25 March 2011

Australia: The Car Industry Strikes Back

It's been awhile since we've had a good dose of The Car Industry Strikes Back. Fortunately, one of our readers, Stephen, sent us a link to this beauty on twitter. It's an advert from Australia. A company called NRMA who sell car insurance and provide roadside assistance, et al.

This is just fantastic. It says it all. All of this global focus on not only bicycles but public transport, pedestrianiam and other tools for re-building liveable cities are making these people nervous. So nervous that they made an advert trying to hard-sell urban automobile culture.

You may have noticed that this blog is rather bicycle-oriented so here's a photographic response - using photos from our archives - of how all the situations above can be solved with human-powered transport. Off we go...

Situation: The man with the table:
Wide Bike Lanes

Move It 

Situation: People in costumes at a busstop.

Nothing wrong with taking a bus, but at 0:58 of the City of Cyclists video there's a shot of kids in a cargo bike wearing costumes heading to a party.

Situation: Father and son going to rugby practice:
Football Planet in Copenhagen
I had a load of other football training gear on my bicycle, too.

Situation: High heeled shoes:
Basket Check
Or the Bicycle & High Heels tag over at Copenhagen Cycle Chic.

Situation: Bus passengers:
Christiania Bike Couple
Nothing wrong with public transport. But here's a photo of busses and a cargo bike.

Situation: Leaf blower:
Autumn Ride
The ad agency who developed this advert are already getting kind of desperate and they're only 14 seconds into their silly ad.

Situation: The man with the umbrella:
Well-Dressed Umbrella Cycling
Apparently the NRMA advocate high-speed driving in urban areas as well as dangerous driving like buzzing the curb. Sooo last century.

There are loads more bicycle and umbrellas with this tag over at Cycle Chic. If we're sticking to the theme, here's a video of an umbrella getting blown the wrong way.

Situation: Science project falling.
Okay, it ain't a science project, but it could be. There are loads of cargo photos in the Copenhagenize Cargo Bike set on Flickr. (Boy, is this ever an easy blogpost.)

Situation: Shopping bag breaking with a dog.
Find the Dog
Loads of shopping ... and a dog. Don't forget the "40 photographs of dogs and bicycles in 6 countries" over at Cycle Chic.

Situation: Man with the shopping cart carrying something.
Yep. Too easy. Once again, allow me to refer you to the Cargo Bike set on Flickr.


Edward said...

Thank you so much for posting this. When I first saw the advert, I nearly threw something at the telly. I like the way the advert says that if you lose your carm you automatically turn into either a useless moron or the unluckiest person alive.

mk said...

This commercial has gone beyond the limits of pathetic. But I guess one could see a totally different meaning here: if you're too dumb too properly pack your groceries or sport equipment or to use an umbrella, then you are the kind of person who probably drives the car anyway.

The scene that particularly pissed me off was the one in which a cyclist was portrayed as an idiot, who cannot go in a straight line.

Anyway, thank you for sharing this.

Edward Scoble said...

Those who couldn't afford a cargo bike, get a trailer.

They're amazingly useful, when the girlfriend have to move out, I used the trailer (plus pannier) to move 120kg worth of boxes from her flat to mine 10 miles each way several time.

it's hard work, but it save me a huge amount of money, especially in London with it's congestion charge.

Rhode Long said...

I love how your blog remains a positive celebration of cycling culture, despite the best attempts of the car industry/motorists/government policy etc. to let the air out of our tyres!

A great response to a pathetic and desperate advertisement.

Mark said...

Cycling is sexy. It's as simple as that.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

The message of the advert is: "for those too stupid, to pack properly balls in the net..."
As a matter of fact, lots of drivers proves this! ;-)

And afterthought: according to the authors of the ad, shuts the car driving (in a magic way) the woman up??? ;-)

ZA said...

You know we'll really be winning when the auto insurance companies start advertizing taxi services for the disabled, or, dare I say it...start selling bicycle insurance?

Anonymous said...

Silly, pathetic? yes. Effective? Probably. Driving home the outlandish viewpoint of car necessity makes slightly less outlandish viewpoints seem normal.
Where are the videos of happy cyclists passing sad motorists, Good Samaritan cyclists pushing a car and driver to the fuel station, ect.?
Or is it enough to only take the highroad?

Step-Through said...

My takeaway from this was that the car driver who went through the puddle was a jerk, and that the people were deprived, not by a lack of cars, but by a lack of cargo bikes and granny carts. And what, groceries don't tumble off the car seat, fingers don't get slammed in the door? At least they showed decent infrastructure.

shuichi said...

I remember a bike delivery in Japan, Here is a related my blog: http://mamabicycle.blogspot.com/2011/02/eco-drivers-sagawa-express.html
Of course, mama bicycles are one of alternatives. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

this post and all this comments are true, but sumetimes it is just easier with a car.
that said, i'm not a fan of cars, don't own one and i also think, 90 percent of the time, especially in a city, you don't need one.
but sometimes a car comes in handy.
i just say that because i think this "everything is possible with a bik"-thing ist not so true.

Anonymous said...

So the guy walking gets debris in his face from a recklessly operated leaf blower. The message I take away from that is leaf blowers should be banned. Keep on walking guy!

Alisdair said...

In fear of a severe backlash I'll post something here which will give all of you plenty of ammo to fire back at me.

1. It's a pro-car add. They're not going to show everyone how nice it is not have a car, are they? The next time I watch a McDonald's add they're not going to have obese people eating burgers everyday are they?

2. It's Australian based, therefore car-centric. It's a geographical factor that is hard for some Europeans to comprehend. People live long distances often in Australia. If you live in a country town without a car your options are severely limited. But most Australians live in cities you say? Melbourne, where I live is still considered Melbourne 50km away from the centre of the city. I'm sure many of us can manage 100 km a day rides, but it certainly pushes the idea of the cyclist first and the bike rider second. Anyone who did that many kilometres to commute would turn into a cyclist.

True, in Australia you can live closer and ride, so those of us who choose to do so, just like I do, but at the same time not everyone can.

And, I'm on your side, the add is stupid. Who can't walk down a street and avoid leaves? Who can't change up a gear on a bicycle. Stupid add, but also remember adds sell stuff. Stuff we don't need. Stuff we're told we want. Then you're on to the consumer argument.

mk said...

Alisdair, what you're saying is absolutely true. However, let me point out just one detail:

Alisdair said:
"It's a geographical factor that is hard for some Europeans to comprehend. People live long distances often in Australia."

Most people in this commercial try to carry stuff around, which means... they live within a walking distance from their destination. It would be much less controversial if they placed the action - let's say - on a country road instead of a city.

But as I said, you're completely right - bicycle cannot compete with a car on long distances, especially in the countryside, where other means of transportation aren't available.

Shane said...

Across "the ditch" from Australia in similarly car-centric New Zealand where I live (and happily car-free for a few years) the most annoying car industry TV ad has to be the Volkswagen New Zealand "Milk Run" - on youtube as http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F62gZXAILuc

It shows a number of drivers making an early morning car/SUV trip just to get a little milk for their wake-up hot drink. Special bonus: look out for the scary dangerous cyclist around 0:44 and 0:49!

The text at the end: "we're all the same ... but different"

Yes, some of us are different. I like to think some of us have progressed past the mindset of thinking that it is sane to burn oil hauling a couple of tonnes of steel a few kilometers just to get a few milliliters of milk.

Ryan said...

I wish I read this before this morning...I had to transport an old (you know those old bulky ones) 38" TV on the rear of my bike.

Canadian Tire has an ad on the radio for a bluetooth device for cell phones. (It's illegal to talk on a cell phone & drive in Ontario).
It starts off by indicating police are cracking down the use of cell phones.

They go onto to say if you choose to continue to talk and drive 'we' have a lot of bikes, skateboards and wagons if you lose your license...But if your the type that needs to drive, get the bluetooth device.

mk said...

Shane, this commercial is hilarious. It must be the most expensive bottle of milk money can buy. Thank you for posting the link. :)

bikefish said...

Has anyone seen ads like this in the US? Cars are so much assumed to be life essentials here that the car-free scenarios are hard to imagine. No one walks more than half a block (except at the airport) even if NOT trying to transport a table, party decorations, groceries etc. The existence of this ad shows that cracks in Car Culture are starting to appear.

amoeba said...

Edward Scoble said...
'Those who couldn't afford a cargo bike, get a trailer....

it's hard work,...'

Agreed. To those with bicycle trailers, please remember to pump-up your tyres for heavy loads. Towing a bike trailer with under-inflated tyres is like cycling up an invisible hill.

I already knew this, but the other day, I was struggling-home with two large sacks organic compost for the vegetable-patch and I realised it was far harder than it should be. I stopped and both tyres on my Carry Freedom Y-Frame Large trailer were semi-soft. DUH!

Pumped them up to 4.5 bars and it was easy.

PS Taking a spare inner-tube for the trailer is a good idea.

Ashley said...

Sadly, they have hooked pretty accurately into the psyche of most Australian suburbanites. Sigh. Most of these folks to think life without a car is a fate worse than death. It's not entirely their fault, either: it's the way our sprawling cities are designed.

Mikael said...

Thanks for all the comments!

Alisdair: The geographical aspect isn't relevant. The stats for America are similar in Australia. 50% of americans live within 8 km of their workplace. And most use cars for short trips.

Sure, some people live farther out - even in Copenhagen and Denmark. Copenhagen has the third-largest urban sprawl in Europe - but this advert is all city-based. Which applies to almost every city in the world.

hamburgize.com said...

Very nice post, thanks to Mikael for his pictures compared to the commercial´s situations ;-)

It reminds me having transported a wallpapering table on the back of a normal gazelle holland bike 25 km back and forth from one city to the other over the hills in the hilly Wuppertal area. It was fun ;-)

Anonymous said...

In the States where I'm located its not just that one would be inept for not having a car but that one is less for not having a fast car, a powerful car, a sleek car, a strong truck, a masculine truck, an offroad capable truck. There is way too much pressure to buy, to purchase the car or the truck that makes one whole and we keep on doing it. And then there is the speed of it, the mass of it, the rudeness, the noise and nobody is slowing down these days even with gas approaching $4.00 a gallon.
What would the economy do if we stopped believing the ads ?

tstreet said...

What we like to call civilization is largely based upon the premise that autos are absolutely essential for its continued existence. This is a false premise and is based upon the mistaken notion that we will have plenty of fuel to use these monsters forever. Most people, at least in the U.S. and apparently Australia can't conceive of life without the auto and, therefore, desperately attempt to continue this deadly habit.

There is a solar company in Boulder, Colorado which delivers its panels and tools to the job site using a bicycle and a flatbed. Just saying. A bike can't do everything but can do a lot more that most people realize with a little ingenuity and imagination.

Anonymous said...

Two ads ive seen lately Australia to counter this pro car ad are http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4NQvWSTCzIc&feature=player_embedded

I'd like to say though that this ad is ridiculous and I think most Australian's would look past the stupidity of segments.

Ashley said...

The latest news from Australia is that it seems the cars themselves are fighting back. This week THREE taxis have crashed into Sydney cafes and bars! A link to the story from the Sydney Morning Herald below. I love the punishments the drivers got!! Basically they would have been fined a couple of hundred dollars and lost maybe 3 points off their licenses.


Doctor of Rocket Surgery said...

NRMA insurance and NRMA motoring advocacy/road side assistance are two separate entities that share a common brand name.

Yes, Australia is a big country, but the majority of car use is still for short trips that could (should?) be made by bike. It would have been nice if NRMA offered a loaner bike at no cost or addition to your premium while your car is being fixed - problem is people might start enjoying riding, sell their car and no longer require their insurance products.

Alisdair said...

@Mikael, I'm sure your stats are right, and I'm probably going more off personal experience, but growing up 30 km from Melbourne then moving 40 km from Melbourne for a place for cheap rent has shaped my view, albeit a personal one, it is still shared by many.

Like Ashley said, it's a problem with urban sprawl, our town planning which affects the access issues. Like you said in your talk, in Copenhagen the powers that be built a bike path out of the way which cyclists ignored and just rode on a closer road. Sounds plasible where there are lots of bikes and low speed limits. Try that theory on an 80 kmh hwy without a shoulder for cyclists with trucks going past. I don't think it quite works. Look at the Great Vic Bike Ride. They put 4000 cyclists on country roads that aren't that dense and they need police patrols and marshalls to help traffic cope because we just aren't set up to be a cycling nation properly. People like me wish we were, but only in parts is it any good.

Additionally, public transport is dysfunctional outside of the inner 10 km of where I live, you are just severely held back without a vehicle.

Remember, you were in Melbourne to show us how to improve what we have. Lots of great ideas we could take from Copenhagen, and all of Europe for that matter, but we don't.

The problem is simple, for $350,000 you can have a nice new 3 bedroom home, just that bit further out...40km, 45km, 50km, and you're stillin suburban limits - or you can't afford much at all closer. Australian mindset is not to rent but to own because it can be done, so it is, and the city spreads too far. Cars are affordable, bikes are made impractical... They build houses and roads for cars only before planning anything else.

It's very easy to have such a biased view against cars when you live somewhere you don't need one.

How far is the distance from one end of Copenhagen's city to the other? Look at these Melbourne stats...

Population: 52,117 (City of Melbourne),
3.5 million (Metropolitan Melbourne)
Area: 36.5sq km (City of Melbourne) 8,806sq km (Metropolitan Melbourne)

Taken from http://citiesprogramme.org/index.php/cities/details/melbourne/

Don't get me wrong, several times I have lived without a car and cycled everywhere, but I was reaching 400 km a week at times. That's being a cyclist, not a commuting bike rider. Which, as far as I am led to believe, not what Copenhagenize is about.

Mikael said...

What Copenhagenize is about is cities. So the rural/outer suburbs equation is not something we cover often. Although most of Denmark has bicycle infrastructure with our national network.

Fortunately, Alisdair, I've lived in numerous cities with urban sprawl, including Melbourne and several cities in North America. So what you call 'bias' isn't at all fair.

With this blog and Copenhagenize Consulting we focus on changing our urban centres. That is where change starts, not in the places you mention.

From one end of Greater Copenhagen to the other? Around 50 km? Kind of like Geelong or Hastings to Melbourne CBD.

Although many cities are bases for working in Copenhagen. Many are about 75-85 km out. Like Rosebud or Ballarat.

Up to 150 km if you include a city like Odense. Which is kind of like Bendigo.

Mikael said...

Kind of like Bendigo in that the distance is similar... Odense is nothing like Bendigo... :-)

Beardfear said...

Salient points, Alisdair. Sydney and Melbourne's urban development has led to high car dependency... but on the most recent figures I can find, over half of car trips in Greater Sydney are less than 5km; a third are less than 3km.

I live in Sydney and it's a car-sick city, even in its dense core. Any attempt to mess with traffic flow or parking for the sake of pedestrians or riders is met with accusations of vandalism and extremism, as if best-practice examples like Groningen (and warning signs like Detroit and Houston) didn't exist - even when 85% of city centre workers arrive by public transport.

Integrated public transport to middle and outer suburbs is dismissed as "too hard", as though similar cities like Toronto hadn't already come up with world-class solutions.

Motorway widenings are proposed routinely, as if induced demand weren't real - and the proponents are rewarded with votes instead of being scolded for exacerbating the car problem.

Any challenge to the status quo is invariably met by howling and excrement-throwing by conservative talk radio, which has a big listener base of motorists who are stuck in traffic jams and looking for an easy scapegoat. Sometimes, sadly, even politicians who should know better (like our new state Premier) echo their view in more sanitised language.

At the moment there's plenty of vitriol over the segregated cycleways being built by the City of Sydney Council (which isn't metro-wide but covers the city centre and surrounding neighbourhoods).

The cycleways have broad local support - mayor Clover Moore was reelected to NSW parliament this weekend with a big margin intact, even as an independent and despite a record statewide swing towards the conservative party. They're a touch short of Assen or Amsterdam standard, but a big improvement on door-zone lanes. They've made me, for one, feel confident enough to ride my old upright into the city without fearing for my life.

In other words familiar to readers of this blog, they're far more appealing to potential "citizen cyclists" than the usual practice of running with the bulls.

The changes for car users so far have not yet radical by any stretch - a minimal amount of lost parking, lanes reduced in width but not in number - yet this has been enough to provoke regular slurs against the Mayor and "lycra louts" (as though they were the type of rider these lanes are aimed at), bogus arguments against the lanes' benefits, and calls to reinstate the lost inner-city parking.

These are often the same people that bellow "the road is for cars", and it seems the irony is lost on them.

I don't know if the debate is quite at NYC hysteria levels. But I hope the council doesn't cave in to the vocal minority of dinosaurs, and continues setting a bold example for other councils to follow.

Thanks for posting, Mikael, and for addressing it far more sharply and entertainingly than I could have. [/essay]

Alisdair said...

Such short trips as you say are frequent and ridiculous. I feel like it's a tram tracks debate. I'm not saying that at all. I'm saying IF you live 50 km or so out then it's not really so easy.

Copenhagenize is biased - it's cycle centric and that's why we read it.

Additionally, where in Melbourne did you live and work? Live in Hastings and ride to Melbourne for work? I doubt it.

I agree change starts in the centre, kind of like what I said. Transport in the inner city 10km is great in Melbourne, sucks if you're not in there though.

Yes, most trips are shorter, people don't use their bike enough, I totally agree and that's why I follow, I'm just showing the flip side of the argument. I was the flip side, I lived 40 km out and even on the train and bike it was about 3 hours commuting a day and guess what? It sucked!

Now I live 3.5 km out and ride whenever I want and it takes just as long to drive, so I try to ride.

Ashley said...

Interesting discussion. Intuitively, one would think that a significant proportion of car trips in Australia's large cities (if not the majority) were long ones. These remain a problem for Copenhagenization.

The fact that there is a majority of short trips however is reason for hope, and these are rightly the target of sustainable cities advocates. But in Australian cities, we need to consider that it's not just the distance, but the all too often alienating and frightening texture of road/city one has to ride through to conquer even short distances. The urban peters out into the suburban very quickly, and suburban in Australia almost always = no bike infrastructure and unquestioned car dominance.

It is this zone of suburban cyclist/pedestrian/bus rider hell that the NRMA ad depicts, by the way - although ironically they set the ad on leafy, upper middle class-looking suburban streets rather than in the true concrete zone. They should have shown someone cowering with their bike against a cement traffic wall while cars sped past inches away at 80kph - a recent experience i had in Sydney after making a bad route choice.

There is another point here about the way in which Australians ride. There are some people valiantly trying to ride in Australia in an upright, chic and non-sweaty Copenhagen kind of way. Some of these folks feel alienated by Lycra Person and Fluro Person, who, they feel, let the citizen cyclist team down by acting like cycling is A Big Deal, A Sport, and Dangerous.

Possibly, Australians are inclined to approach cycling as a sport because of our wider sporting culture - although it must be said this is now an elite culture rather than a grassroots one of participation. But I'd argue that it's the texture of our urban/suburban space that breeds Road Warrior, and makes Citizen Cyclist scarce. Paradoxically, there is safety in riding fast, preferably at the same speed as the traffic, and aggressively. Slow and passive riders get shunted aside on the road. Imho, Citizen Cyclists can only exist in the inner parts of our large cities. If we want more of them, we need different cities.

Stelios said...

I love how you can strike back even better than the car industry with a great sense of humour and wonderfull pics. I've been lurking on this blog for a while and I'm amazed at the quality of cycling you enjoy in Copenhagen. I happen to live in Greece where riding conditions are even worse than our economy but that's a story for another time I guess. Keep up the good work!