting in the shed or garage.

    As for fetishism, if many many more people were biking, it would be normalized, less of a pissing contest. It would be like some people have nice cars, most drive beaters. And maybe like in Holland where sad rusty bikes litter the streets. But there always be people into nice bikes. And if more people bike, they will realize the value of a good quality bike and perhaps we'll see less of the bso's that the major bike companies push on the public. Remember, those classic vintage beautiful bikes we covet so much were what was available at the time. nobody blinked an eye at lugs, chromed forks or pretty paint jobs. Even the lowest end department store bikes were lovely.
    So, think of that in your cycling future!

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  60. After reviewing the League of American Bicyclists' site for bike month, I see nothing stating the intent to encourage non-cyclist to cycle. Quite the opposite, it reads "Help us Count Cyclists In this May, and every month!"

    I think that says it all, they encourage people who have bikes and like to ride to get out and be "counted" in may "and every month!"

    Not sure I understand opposition to this concept.

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  61. Just wondering: do you live in an area where non-exercise/sport cycling is common? I live in a college town where almost nobody except the students cycle, and consequently, there are almost no racks off campus, absolutely no bike lanes, and both pedestrians and drivers are often openly hostile to cyclists (this might be combined with a mis-perception that I'm a student, the whole town/gown hostility). And I am for absolutely ANYTHING that gets people on a bike. Even if only one out of 100 people sticks with it after the month is over, that's one more than there used to be. Cycling is always going to be a fringe thing in most parts of the USA thanks to sprawl, I desperately wish it wasn't that way, but it's the way it is. At least maybe more people will join us on the fringes, making the roads safer for everyone. JMHO. :)

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  62. Erica S - I am in Boston. Transportation cycling wasn't so common here 2-3 years ago, but now it's getting there. The role of bikes in the town vs gown thing is interesting.

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  63. Ann - "May is National Bike Month and the perfect time to get out and ride with your family, co-workers and friends."

    Also, check out the "Bike to Work Week" commuter booklet. Keeping in mind that this is intended as a guide for those who are thinking of starting "commuter biking," note the following:

    . Page1: huge spread of Lance Armstrong on a racing bike wearing lycra

    . Page 2: photo depicting a "two wheeled commuter" grabbing a cup of coffee from a member of a support team as he races past on his bicycle (Oh my God, do I need that level of skill in order to ride to work? Looks difficult!)

    . Page 3: "a better body, more money and clean air" are listed as the top 3 reasons to start commuting. "Join the Movement!" proclaims the next paragraph heading.

    . Page 4: three different types of bicycles are suggested for commuting. The first suggestion is a roadbike with dropbars. The second is a suspension mountain bike. The third is a comfort hybrid.

    . Page 5: "bike clothes" (including padded chamois and padded bike gloves) are suggested for commuting. Commuter pictured riding a roadbike with drop bars.

    . Page 6: two separate images of commuters looking super-athletic and wearing cycling clothes.

    . Page 7: discussions of "spinning technique" and energy bars

    I could go on, or present a more detailed analysis, but I think you get my point.

    Dear readers, you do not need to agree with me: I enjoy reading alternate view points. But this horrible little brochure is exactly the sort of thing that kept me, and people like me, away from and scared of cycling for so any years when I could have been enjoying it.

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  64. Townies here actively campaign against bike lanes and bike racks, it's kind of sad. I guess they don't want to spend money on a population that is probably going to leave after their four years is up. But not only students bike (even if that's MOST of the cycling population), and wouldn't they want to increase business in the town itself, even if it comes from filthy students? I can't/won't even go to the locally run coffeehouse because they don't have a bike rack. Starbucks may be evil but at least they're one of the few businesses that accommodate me. Ditto for Target.

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  65. P.S. Sorry to spam comments, but I just read your comment about the brochure, and yeah, that sounds friggin' awful. (Lance Armstrong?!) I just checked out the site for Baltimore Bike Month (the closest big city to me), and it seems a lot saner. So maybe it is a regional thing.

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  66. I wonder what people from countries such as the Netherlands think about a notion such as "Bike Month" where riding a bicycle is just as normal as driving an automobile is in the U.S. It just seems a characteristic of the U.S. culture is to highlight, with an event, some aspect of it's culture. I think it is important that riding a bicycle for daily transportation be viewed as an unremarkable activity that is just part of everyday life. The best P.R. is to just get out and ride. I live in a very small rural community in southwest Missouri. I am probably the only person who rides to work; at least as far as I can tell. I also ride for recreation and physical fitness. A really neat thing that happened recently was one of my neighbors, who live along my bike to work route, went out and bought a couple of bikes. I'd like to think my riding by their home had some influence on their decision. I really enjoy you blog, Velouria, and will continue to refer to it at least once daily.

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  67. Erica - That's the brochure recommended and provided by the central organising body. I remember seeing something like that several years ago and thinking "Oh my God, no way would I be able to do this!" Going to a bike shop and being promptly placed on a roadbike confirmed the "no way" feeling.

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  68. Erica S.: That's sad to hear :( Starbucks and Target have bike racks here, too, but there is also about a 3 year waiting list of local businesses who have requested bike parking corrals to be installed by the city in front of their business, in what is currently a car parking spot.

    I'm not trying to brag, but maybe just give you hope that it is possible that an American city could intentionally go a long way towards supporting people going by bike, and that people other than the cyclists themselves can realize supporting them is a good thing.

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  69. OK, that booklet is heinous.

    The language, amount of information and guidelines are total overkill.

    The coffee pouring picture is reminiscent of folks that roll down the street oblivious of anything around them talking on their cellphones. Those folks probably would love the idea of coffee pouring "stations."

    I still like the idea of encouraging people that may already be flirting with the idea, because some are bound to find it easier than they think, less intimidating, and no doubt, downright enjoyable. Hopefullly they will make a practice of it.

    I for one love commuting to work, but I do not commute everyday, somedays I choose to drive for one reason or another. And that works for me.

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  70. Oh why do I subscribe to your comments...I was enjoying a peaceful afternoon until I saw that train wreck of a brochure.

    Judging from the clothes and Lance's youthful appearance, I say it's an artifact from the 70s and the League of American Bike Dorks couldn't be troubled to get an unpaid intern to churn out some updated copy.

    You didn't even have to write a post today. You could've just posted the brochure and said, "Do you think I'd look good in a Camelbak?"

    P.S. I have Lance's helmet, roadie fool that I am.

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  71. That does sound like a horrible brochure. I did a few bicycle-related stories for the newspaper, including bike-to-work stories in May, and our local transportation department did a much better job of making it seem not-scary and easy to do (including profiling "regular guy" commuters and focusing on the economic benefits of biking short trips, rather than adopting a sanctimonious "bike-or-else" attitude).

    If cycling is to become a more mainstream form of transportation, it is going to take mass action and organized advocacy. Even famously bike-friendly places like the Netherlands and other European countries required government action to shift from cars to bikes. I think Bike Month can be used as a time to get the conversation moving on the policy end of things.

    (for some good info on the policy end of things, there's some excellent material coming out of the Bloustein School at Rutgers, such as this http://policy.rutgers.edu/faculty/pucher/Cycling%20for%20Everyone%20TRB.pdf )

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  72. My impression on events like the bike month is that they may lead to fallacious conclusions, as for example: "Something must be done to increase the number of people who cycle, the bike month is something, therefore it must be done."
    Using those funds to improve the cycling infrastructure could perhaps do a lot more for that cause.

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  73. Amen... Sister!

    Bike Month, Critical Mass, Bike Lanes, etc and etc... the more cyclists demand... more the driving public resent cyclists... especially cyclists that have to drive a vehicle for a living(someone has to transport and deliver your bike bits)... just get out there and ride... be respectful and courteous... make a real difference...

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  74. That brochure would put me off, and I suspect many other women too. Riding a bike should be a natural extension of walking :-), something you can do, should you choose, in normal clothes and shoes. The prospect of biking meaning you have wear Lycra and ride a racing-style bike is discouraging for people who otherwise might be keen to 'give it a go'.

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  75. First things first: oh how I wish no-one had brought up Pride or Black History Month. As a member of one of those groups (but only one), I think those events have different and equally valid social purposes than Bike Month. But I much as I am interested in cycling, it's a bit more of an opt-in activity in general than being glbt or black. (That's not a point I'm hoping to argue about, for the Devil's Advocate types. I'm actually really ticked.) And for davidrestes, I feel the same way about Remembrance Day: yes.

    But on the topic of Bike Month: I think it goes over about as well as Vegan Month would, because it is often marketed not as an option to be considered, but as the inevitable choice of the righteous-- to feel healthy, to be more environmentally friendly, etc. Those elements may be true, but that kind of binary, polarising approach is... somewhat off-putting. And some people feel judged for only wanting to dip a toe into the biking pool, and not go the "full Lance Armstrong" as that terrible pamphlet above implies. It's true as well, like Earth Day, some people participate full out, and revert immediately to their old habits once the sun sets on the event, because one only needs to do this sort of thing once a year when reminded.

    In 2008, the rising pricing of gas (currently the equivalent of $5.33/gal here) got me interested in biking. I was lucky that although I hadn't stumbled onto this blog, there were a few Cycle Chic type blogs to see a world of bikes that visiting Amsterdam and Copenhagen hadn't revealed to me (I had on bike blinders). Other then Critical Mass, I was largely indifferent/oblivious to bike events. Anyway, real cyclists rode elderly bikes fixed up to ride against all odds MacGyver-style, or super expensive pointy sportif things I'd never make it to the corner store on. No, biking wasn't for me. Could Bike Month pull in some joiner types who are looking for some kind of social support for biking? Can't see why not. I'd love if biking was more normative (and therefore easier for me to accomplish from suburbs to city) and if Bike Month can play a part in that, I'm for it. If events like this encourage more bike racks on buses and decent infrastructure, I'm down as well. The strong DIY-is- the only-way and "the only proper cyclists are _______" strains of most bike events will need a large influx of new bikers to fade into the background. But I'd love to see Bike Month become as expected and anticipated as Boxing Day sales.

    It could happen.

    ohkay

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  76. After skimming it over: that Bike Month pamphlet is straight heinous. That is the kind of promo that kept me away from bikes, my goodness.

    The sporty clothes, the fug helmets (not the only styles out, thanks), the paucity of folding bikes, and the bad info at the bottom of page four? ("Average cost of a new car is the U.S.: $13,532 Ave. cost for a bike:$385".)

    Wow. Makes me long for the Beautiful Godzillas swanning about bike lanes in the wrong direction.

    ohkay

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  77. One problem that can arise, depending on how a promotion like this is approached, is ending up with a bunch of uneducated and unskilled riders out there causing problems. If they are novices and do not know 1) how to ride safely or 2) how to ride predictably and not violate tons of traffic laws, I agree that we may be doing more harm than good. It will only annoy motorists, and somebody who goes over their handlebars and breaks a clavicle is not likely to continue cycling (unless they're stubborn like some of us!). Unfortunately, individual education is hard to effect: it is very time consuming and often not well received. Thus the advocates' focus on such large scale events. It seems to me that the success rate would be all in the approach.

    Garth-

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  78. Thanks again everybody for the lively discussion and for expressing your points of view.

    Initially I did not include any links in my post, as I wanted to keep my critique general and not aimed at any particular entity. But after reading some of the comments, it became clear to me that the only way to validate my POV was to include specific examples. So I have now inserted a link to "The Brochure" into the text of the post.

    I wholeheartedly agree with the comment stating that 'Bike Month' cannot be compared to Black History Month or Gay Pride, and should have been more adamant about that in my own earlier responses.

    Those asking me to contribute my own suggestions for an "effective" approach, have a point, and I will indeed try to follow up with a post about that next week. Of course, you may not agree with it...

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  79. That brochure seems to contain a comprehensive set of generally pretty good information, with a few exceptions, like padded bike shorts, ugh. And $3k a year for a car? That's way less than most Americans spend. It's probably closer to $8k.

    In any case, I do not see the message in the BTW booklet that only May and special events are for biking. It seems to promote bike commuting as a viable, more pleasant, and more sensible daily transportation choice for work commutes, and try to provide an overview of everything a novice would need or be afraid of.

    Garth-

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  80. Dismissing bicycle advocacy outreach like Bike to Work Month out of hand seems overly judgmental, and I think you are too harsh with your criticisms of the LAB Bike to Work brochure. There is, for example, a picture of a person in street clothes emerging from the subway with a folder on page one. There are some good quotes from regular commuters and some decent advice (and some admittedly driven by brochure sponsorship) sprinkled throughout.

    Sure, padded shorts for commuting may be a bit silly in many circumstances, but the fact is most people would equate cycling in "regular" clothes with recent immigrants or people who've lost the right to drive a motor vehicle. For better or worse, at this stage of cycling development in the U.S., people associate the "sporty" look with "normal" cyclists. The coffee fill-up on the go? Bike commuter humor--get it?

    As for the list of bicycle types, this is saying any bike you may have in your garage can be used for commuting, but here are the advantages and disadvantages for using it for such--and if you are shopping for new, check out the emerging Commuter Bike category. It prepares American Consumers for what they will find in 99.9 percent of bicycle shops in this country.

    People respond to positive incentives. Most people would like to be healthier or to save money. What's wrong with appealing to that? Hard to market biking to work by touting lug appreciation or the chance to buy expensive leather panniers.

    Unfortunately, to explain a Grant Petersen-style anti-bike establishment philosophy would be more confusing than helpful to people not intimately involved with bicycles. The brochure for the most part deals with the "realities on the ground," not with the aesthetics and concerns of a fringe within a fringe. For those interested, they will eventually make their way here to learn where to buy cream-colored tires or how to string a fender skirt guard. My relationship with bikes and bicycling is always changing.

    As for Lance, I assume you've noticed we live in a celebrity worshipping culture. Now if they could get Lady Gaga in Lycra on a mixte...

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  81. Garth - To me, that brochure does not make cycling seem like a viable/sensible choice for commuting at all. See my comment April 22, 2011 6:55 PM .

    M - I believe "judgmental" is something that applies to judging the opinions and lifestyle choices of others, which I do not do. I am expressing an opinion about the effectiveness of an outreach program - which after all, is meant to be evaluated in terms of its effectiveness. Again, you may disagree with me, and that is fine.

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  82. "Lady Gaga in Lycra on a mixte..."

    : ))
    egg shaped recumbent
    I believe they exist

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  83. M-That was really well written. I think your points are excellent and were what I was thinking after my last (admittedly off-on-a-tangent...sorry) post but couldn't get clear in my head. I have really enjoyed the different opinions on this topic...

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  84. Yes, several of the comments here are so well thought out and well-written, that I truly appreciate you taking the time to post them here.

    I have to admit that these discussions take a heavy toll on me mentally/emotionally, as I am one of those weird people who doesn't like to argue, yet holds opinions that often inspire arguments. I try to make the best of it.

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  85. Yes, the brochure needs work. Perhaps instead of being a grouch you, as a well known advocate, could work within the system and bring it around to what it should be?
    You often bring up your educational credentials as support of your arguments, but here one doesn't need such lofty accolades to see the initial presentation is poor.
    You cannot change things for the better by standing back and talking. You have to get involved and work at it.
    Maybe you should accept those invitations and work at delivering your message...which would mean actually participating in a group activity.

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  86. ^ We must all do what we feel compelled to do, otherwise it's no good. I think that writing this blog is a better and more enjoyable use of my time than getting involved in advocacy. To each their own.

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  87. Christopher FotosApril 23, 2011 at 2:42 PM

    Just writing to say this is one of your best posts (or maybe that just means, one of my favorite posts). And not even just because I agree with it, but because it's a powerful expression of how you view the bike world.

    Also wanted to say the Twitter recap is brilliant, lots of fun things to look at there. Interesting waxed canvas bag, hmmmm.....

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  88. If I were keen on the idea of bike commuting but unsure whether I could do it, this booklet would turn me off the idea completely. It makes it look so complicated and cumbersome... a challenge to be overcome rather than something simple and fun. I don't see why your pointing out your concerns with the approach makes you a 'grouch' or why you should feel compelled to come up with an alternative plan (unless you want to).

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  89. Christopher Fotos - Did you enjoy seeing your name cited in French? : )

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  90. Yes the promotional materials are a turn-off and do portray cycling to work as something for only the truly hardcore. That . . . is not how I look when I commute to work. Occasionally I pass people who look like that (note to the shocked lycra fans that I pass: dressing like Lance Armstrong does not make you as fast as Lance Armstrong). The part where they encourage you to spend several hundred dollars on special cycling clothes would be enough to turn me off if it were the first thing I saw. For cycling to be a form of transport, I need to be able to dress the same way I would on other forms of transport. I've never seen specially advertised "bus and subway riding gear."

    But sometimes gimmicky things can get people to try cycling out. I don't know if bike to work month is the best way to go about it, but cycling can be addictive after you're reminded how fun it is. If it were done right, a bike to work week or month in the spring might be all it took for one person to rediscover cycling. Maybe it should be "rediscover your bike" month instead. And show people leisurely cycling to work, not training for a race.

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  91. This has nothing to do with Bike Month, but I've been checking out your favourites on Flickr. You have a really nice collection.

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  92. On the first five pages, 10 cyclists are depicted. One is Lance Armstrong, and is wearing racing clothes. The other 9 are all wearing civies of varying degrees of dressiness, including a guy on page 2 wearing a suit. In fact, of the 17 cyclists, I only see one, other than Lance, in biking spandex, the woman on page 6. (Of course, most are wearing helmets, but that is a debate of entirely different issues than the one we're having.)

    The padded shorts are silly, but the other gear they are recommending are 1) a helmet, 2) a pump, 3) a tool kit, 4) a water bottle, and 5) gloves. This is a pretty appropriate commuting list (unless you want to rely solely on a cell phone, but that is certainly not less hassle or expense). Even the clothes recommendation is not outrageous. Other than the shorts, the information is directed at riding in adverse weather. Winter riding for most North American riders absolutely needs proper clothing to be managed successfully.

    Some of the complaints about the presentation are apt. However, the bulk of the information is good. It may be overly dense for an undecided beginner, but for someone who has committed, it's information that can help them. This brochure is no Art of Cycling, but it's not horrible. Of course, Art of Cycling would not be a great promotional piece for undecided novices either, but it is not intended to be.

    I think it is a reasonable argument to call this brochure offputting because of its presentation and inappropriateness for its audience. However, I do not think it fair to criticize it as portraying cycling as an extraordinary activity. It attempts to promote incorporating cycling into your ordinary daily routine, and then attempts to give you the information you need to do so.

    Of course, the simple reality is that, for most people in America, bicycle commuting is absolutely out of the ordinary. I do not think it necessary to couch that admission in a discussion of subculture. Some subcultures have developed around the bicycle, or incorporated some form of the bicycle into their imagery (e.g., the hipsters). However, the broader issue is the pervasive car culture in America, the capitalist machine that feeds it, and the land and resources squandered as a result. Our cars are jealous mistresses, who permit no thoughts of infidelity, no matter how outrageous their demands seem to those on the outside of the relationship.

    I would also submit that, while we may hope that cycling becomes recognized as merely one viable, mundane, mainstream means of transportation, it requires some skill and education to do it safely, successfully, and enjoyably, especially in a world built for cars. Some of that is simply overcoming unfamiliarity - e.g., most new riders will choose a route based on their knowledge of driving through the city, and often end up with a very unenjoyable bike commute. However, given the open hostility many of us face from motorists in today's autocentric cities, bike commuting can even require some, dare I say, hardcore courage. We may not open with that when trying to inspire new ridership, or even like to admit it, but we should remember it. We cannot hope to maintain new ridership if we do not help them become good enough riders to survive and enjoy their commute.

    My apologies to Velouria for causing you any stress. I argue with people for a living, and unfortunately enjoy doing it elsewhere too. My wife's not the biggest fan of that trait either :) That said, I consider civil, intelligent public discourse to be worth incidental stress, especially in an era and society where it has become so rare. I believe that encouraging such public discourse is much nobler than advocacy.

    Garth-

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  93. Garth - No worries, you're not causing me any stress; I am doing it to myself by raising these topics!

    I think what you describe in the first paragraph of your latest comment is a matter of interpretation. That's evident by others' reaction to the brochure as well. So now we are back to the crossroads of asking, "Okay, so what evidence do we have that the majority is having Reaction A to the brochure vs Reaction B?"... and the answer is that we don't have any evidence. It would be great to get some, though it is not something I am personally interested in working on.

    I do believe that something out of the ordinary can become ordinary, even within a relatively short time. In the Boston area, I feel that something close to that has happened over the past several years. In Vienna (Austria) that has definitely happened within the past 10 years, and it is interesting to hear my friends describe how car-centric and hostile to cyclists the city used to be a mere decade ago. Things can change, attitudes can change, perceptions of what's normal can change. It's only a matter of how.

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  94. if you are really curious about the effectiveness of Bike Month, just go talk to a bunch of bikers. note how many of them tell you that Bike Month/Week/Day was instrumental in getting and keeping them on bikes, and then make up your mind.

    no need to be worrying about 'the psychology of marketing' -- sometimes putting butts on seats is all that matters. if there was any reason to believe that some mass psychology switch could effect a mass change to cycling behavior, then we might do well to worry even more about 'marketing' than we already do.

    however, we know that people will bike when given the opportunity to do so. that's the simple, plain, boring answer. Robin Chase: Infrastructure is destiny. 3 types of safety - actual safety, subjective safety, social safety. Take care of the subjective and social, and watch biking skyrocket.

    Done and done.

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  95. Peter - I think that we *do* need to worry about marketing more than we already do, both in business and politics. Everything is influenced by it - sometimes in obvious and other times in subtle ways.

    What you're describing in the first paragraph is the very problem with anecdotal evidence. I talk to cyclists and (perhaps more importantly) would-be cyclists all the time, and my impression of their feedback does not match your impression.

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