Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Selling Bike Culture

The other day friend, ex-Memphian, and sometimes contributor Josh Gorman posted this picture in response to the Huey's menu:

Many moons ago I probably would have agreed with this statement, substituting 'skateboard' for 'bike', of course. Young, punk and wanting to keep something as much untainted and uncorrupted by the capitalist agenda as I could fueled my love of skateboarding, and partly what attracted me to bicycles and fixed gear bikes in particular. But skateboarding was only 30 years old then, not 200 years old like the bicycle is.

Bike culture has been many times, and currently is for sale. We sell it everyday when we advocate for cyclist safety and bike lanes. Sure, I'm talking about selling the idea of a bicycle friendly culture but even if someone sees a particular fashion style on a cyclist and imitates that in their boutique I can get behind that. Even when someone like Armani kinda just throws some bikes into a commercial because bikes are cool now I can get behind that. The simple ubiquity of bicycles furthers our efforts in immeasurable ways.

No one complains when there is a car in a fashion commercial. We need to sell bike culture like people sell car culture. It's a pretty well-known fact that "the grading of smooth roads in the late 19th century was stimulated by the widespread advertising, production, and use of [bicycles]". Pardon the pun, but we paved the way for cars, but cars and car culture really took off in the 50s and 60s with the proliferation of home television sets and the advertising boom. Bicycles need to take advantage of the lessons learned in advertising the same way that cars took advantage of our work on paved roads.

This will be difficult to accomplish at the local level but here are some ways you can help:

1. Ride your bike - as much as possible, let people see you riding. Get a removable basket and make short trips to Easy-Way for fresh veggies. Go to the bar for that afternoon beer or out to dinner; the side benefit is that you're burning those calories.
2. Talk to your non-cycling friends about the pretty flowers you saw or great workout you got while riding. They don't have a bike? They can rent one at the Peddler on Highland and pretty soon there will be rentals set up in Shelby Farms Park.
3. Attend Public Meetings - starting with this one tonight. I plan on meeting at Overton Square at 5PM and riding down Madison to Minglewood Hall for the meeting. Join me.
4. Borrow my bike. Want a cool bike (vintage, modern, or other) to borrow for your window display or advertising campaign? Holler - fixmemphis @

Anything to up the face-time of the bicycle. This isn't something that we can have both ways: we can't whine about too few facilities and at the same time try to keep the culture to ourselves, especially when it isn't ours in the first place. But you can always be the bike fanatic, the same way there are people who are way more into cars than normal.

1 comment:

jmgorman said...

Love it -- plus one.

I was trying to be just as cynical as a picture of Wight on a bike.