Replace Advocate Thinking with Marketing Thinking?
Chances are if I asked you why you ride your bike, you’d answer something similar to what I would say, “I love the sense of freedom,” or “I love being outside on a beautiful day feeling the wind on my face.” Most likely you wouldn’t answer, “because I’m trying to save the planet” or “because I love my spandex” (though of course if you look good in your spandex, that might be a reason…)
Yes, you might admit you want to save some gas money, or you get bored easily at the gym (like me!) and wanted a more interesting way to exercise, but I doubt you would answer “because I should.” We humans are not good at should. We’re not good at should. That has a nice ring to it.
And yet, very often in advocacy (and bicycling advocacy is no different than any other kind) we often move forward in our outreach with “should” firmly entrenched in our sensibilities and vernacular. Then we wonder why friends and neighbors and other perfectly nice people avoid our phone calls, or don’t friend our cause on Facebook, or don’t follow our urgent pleas on Twitter (why yes, we do have both Facebook and Twitter accounts but we’re still working out the best way to share those links – on twitter we’re @BikeableCommuni & on FB you should search for Bikeable Communities)
As I began to prepare today to replace the irreplaceable and oh so charmingly gregarious Charlie Gandy at the Dwell on Design conference in LA on June 26 for the “Are Two Wheels Better Four” panel (Gandy has been called away to Wyoming to attend the 15th reunion of the “Thunderhead Alliance scheduled for the same date; since he is the founder, I guess he should be allowed to attend) I pondered just what the heck I’ve got to bring to this important and often heated discussion. And then I had a “no duh” moment and realized, “of course, my knowledge of fashion is power.”
The bike fashion writer/blogger/commentator, head and shoulders above the rest, is Danish filmmaker and creator of Copenhagenzine Mikael Colville-Andersen who originally started the whole “cycle chic” concept. Anderson is challenging advocates to “think differently” about bicycle advocacy and how to engage and recruit new bicyclists. Check out his recent blog on “the car industry goes to the next level” and the Nightlife.Ca post on Andersen as Montreal welcomed him for his conference “Four Goals for Promoting Urban Cycling.”
We have a very strong bike-fashion culture in Long Beach. As a marketing and PR person I would wager good money that it is the style and the fun, more than anything else, that Long Beach riders portray that seduces others to dig out their bike from the garage or visit one of the new bikes shops popping up around town. Watch Bernard Serrano of Cyclone Coasters float by on one of his many antique cruisers jauntily dressed in matching retro garb, or Andrea White-Kjoss of Bikestation zip by (who is always stylishly appropriate for every occasion no matter how far she had already ridden) and you too will long for the fun and freedom of two wheels over four. Yes, I do believe the seduction of style wins over should almost every time. Anderson has a very strong case.
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