30 May 2010

If You Want Cycle Transport, Make Cycle Transport Sexy by Brian Glover

Long-time reader Brian Glover sent me this article he has written in reponse to my recent post about Cycling Isn't Fun, It's Transport. I have no idea why on earth I'm publishing a critique of myself, but then again, it's Sunday late morning and I'm hungover, vulnerable and incapable of making balanced judgements. So here goes.

No, Cycling isn’t “Fun,” It’s Transport – But If You Want Cycle Transport, Make Cycle Transport Sexy.
Guest article by Brian Glover

Last week Mikael wrote the post Cycling Isn't Fun, It's Transport, taking on the U.S. cycle advocates – ever cheerful, ever wholesome, ever useless and ignored – who seem to assume that people will take up bicycles as transportation because it’s the right and moral thing to do. His answer: “/I don't give a shit... I want to get there quick./” And he’s absolutely right: anyone who thinks mainstream people are motivated by ethics and altruism, in the U.S.A. or anywhere else, should come talk to me about some amazing Florida real estate. He’s right to say that people will choose the bike over the car only when it’s the fastest, most convenient, most direct way to get where they want to go. Cities should rebuild their streets to make that a reality.

And yet... I think Mikael is being more than a little disingenuous here. For several years now, he’s been telling us to “Copenhagenize the Planet,” and a surprising number of people seem to think that’s a good idea. I’m one of them.

Yes, we like those bike paths. Yes, we love those little railings for cyclists to grab at stoplights. The infrastructure of Copenhagen is efficient and practical, and Mikael photographs it alluringly. Really, though, “Copenhagenize” is not selling asphalt and blue paint; it’s selling style.

For people in “developing bicycle cultures,” Mikael offers an alluring ideal, which often involves attractive women (and men) in tasteful clothes, undoubtedly on their way from fabulous apartments to up-to-the-minute offices or chic restaurants and bars, all of which we can imagine filled with well-designed Danish furniture. For a lot of people, this will look like the good life, or at least one version of the good life.

But here’s the problem: for a lot of people in my “developing cycling culture,” the Copenhagenize fantasy does not look like the good life. In San Francisco, New York, Portland, and a few other cities, sure, people are likely to agree. In those few places, Americans really aren’t too different from their urban European counterparts. They want the same things, more or less, and follow the same styles (again, more or less).

Mikael’s graphic design aesthetic, for instance, rides hard on Helvetica (see “American Apparel”) and faux-hand-stenciling (see “Every Indie Band Ever, Pretty Much”). If I were selling stuff to the average 30-something yuppie in Brooklyn (or the people who love him/her), I’d do exactly what he’s doing. But the vast majority of Americans don’t find that lifestyle or its signifiers appealing. It’s not just true that most Americans live in automobile-dependent suburbs; they /like/ living in automobile-dependent suburbs. Even when cycling clearly is the fastest, most convenient way to get somewhere, they won’t do it, and they’ll look with disdain on anyone who does. From inside the head of a person in a developing cycle culture, Mikael’s photos look very different. He wants us to see freedom, convenience, and status appeal; here in the States, his audience is likely to see something that’s not just weird, but threatening. I can’t speak for other non-cycling nations, but I suspect that a lot of the same principles apply. Let me explain.

In any culture – as far as marketing is concerned – what matters is status. People will buy things if they think they’ll get approval and envy from the people around them. In mainstream U.S. culture, driving a car in a city that has been designed only for driving cars is a high-status activity. It implies that you have a lot of private property (power, wealth, respect) and that you don’t have to enter into public, shared spaces (vulnerability, poverty, disrespect).

In the worldview through which most Americans understand their lives, a car is an extension of the suburban home: independent, private, isolated. And in that worldview, isolation is a good thing. In this world, apartments are bad. Urban life as Mikael presents it is bad. Interactions with strangers are bad. We need protection from strangers, and a mobile steel-and-glass box – the bigger, the better – is the best way to get that protection.

Transportation biking, then, is a low-status activity – a /very/ low-status activity. That’s why the original survey that got Mikael all steamed up is so ridiculous; it asked

“Why do you choose to bicycle to work?,”

but it should really have asked

Why do you choose to do something that, in the eyes of 95% of your society, marks you as a freak and a loser?”

No one will say this out loud, of course – it’s not polite – but it’s the truth. And no one will answer this question honestly, either, but if they did, the choices would look like this:

A. I am too poor to get around in any other way. I have no choice. I
am abject.

B. I have had my rights as a citizen stripped from me because of
repeated, unforgivably bad behavior (i.e. drunk driving
convictions). I am an outcast and a pariah.

C. I think most mainstream people are idiots, and I actively seek
out their disapproval. I am a rebel. If the majority of people
around me start biking, I’ll hate that too.

D. I genuinely don’t care what other people think of me. I am an
independent thinker. I also have enough job security and social
status that I can afford not to care what other people think of me.
I am either uncommonly strong, or uncommonly privileged.

(As for me, I’m a combination of C and D. I hope.)

When a mainstream American sees a person on a bike (without the signifiers of cycling as a sport – an entirely different thing, status-wise), he or she sees one of those four categories, and none of them look appealing. The poor (A) provoke either pity (Democrats) or disdain (Republicans). The other three categories are actually threats – whether through degeneracy (B), subversion (C), or class oppression (D). Urban Europeans will generally provoke the same reactions, even when they’re not on bikes – so Mikael’s plan to “Copenhagenize the Planet” probably won’t get far here, without some major revisions.

What, then, is to be done? I do think it’s possible to market cycling to the mainstream here in the U.S., and in developing cycling cultures around the world. But the way to make that happen is to tie cycling to high-status lifestyles in specific local cultures. A one-size-fits-all approach won’t work. Though it may trouble Mikael to admit it, “Denmark” is not a magic word for everyone. So, advocates and marketers need to look at what people really want; to be crude about it, they should market cycling in ways that, for the mainstream of a given local culture, just might get you laid. What we need is a new model of cool/smart/sexy/desirable, a lifestyle model that is indigenous to the local culture but incorporates many of the underlying elements we see in places like Copenhagen.

I live in North Carolina – and not in Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Charlotte, or Asheville, but pretty deep in the conservative “red-state” area. Here in Greenville, the current model of the good life includes a big suburban-style house, a really big SUV, a significant dose of evangelical Christianity and a lot of college football. This may not appeal to readers from other parts of the world, but that’s the point: local culture does matter.

But even here, and in much of the South, I can see possibilities. For instance, I think a "Charleston" approach would appeal to quite a lot of people -- blonde sorority girls on updated beach cruisers, tailgate parties with kegs and dogs (arriving by bike trailer), couples who look like George W. and Laura Bush (or even better, Cindy McCain) pulling up on expensive city bikes to big ol' Victorian houses in dense, Spanish-moss-draped neighborhoods right out of Southern Living. Ladies who lunch, pedaling stylishly in pastels to an azalea-shrouded church that isn’t an exurban megacomplex. Maybe even U.S. military dudes in uniform, riding European bikes in a German city (sorry, Denmark – we’ve got more bases there). People do have some positive mental frames for urban lifestyles in this region, but they’re a little bit submerged right now; it’s time to go out and activate them.

Wherever you live, though, the point is to determine who the high-status people are. They're the ones you need to reach, and they’re the ones you need to co-opt. Others will aspire to follow them. Once cycling becomes a high-status activity, people will do it even where the actual road infrastructure isn’t very friendly – just as they now refuse to do it, even where the roads are pretty good. Like every culture, bicycle culture is all in your head.
by Brian Glover, May 2010

Copenhagenize replies:

Firstly, thanks to Brian for taking the time to write this article and to send it to me.
I won't get into details, but I'll add a couple of comments.

1. I am so-o-o-o-o going to change the Copenhagenize.com banner graphic.
2. Changing the status of cycling is really the foundation of what I try to do. It is the cornerstone of the Cycle Chic concept, of which Copenhagenize is an extension. Why has Cycle Chic rolled out around the world over the past three and a half years? It presents images, not only from Copenhagen but around the world, of cycling in a different light. Of cycling how it used to be. The world was ready for this, apparently. The first photo I took was recently called The Photo That Launched a Million Bicycles, which is a wild, humbling tagline, but the status of cycling has changed and continues to change. All over the world.

Not only in the large cities, but in Charleston, in Flagstaff, Georgia, Sacramento, on the Change Your Life, Ride a Bike website - and beyond. Lodz, Poland. Bandung, Indonesia. And so on. And so on.

Changing the social status of cycling - of ANYTHING - cannot possibly begin in areas outside of large, urban centres. It's a fact of life that First Movers live in Big Cities and that the ideas they adopt, if successful, filter down to the rest of society.

The Law of Diffusion of Innovation highlights how we are all divided up into five groups; Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority and Laggards.

Cycle Chic - to use an phrase that highlights the marketing of urban cycling - has been wildly successful at targeting Innovators and Early Adopters all over the planet and we are moving steadily towards Early Majority in many regions. In this context, the Innovators are not cycling enthusiasts and/or advocates but rather Citizen Cyclists taking to the streets. People who have elegantly leapt over traditional advocacy and the outdated and ineffective messages associated with this advocacy.

3. My use of Helvetica and my graphic design aesthetics are aimed at Innovators and Early Adopters and not at the 'heartland', whether in the US or France or anywhere else. The wheels start turning in the cities and, with luck and hard work, the momentum will be achieved and filter down. The people who read Southern Living do not read this blog, for example. On Copenhagenize.com the readership is, very roughly, traffic planners, urban planners, bicycle advocates. A more focused group. I speak to this group, not to their neighbours across the street. But by speaking to the 2000-odd daily readers on Copenhagenize.com, perhaps the ideas that people think are good will spread on the tailwinds.

Most readers of Cycle Chic probably don't read Southern Living either, to be honest. But they are certainly closer to the trend pulse. On the Cycle Chic facebook group, the members are 53% women and 43% men [the remaining 4% are companies/orgs etc] and this is the same on the blog. Most are interested in fashion/lifestyle/design/urban living.


Matthew Broderik on a bicycle.

These are the people to whom urban cycling must be sold, and sold differently. Seeing fashionistas and celebrities on bicycles, seeing major fashion brands using bicycles in their adverts... all this is good. Whether the purists like it or not. This is a repeat of the bicycle boom in the 1890's where urban cycling went mainstream and transformed our societies. Individual mobility, liberation of the working classes and of women. All through a simple product with an excellent design but also through positive marketing.

Something's Fishy
I remember a fantastically interesting study about sushi. About how a team of researchers used the spread of sushi restaurants throughout America as a yardstick to determine how people in different age groups react to trends and at what age they start getting 'stuck in their ways' and start to refuse trying new things, foods, ideas.

I can't for the life of me find the link, but selling urban cycling and mainstream bicycle culture is much the same as sushi's global march. There are now sushi bars in the strangest places. Deep in heartlands where massive steaks once ruled supreme there are now places selling tiny bits of raw fish on sticky rice.

The advantage that urban cycling enjoys over sushi is that it has already gone global - over a century ago. It in public domain and not restricted to one foreign culture. Very few people have to learn to ride a bike - they've done that. Learning to eat - and enjoy - raw fish from a foreign culture is a considerably greater challenge.

I don't actually feel that I'm selling "Danish bicycle culture". I merely show what is possible in a large city - and one with the third-largest urban sprawl in Europe. I don't really know or care what 'Copenhagenizing the Planet' means. It's just a way of expressing possibilities, encouraging a change of thinking, highlighting how the bicycle is one of the key elements in the [re]creation of liveable cities.

But the words 'copenhagenize' dates to the beginning of the 19th century and originates in America. :-) It features in the splendidly named "Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States - By the Best American and European Writers" from 1899. It's a naval military phrase that refers to the practice of the British Navy to confiscate all the ships of a defeated adversary, as they did with the Danish Navy following the Battle of Copenhagen in 1807.

"But, even when it was repealed in 1809, the belief that Great Britain would "Copenhagenize" any American navy which might be formed was sufficient to deter the democratic leaders from anything bolder than non-intercourse laws, until the idea of invading Canada took root and blossomed into a declaration of war."

Which has nothing to with bicycles, but hey, at least it's in a CYCLOpædia...

But I digress... which is a good sign that I should shut up. Thanks again, Brian, for the chat.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ride on, write on... too much to say for a comment box. Meanwhile our self destructive life styles in the USA are kicked into higher gear as attempts to stop the oil addiction cancer from entering our food chain fails.

Cycling is obviously sexy and years being a C & D cyclist keeps me on the bike.
Jack

will.i.am said...

Alright, just a few points I thought I'd like to touch on. One point on the American suburbs vs American Cities; I have read a considerable amount of articles over the past 3 years or so (since the start of the Global recession), on the shift of growth from suburban America, back to urban America, which makes me find the arguments for targeting the suburban Americans a bit week.

And beyond that point, is the one that has become very apparent to me as of late, that of selling cycling as 'sexy'. (I believe Mikael mentioned something about how bicycles are used more in fashion these days). But just to reiterate on that then, the bicycle has become very much something of a fashion item in the last 2-3 years. This can be seen in:
the Gucci bike http://www.gucci.com/us/us-english/us/spring-summer-10/luggage/
(scroll to the far right)

a bike by Chanel
http://www.vogue.co.uk/news/daily/2007-10/071022-two-wheels-are-better-than-none.aspx

Lacoste's use of bicycles (as a tool to sell a free and spirited lifestyle?) for spring/summer 2010
http://swipelife.com/2010/03/23/lacoste-springsummer-2010-catalogue/#more-40944

Frost Birgens Fall/Winter 2010
http://swipelife.com/2010/05/21/frost-birgens-fallwinter-2010/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+Swipelife+(SwipeLife)

Unis Spring/Summer 2010
http://swipelife.com/2010/05/21/unis-springsummer-2010-collection-2/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+Swipelife+(SwipeLife)

GantRugger Spring/Summer 2010 having a bicycle walked down the catwalk
http://swipelife.com/2010/03/11/gant-rugger-springsummer-2010-looks/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+Swipelife+(SwipeLife)

I would say that the fashion industry is easily the one that will sell you bicycles as being sexy and iconic, and are busy doing so. So it's not as if people need to go searching for that.
And as for suburban America, this trend will filter down to them over time also.

bikeolounger said...

Cycling as sexy? Yep. I look at cyclists and see healthier, happier people.

Cycling quicker than driving? I've observed this personally, and frequently.

It really comes down to the observation that people do what they perceive to be in their best interest. If their slavishness to social status compels them to drive, they will, despite, as Brian's essay states, that riding a bike may be a quicker way to get from a to b.

My commute takes longer by bike than by car. I ride a bike whenever I can (I have weather minima, and sometimes am hauling stuff that I can't haul readily with a bike). It's still in my own perceived best interest to ride--I feel better about myself, I get some exercise, I get to re-allocate the funds I would have spent on driving...

My errand-running is also done by bicycle, for the same basic reason: It's in my own best interest. I can tick off observable benefits to my self--physical and emotional--that I get by cycling instead of driving.

I'm also willing to be seen as different than the mindless hordes who insist on driving for anything more than a hundred yard trip.

dr2chase said...

There's another reason (E) to not necessarily subscribe to the status quo, which is that if you grew up in the South during a certain time, you become aware that "the culture" around you can sign up for things that are plainly wrong and immoral. This can plant some seeds of doubt that stick with you for for the rest of your life -- just because everyone is doing it, does not mean that it is wise, or good, or moral. I don't think this is the same as being a rebel for the sake of being a rebel, or not caring what people think. US culture is making a big mistake, with the able assistance of auto and oil marketing that works as hard as it can to convince us that we are all cowboys, riding our mechanical horses across the wide wild country, fueling them with the finest hydrocarbon oats.

Getting this set right, I am not sure. Mikael is surely trying, and there's a difference between aiming your message at the movable margin (those people in urban areas, most easily bike-ified) and aiming it at the bulk of the country. Cycle Chic appears to be aimed at the movable margin; I am not sure how you target median-America.

David Hembrow is also doing an admirable job, aiming I think at the denser suburbs surrounding US cities, with his accounts of kids cycling to school, and how they are kept safe with wide separations and lanes. Don't think that details like that don't matter.

And then there's Crap Cycling, which is I think taking the blunt club approach to the problem. I think it serves its purpose, since he is pointing out the legal/cultural cycling cognitive dissonance in England AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN, and sooner or later, this works. (Repetition helps people believe lies, it works even better with facts).

dr2chase said...

PS. And do not discount Riding the Spine (e.g., picture 19, box 4). That's as close to a US truck ad as you're going to get. Happily, those same bikes make excellent grocery-getters and kid haulers.

justinleemiller said...

Good points on both sides. I read Copenhagenize.com every day and I'm not a traffic planner. I'm an actor and singer who did a gig in 2003 in Amsterdam, and was hooked on the idea of bike culture. I ride a 2-ton black Dutch bike through the streets of Chicago with no helmet. Chicago doesn't have a public transportation system like NYC or Paris, so for many young people, it's the most convenient way to get around the city, especially late at night.

Joe said...

Great Blog!

Greets Bernd
http://www.zoll-fahrrad-versand.de/

BG said...

Hey, thanks, Mikael. I think you're pretty much right on, except for one point: the "first movers" in many cultures do NOT reside primarily in big cities. At this point in the US, the easily-Copenhagenizable cities are somewhat marginal; sushi may make its way into the heartland, but at this point the movement is just as often in the opposite direction. Manhattan is full of suburban box stores, and country music sells just as well in cities as anywhere else. Somehow, Sarah Palin exists, and keeps finding supporters. It's weird, I know. In the age of centralized mass media, it was certainly true that all the ideas came out of the cities, and the provinces copied them -- but centralized mass media aren't doing very well these days, and the provinces increasingly don't care and don't have to care what the cities think. So I don't believe you can just say "hey, this is the hot new thing from New York/Copenhagen/Portland" and expect people to lap it up. They've got their own networks and they've got their own cultures.

That makes things difficult in some ways, but it opens opportunities in others. Citizen cyclists can now change their communities everywhere -- actually, just in sheer numbers, it should be easier to reach the tipping point in a small community than a big one -- but the ways they do it may be quite different.

Anyway, thanks!

Brian

Neil said...

This is a great post, both halves of it.

I have to say, though, your response never came back to "I want to get there quick." Selling cycling as fashionable and sexy is much more of a winner from both vantage points.

Green Idea Factory said...

All very nice and useful... but to be fair I think a lot of people in USA suburbs (middle-class suburbs) if not rural areas simply feel trapped in their cars, and would like something different. But they are not sure how to get there.

But also many rural and Western US university campuses have lots of cycling (and these kids are definitely not all from cities, even if they are above-average in many respects). Stanford University comes to mind as one example of this, and another is UC Davis, but perhaps the best is UC Santa Barbara - you can see many similar photos on the same stylish blog.

So how to get these students to keep riding when they move on with their lives, or indeed how do we keep them in cycling-friendly communities?

BG said...

PS: I'd really like to hear about this from people in other developing cycle cultures like Brazil, India, or South Africa.

Boy on a bike said...

For a different view of cycling, try the posts from around November and earlier at this blog:

http://armynow.blogspot.com/2009/11/updated-stories-and-century-ride.html

As I tap this out, I am listening to the rain falling outside and waiting for a bit of sunrise before hopping on my bike for the ride to work. I could take the bus, and arrive warm and dry, but I know it will take up to 30 minutes longer by bus, and I'll get no exercise. It's not fun - it's transport!

People forget what the early days of motoring where like. Motorists wore heavy gauntlets and lots of clothing and goggles because it was cold and wet - and the wheels threw up great clods of horse manure because horses were still the dominant form of transport. The early cars did not have mud guards (or poo guards), so the driver and passengers could be rather smelly at the end of a journey. Was that fun, or was it transport?

Glenn said...

I think Brian's right as far as the U.S. goes. Pretty much a nation of sheep never weaned off of television and Madison Avenue.

I live in "shruburbia", and cycling is not convenient. I.E. long distances, no bike lanes, much less paths, and heavy motor vehicles driving 40 MPH minimum.

Therefore, I bike because I enjoy it. Period. No lycra, and since being introduced to this blog, no helmet.

My wife grew up in a county with mandatory bike helmet laws. She was never more happy than when I pointed out that the state, and the county we reside in, have no such laws.

Glenn
Marrowstone Island

Nick said...

Kegs in a trailer??

No man, you want one of these! :

http://www.metrofiets.com/profiles/hopworks/

Great article. The fixie culture in North America is probably a home-grown example of the approach Brian Glover advocates, but developed through proliferation of culture rather than marketing. The move from bike-messenger subculture to urban hipster and now mainstream youth culture is starting to have an effect on more rural areas of my country (Canada). In a way, the fixie is the current cycle chic of North American cities and has helped make the bicycle a status symbol for youth. Thanks in part to this trend, the bicycle generally is becoming more accepted.

Anonymous said...

Changing the social status of cycling - of ANYTHING - cannot possibly begin in areas outside of large, urban centres. It's a fact of life that First Movers live in Big Cities and that the ideas they adopt, if successful, filter down to the rest of society.

Huh. I'm wondering if you underestimate the role of university students as early adapters in the U.S. and therefore the role of college towns in US bike advocacy. I'm probably biased, because I live and cycle in a Midwestern U.S. college town, and everyone likes to think they're important. But in the Midwest, places like Lincoln, Nebraska and Iowa City, Iowa seem to be potential incubators of bike culture.

byron said...

Tired old arguments that miss the point. Bikes are already sexy in the States. Watch TV, pick up a magazine and notice their prevalence in ads. Madison Ave loves the bike and it's not about sexy, it's about Safety. This New Amsterdam fantasy we have here in the States stops at the lack of infrastructure and for unknown reasons safety is never really discussed. It's "change the culture" instead of make bike commuting safer.

Adrienne Johnson said...

@ Byron- I would say you have to change the culture to get the infrastructure. Unless you have enough people, placed in the right places, who have had that "Come to Jesus" moment where they realize that infrastructure benefits all people, you have to have a lot of people in regular society buying into the idea of cycling being "sexy" and get them on bicycles. Popularity goes way further than reason sometimes (Sarah Palin would be a fine example of this).

As to what really draws me to this discussion... that can not possibly be Mathew Broderick on that bike! What the hell happened to him?!!!

Nerdlinger said...

"“Why do you choose to do something that, in the eyes of 95% of your society, marks you as a freak and a loser?”

No one will say this out loud, of course – it’s not polite – but it’s the truth."

Really? Could you cite the source of this "truthful" statistic?

If your initial premise is faulty, your conclusion has no certainty of being correct, despite any logical steps that may flow between. So it would be appreciated if you provide some evidence that supports your starting position?

marianne said...

@Nerdlinger: Do you have any evidence that Brian's premise is NOT true?

Anonymous said...

Be the change you want to see in the world... it's as simple as that. Oh, and in the west, veganism helps.

BG said...

@Nerdlinger:

Happy to oblige.

I wrote up a response to you here.

Brian

Paul Souders said...

This is an excellent and thought-provoking discussion. I like Brian's reframing of the question. This weekend some of my bikey pals and I were figuring how much "C" and "D" we represented. But upon reflection I realized that it didn't accurately describe my past experience.

I began riding for transportation as a college/grad student (and in my post-college hunger days) b/c I was poor. So that would be "A," except I never imagined myself as "abject." For students, poverty is expected to be a temporary situation. But I also cared what people thought of me, and lacked social/financial resources (so def. not "D")

Also, this was in Lincoln, NE & Eugene, OR ~ college towns where people on bikes were viewed as a "normal" (if perhaps annoying) aspect of traffic. It was possible to ride without projecting a lot of self-importance into it. I always rode in my regular street clothes, it never even occurred to me to wear anything else. No Lycra or special Goretex pants, or tweed or knickers for that matter either. It wasn't necessary to be "sexy" or establish as "style" or to seek the disapproval of "mainstream people."

Consider that America's official bikiest city (according to the League of American Bicyclists) is Davis, California, home of UC-Davis.

I think the formation of distinct bicycle culture(s) that have currency in the wider culture can only happen in places like Portland. If Mikael is ultimately advocating that cycling become a commonplace and unremarkable behavior in the US, this change might come from places like Iowa City or Davis or Madison -- places that many red-blooded non-bikey Americans have cultural associations with -- NOT big cities.

Nerdlinger said...

@ marianne

No I do not (though an argument could be made that since over 5% of Americans ride a bike weekly, it would require every other American as well as a good fraction of cyclists to consider commuting by bike to be an activity for losers and freaks).

However, I was neither making such bold claims, presenting those claims as the truth, nor was I building an argument based on such a claim. As such, the burden of proof does not lie with me.

@ BG Thanks for the response. I've responded further over here.

ReadingTeacherInternship said...

Earth to Brian Glover--everyone biking isn't blond and white. Earth to the blogger everyone reading your blog isn't blond and white. *sigh* Much like the missing white woman phenomenon--it is aggravating this belief ---I don't know how to put it into words.

I love your blog. Carry on--just saying doing a marketing canmpaign with a bunch of white girls with blond hair to make biking "inviting" seems horribly well uninviting.

Instead of focusing on the skin color of the bike riders how about focusing on the many different uses of bikes and the biking culture:

Hard Core Road Riders
Dutch Enthusiasts
Working Class
Cruisers
BMX

The campaign:

Whoever You Are, Wherever You Are, However You Ride: RIDE ON!


Oh well, carry on...

SusanPG said...

Here's the link to the sushi study -- it was Robert Sapolsky in the New Yorker. http://www.newyorker.com/archive/1998/03/30/1998_03_30_057_TNY_LIBRY_000015234 You're right: it was a terrific article; I find all kinds of useful application for it.

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid I find Mr. Glover's article surprising. With all due respect, it lacks a necessary historical insight.

Bicycling was common in the USA until the last half century. The transition seems to have taken about 25 years, and was spurred by the Eisenhower interstate highway program in 1956, as well as the general post-WWII boom.

Let's take an iconic American image - a pretty girl on a bike by Norman Rockwell, the ultimate, super-wholesome American imagemaker - from the ultimate middle-American cultural icon, the Saturday Evening Post, a cover illustration from April 1934.

Then let's go back to the same magazine just 30 years later, in 1962, where bikes are just the stuff of paperboys.

Like so many things in modern American life, the car behavior we know now is the result of an enormous and on-going government program.

But for some reason we Americans refuse to admit this and instead natter on about culture, as if somehow cars were an inherent part of the American soul. Which it isn't. Because it didn't exist until Eisenhower.

The highway system and support for American heavy industry, such as car makers, are definitely post-war artifacts. They can be undone - by changes in the government policies that keep them alive.

We Americans too often like to think the government is separate from our civil society, but in fact it is not, and federal programs profoundly shape our lives.

Action at local as well as the federal level will be necessary to change the incentives Americans now have to drive. Just making cycling sexy - while a great marketing move, and important! - won't be enough.

In this I agree more with M. One needs to consider the true sociology of change and how humans adopt certain practices. One component of adoption is incentive, both market (cost of gas, insurance) and governmental (highway subsidies to localities).

And no one can deny that massive Federal and State incentives go into the car landscape we now have. Once those begin to weaken, there will be greater room for canny marketing based on sociological insight.

After all the sexy car marketing we have now couldn't have been effective until Eisenhower had built the interstates!

Change actions may also have to focus on women, as they are the primary family transportation decision makers in the USA now, I believe.

But the 3rd leg will have to kick in too - we will need higher gas prices in the market as well.

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid I find Mr. Glover's article surprising. With all due respect, it lacks a necessary historical insight.

Bicycling was common in the USA until the last half century. The transition seems to have taken about 25 years, and was spurred by the Eisenhower interstate highway program in 1956, as well as the general post-WWII boom.

Let's take an iconic American image - a pretty girl on a bike by Norman Rockwell, the ultimate, super-wholesome American imagemaker - from the ultimate middle-American cultural icon, the Saturday Evening Post, a cover illustration from April 1934.

Then let's go back to the same magazine just 30 years later, in 1962, where bikes are just the stuff of paperboys.

Like so many things in modern American life, the car behavior we know now is the result of an enormous and on-going government program.

But for some reason we Americans refuse to admit this and instead natter on about culture, as if somehow cars were an inherent part of the American soul. Which it isn't. Because it didn't exist until Eisenhower.

The highway system and support for American heavy industry, such as car makers, are definitely post-war artifacts. They can be undone - by changes in the government policies that keep them alive.

We Americans too often like to think the government is separate from our civil society, but in fact it is not, and federal programs profoundly shape our lives.

Action at local as well as the federal level will be necessary to change the incentives Americans now have to drive. Just making cycling sexy - while a great marketing move, and important! - won't be enough.

In this I agree more with M. One needs to consider the true sociology of change and how humans come adopt certain practices. One component of adoption is incentive, both market (cost of gas, insurance) and governmental (highway subsidies to localities).

And no one can deny that massive Federal and State incentives go into the car landscape we now have. Once those begin to weaken, there will be greater room for canny marketing based on sociological insight.

After all the sexy car marketing we have now couldn't have been effective until Eisenhower had built the interstates!

Change actions may also have to focus on women, as they are the primary family transportation decision makers in the USA now, I believe.

But the 3rd leg will have to kick in too - we will need higher gas prices in the market as well.

dav said...

You are dead right - people are too self absorbed to cycle as a means to some altruistic end.

Save the planet?
Help the economy?
DO the right thing?

Piffle on that stuff.

People don't give a rats @ss about petroleum addictions and food chain failures until it is too late. That blather is for those wacky eco-evangelists, always spouting their alarmist talk.

"Real people" care most about looking good, getting ahead and being somebody important. It's how the world works - it's really the only thing that has ever really advanced us.

So, when they can see themselves and others like them on cycles, then that "do-good for the planet" stuff can filter in with a little more effect.

Until then, bicycles will remain kids toys - and transportation for people without real purpose.