Thursday, 21 April 2011

Every Month Is 'Bike Month'

With so many press releases for "Bike Month" events circulating as May approaches, I am starting to feel like a real grouch deleting them or replying "No thank you." But I have to stand by what I believe, or else where would I be? And I believe the idea of "bike month" to be damaging to the very thing it aims to achieve - which is making cycling accessible to the non-cycling population. It seems to me, that the nature of the event, as well as the tone of the promotional materials that accompany it [note: link added 4.23.2011], reinforce, rather than dispel the notion of cycling as something out of the ordinary - an activity reserved for special occasions and organised events.

Granted, "Bike Month" has a festive ring to it that may increase the immediate visibility of cycling. But, as someone with professional experience in the psychology of marketing, I question whether the results are ultimately positive. After all, how useful is this increase in visibility if all it does is reinforce the "cycling = a once-in-a-while activity" or "cycling = weird fringe subculture" associations that the non-cycling public already holds?

It is my view, that in order for cycling to be accessible to the general population, it needs to be normalised and depoliticised.  "Anybody who wants to ride a bike can do so any time they like," is the only message I see as being productive. You do not need to wear special clothing. You do not need to wait for a special month. You do not need to be "community oriented," athletic, health-minded, or an environmentalist. And you do not need official propaganda to tell you it's "good for you," accompanied by paradoxical instructions that make the whole thing sound complicated and dangerous.

Cycling is not a cult, political group, or evangelical religion that requires recruitment events with free food and trinkets. Every month is 'bike month.'


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