15 October 2011

General Motors "Like Bikes"

In stark contrast til General Motors' "Stop pedalling, start driving" campaign, here's a film from what appears to be the 1970s that was produced by General Motors.

"I Like Bikes". It's a weird film and with its 13+ minutes, it's a bit of a snore, although strangely appealing in a zen-like way on a Saturday morning with a hangover. Like watching snooker on Eurosport.

I used to teach storytelling and screenwriting and in that talk I highlighted the evolution of the length of storytelling and the journey from the dawn of the television age to brevity in our dramaturgy. In the 70's you could spend almost 14 minutes explaining what we would, today, compress into 3 minutes or less. Watching the film is like listening to a looong story told by an inebriated, aging member of the family at a dinner party. No clear beginning, middle or end. Getting to the point, if there is one, is like pulling teeth. But hey.

I have absolutely no idea what it's about. I expected a whole bunch of ignoring the bull but it appears, suprisingly, to be rather balanced. Making drivers aware that they should watch out for bikes because they're hard to see. I'm assuming it was a film made for school classes.
Whatever the case, GM says they like bikes! They produced a film placing the responsibility on the motorists to be aware of bicycles. A film that seems to respect the bicycle's prescence on the urban landscape. It's wild! It's crazy!

I like bikes... by yoruse
Did I miss something? Suffer through the film, like I did, and let me know what you think.


behoovingmoving said...

I think that's Ron Jeremy playing the dad

Abram said...

They are putting the onus on motorists to pay attention, but in so doing describe bikes and cyclists as dangerous, unpredictable, unsafe, and 'easily upset'. The tone is rather patronizing.

I suspect the video was a response to the oil crisis in the 1970s when more people opted for bikes again. An attempt to seem congenial and responsible.

But in a culture that very much values motorised transport over human-powered, and the bike isn't respected as a vehicle on the road, there are still many riders who don't see themselves as traffic and thus behave unpredictably and disregard the rules of the road. I still see a lot of going through red lights and stop signs, riding on the sidewalk, going against one-ways, etc. But again, those infractions occur most in areas where the infrastructure is entirely motorist centred.

Tallycyclist said...

@Abram I just wanted to clarify that the reason why at least some cyclist, myself included, sometimes 'break' traffic rules is not because we don't see ourselves as part of the traffic.

What else is one suppose to do at an intersection with sensors that don't detect bikes and no cars are around. I don't usually ride on sidewalks, but if I'm on a 6-lane 45 mph road for some reason, and the lanes are barely wide enough for medium sized cars, I'm riding on the sidewalk no matter how courteous most drivers may be. As far as stop signs and going against traffic, cyclist are not motorist. Most of the traffic rules (probably all) were created because 2+ ton vehicles have the potential to cause lots of damage to people. If I know for sure there are no cars approaching an intersection, why is it unreasonable that I only slow down before crossing the road? I wouldn't recommend riding the 'wrong' way on a 1-way street, unless it has a designated lane for bike to do so, which is common in some European cities, and also found in some US cities as well. Cyclist take up way less space, are slower and less lethal to others so why not?

This may seem like a rant, but that was not my intention. I just wanted to clarify some points because as an everyday cyclist, I encounter these things all the time and many people make these same observations without thinking about why that may be the way things are.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm.... seems to me that from around 11 minutes on the message of the film is that all cyclists are incompetent and that the noble motorist has to save them from themselves. The narrator, obviously the voice of all cyclists says "Why can't we pay attention?" while the caption asks "Why can't they pay attention?", a clear divide implying that cyclist aren't legitimate users of the highway. Then cyclists ignore road signs and ride on the wrong side. But of course the killer is "Until the day we do I'm afraid it's up to you!"- please Mr Driver keep me safe from myself! What patronizing drivel! Sure there are idiots on bike but there are idiots in cars and lets face it some people are idiots which ever way they choose to travel

Abram said...

I understand the frustrations very well as I not only use my bikes year-round for personal errands, but also own and operate a cargo bike delivery business handling freight up to 300lbs for and between businesses in the city. And I do live and work in a city that is just beginning to create bike-friendly infrastructure -- we have a long way to go.

While there are very frustrating situations, such as the light not triggered by bike, or expressways cutting through the city, in most cases there are alternatives to blatantly flouting the rules of the road. Some of those intersections have a crosswalk signal that can be pressed, as humiliating and wrong in principle as that is, which will change the light. I have encountered a situation where even that didn't exist, and that's where we need to speak up to city planners. As for the 6-lane expressway, do you really need to go along it? Are there not alternate routes?

I agree wholeheartedly that most North American infrastructure after the 1940s and 50s, both street and building design, has been built mainly for and around the automobile and that must be addressed. But as long as we cyclists continue to be seen as unpredictable, unlawful and flipping between vehicle and pedestrian, we can't turn the tide of car culture. I think we need to, as best as possible, obey the rules of the road and when they make our lives difficult be sure to speak up, make a noise where it counts, and fight for infrastructure and culture change.

Alexandre à Montréal said...

The drama, the excitement, the action...

From the clunker models, I'd say the film is from the later 1970s, even early 1980s.

domotion2011 said...

The film is a great stereotype of American Car Culture. I grew up with this propaganda. Once again the bike is a toy and as soon as you reach 16 you put your toys away and become a useful member of society. Our young starlet is now a driver. The repetitive message I Like BIkes is drilled into the viewer but only once does the message I Love Cars come across. That one line is all it takes to hook your buyer. As a bike rider I can say that I love bikes. As an adult who has driven a car for 40 years I try to stay "unhooked" from my car as much as possible. I bike ride through the community I reside in and this makes a difference, what that difference is is hard to explain. It might be bike love, and it might be car dislike. Who really knows?

Peter said...

The bit that bothers me is that it was produced by General Motors.
Its a bit like when the AA in Britain was handing out free helmets and flouro jackets to bike riders in London or the RACV (Royal Automobile Club of Victoria) was getting involved in producing the first bike helmet law, they want to look like they care but with minimal cost to themselves or those they represent.
For instance, costly infastructure changes and new laws to protect cyclists had been advised in Victoria's case but helmets were cheaper, in fact even a moneyspinner for helmet certification authorities.
In an environment with high numbers of cyclist accidents, producing this little film might have helped GM's image as caring at very little cost to them and ultimately helped ward off law and infrastructure changes there also.