Monday, January 23, 2012

She is SO Right

If I were in charge of an awards show for the online world, the Top Female Blogger prize would go to Karen Voyer-Caravona. Anyone who thinks bicycling for women is only for the hardcore female athlete should visit Karen's blog, She Rides a Bike, to see how stylishly feminine it can be.

Karen deserves the award for much more than simply creating a well written blog which breaks a female stereotype. In my opinion, her comments and posts on other sites elevate her far above others in the world of responsible, intelligent writers. Her comment in response to a post in my blog, Bikes are NOT Red, White and Blue, is so full of smart, gut-level correctness that it could be used as model for Internet debating. It got me thinking even more about some effective tactics for bike advocacy, and any writing which promotes thinking is the best sort of writing.

My original post had been in response to Tom Bowden's article in Commute by Bike wherein he suggests we promote bicycling as a patriotic, American activity: Bike Advocacy from the NRA Playbook. I said it wouldn't work, because the automobile is "American transportation" and the bicycle is "foreign, Third World transportation." Karen added yet another dimension to that thought when she mentioned that nationalistic arguments frighten her "almost as much as religiosity."

It scares me, too! I shudder whenever I see a news article about some politician or Radical Right organization trying to say "God is on OUR side." It reminds me of the fact that during World War II some soldiers of Nazi Germany revived the GOTT MIT UNS ("God With Us") belt buckle from the previous world war. If we try to paint the bicycle as AMERICAN we may well turn off some folks who are NOT red-necked, flag waving yo-yos.

However, Karen also freely admits that "sex sells," and although my post suggests a tongue-in-cheek advertising campaign using macho movie action heroes to portray bicycling as a tough, manly activity, she says she would follow the two actors I mentioned "anywhere"! Maybe such an eroticism-based PR line isn't so far fetched after all!

Think about it: hot rod magazines sell thousands of copies loaded with pictures of string-bikini-clad girls caressing the custom flames painted on cars their grandfathers drove! Is it so farfetched to believe than having Victoria Secret-class models draped all over Electra-style cruiser bikes would sell a LOT of bikes?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bikes are NOT Red, White and Blue

Commute by Bike’s own Refugee From the Radical Right, Tom Bowden, wrote a great article about adopting a strategy of Bike Advocacy from the NRA Playbook. His thought is that we might be more successful if we paint bicycling as a normal, flag-waving, patriotic AMERICAN activity rather than dwell on the logical, intelligent and environmental reasons Americans should start riding bikes.

Like most Republicans, Tom begins by accurately describing the nature of the situation, and then flies off on a tangent with ideas for solutions which simply do not reflect what would work in the REAL world of the average American.

Tom is right that the NRA has found a very visceral way of promoting gun rights. I, too, find myself tearing up as I open that eagle-and-flag filled snail-mail spam they send whenever they figure they need more money than just my yearly dues (that’s right folks: the BluesCat is a card-carrying member of the NRA; for reasons much too complicated to go into here). The Ol’ Patriotic Cat chokes up just before he tosses the stuff into the recycle bin.

Tom is also absolutely spot-on when he explains the incredible mixed message of those promoting bicycles: "You’re going to have a lot of fun, and get really healthy, BUT YOU ALSO MAY DIE when you’re run over by that big, AMERICAN SUV!"

Trying to use the NRA’s heartstring tugging method for bicycling will not work, and the reason is really simple: Bicycles are NOT AMERICAN TRANSPORTATION. Take a look at the League of American Bicyclists Trash Talk web site. That page is full of bad-mouthing by Republicans and right-wing media about how unimportant and Third World the bicycle is. Bicycles are just not considered serious, valid transportation for America. Heck, even some bike commuters of a more liberal bent than Tom have said they do not think we should be spending federal highway transportation money on bike and pedestrian infrastructure; even your own FEET aren’t considered a "serious mode of transportation!"

The pulse quickening, swashbuckling road tool that is The Automobile is what IS American Transportation. Take a look at any television commercial that advertises a full-sized pickup truck. It is a tour de force collection of images of trucks sloughing through mud as deep as the tops of the wheel wells, of trucks climbing near vertical rocky grades, and of trucks shrugging off elephantine quantities of stuff dropped into their beds by backhoes. Even CADILLAC commercials don’t present genteel women being escorted over to the passenger side, but show a CTS shrieking around a race track ahead of a Ferrari!

So, we need to take another tack to find a consistent, heart-attack inducing, macho, gut-grabbing PR campaign for bike riding. I suggest we get one of the current movie action heroes, like Jason Statham or Daniel Craig, to ride an exotic, pure-rolling-bike-porn like the Velokraft No-Com down a long hill with about an 18% grade. As the jittering image of the bike computer shows our hero topping 70 mph, in the background you’ll hear the gravelly voice of Sam Elliott (of Dodge truck commercial fame) order you to "Get real. Get your butt on a bike."