View Full Version : Bike Rack Advertising - Kryptoseduction??

Bill Stites
06-23-2007, 10:04 AM
Coming from NYC, I grew up in a sea of advertising. Lots of people like ads, they find them entertaining or engaging. Even if it doesn't bother you, don't think it doesn't affect you. Advertising is about selling, plain and simple.
I think we need to have a conversation about advertising within bike facilities right away - before the City gets locked into contracts that use our PUBLIC SPACE for corporate promotion.

Here's what's happening right now:

I got a call from PDOT asking if we were interested in having Kryptonite supply racks "perhaps looking like Kryptonite locks" for the upcoming OnStreet Bike Parking on SE Belmont at 33rd/34th. We have so much support from local businesses, including a willingness to contribute funds, that we are not in need of such advertising money to fund this project.
Indeed, I previously had a conversation with a local business on Belmont about the possibility of signage or other advertising within the facilities. We came to the conclusion that we shouldn't pursue this option; with the prime consideration that the STREET is the ultimate public space, and should remain neutral. When running this question by our local committee composed of neighbors, I was not entirely supported on this stance. So, it's an open question ... that is, open for discussion.

Let's get the issues straight, as there are at least [3] separate issues here:

Appropriate use of PUBLIC space - The STREET is the ultimate public space. It is owned and used by everyone. The street is our most fundamental universal space. We have to think long-term. Should it harbor advertising sold to the highest bidder?

Local business vs. large corporations - The cost is relatively low for installing bike parking facilities, and yet leads to a permanent advertising opportunity - why give it away to corporate ownership? There is the "Think Local First" campaign, that teaches us the importance of patronizing local businesses; keeping your dollars floating around Portland - and not exiting the city or state. Basic economics here.
And the local businesses are the one's who will be MAINTAINING the facilities. At the very least, I think local businesses should have first right of refusal for any advertising opportunities in public or quasi-public space, if this is deemed acceptable in the first place.

Advertising's affect on individuals and society - Sure, it's a part of American culture, but does it benefit the public? Especially as related to use of public space above?? I certainly don't think so, but we can all decide for ourselves.

Kryptonite has made some inroads to Portland cycling infrastructure, sending us a clear message that they want to be involved with promoting cycing [and the sale of u-locks] in Portland. They have approached the BTA, PDOT, ...??? This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it should be analyzed thoroughly; with scrutiny and discussion to formulate an appropriate policy for all City agencies.
One cannot make a reasonable decision about policy without considering all three, and I believe that PDOT, among others, has not been thorough in reviewing these considerations.

It's not an easy issue, as it is one of those gray areas. Some degree of partnersip between businesses and City agencies seems reasonable. If we end up allowing some advertising, strict and clear guidelines need to be developed and enforced.
I remember the first time I saw advertisements on the floor of supermarkets. And it was disturbing. Advertisers approach you any way they can; traditionally, it has been through sight and sound; there's even smell [perfume ads in magazines], and now we have touch - walking on ads. Kryptonite has distributed step-on stickers on our sidewalks. There was one placed in front of my shop! The question is, where does one draw the line? Do we all have a right to advertise on the sidewalk, for example?
If such practices are within the law, we need to change the law before it gets out of hand ... or other companies will follow Krytonite's lead and lay down the ads.

Nobody is saying that more bike parking is bad. But Kryptonite and other businesses are not putting in parking facilities, or helping to park bikes, in our city purely out of the goodness of their hearts.
"What's the big deal?", you say. "We're getting much needed facilities for free". FREE is the word that is key here. There is always a cost to advertising, even if it's difficult to quantify. They want to sell U-locks, and if they don't meet whatever targets they have set for themselves, they'll be gone.
And we may be stuck with a bunch of Kryptonite messages on our sacrosanct streets, with no legal balls to remove them*.

Also please realize that these OnStreet Bike Parking facilities are not expensive! The pooling of resources of the local businesses on the block may often be enough to cover the costs. There are also the Neighborhood Associations and Business District Associations that could contribute funding, in line with their missions of promoting local livability and local businesses [these are not mutually exclusive].

In sum, "I think local businesses should have first right of refusal for any advertising opportunities in public or quasi-public space, if this is deemed acceptable in the first place."

What's your opinion?

* - Finally, don't make the same mistake twice ...
Please recall the BILLBOARD FIASCO with Clear Channel. I'm not an expert on the details, but I know that Clear Channel found a loophole for putting in mega-billboards [including those TV-screen types that are so dangerously distracting]. And the City was powerless to stop them. Several court battles later, and we had to change our city ordinance to prevent future installations .... but we were legally stuck with many of the present ones.

Simple Nature
06-23-2007, 11:42 AM
...and if someone slipped, fell, and got seriously injured on the casual floor-dropped advertizement in front of your establishment... who would be sued? You, of course... it is your responsibility.

So if the city allowed the advertizing in a public place and someone bashed their head against a sharp part of a sign and is permanently disfigured... who is liable... the advertizer or the city... The city, most likely as they allowed the "signage".

06-23-2007, 05:24 PM
This topic came up earlier in regards to bikeracks PDOT and Kryptonite proposed to install in the Pearl District. At the time, my feelings about it were mixed, feeling that it was good and nice that K was willing to donate money to provide such a facility, but not so good that K aparrently clearly intended to use the visual design of the proposed bikeracks to, in a nice way of putting it, sell more bike locks.

Since then, having thought it over more, I'd be inclined to discourage communities from resorting to this sort of sponsorship unless the community really had to do so out of a shortage of funds. I suppose it sounds sort of paranoid or some such thing, but I can't help feeling uneasy with the amount of product branding often allowed to infiltrate our day to day ambient surroundings. It is psychologically intrusive on a conscious and unconscious level.

Because of its inherently pervasive nature, people subjected to ambient product branding are hard-pressed to be unaffected by it. I'd be particularly thinking about how kids would be affected. Even assuming Kryptonite's intentions are the best, I'd be leery of giving them a toe-hold into the public consciousness of this part of the streetscape.

Jonathan Maus
06-25-2007, 08:01 AM

I think a key thing to remember is that PDOT didn't sell anything to the "highest bidder". As far as I know, there was no sale and no bid. Kryptonite approached PDOT with an idea to fund some bike racks and PDOT said, "ok, let's figure something out."

To my knowledge, the exact outcome of that partnership is still evolving and when I talked to Linda Ginenthal (PDOT's head of art racks and Options dept. manager) it seemed like the jury was still out as to exactly how this would all shake out.

I do know that PDOT has strict guidelines that bike racks cannot be logos and there are definitely limits about how much advertising a company can get in this situation.

I also know that PDOT is usually very open to hearing and responding to public input. If their dealings with Kryptonite are met with substantial opposition from the community, I'm sure they would not proceed with the plans.

All that being said, I agree with you Bill that this is something that should be discussed publicly.

Bill Stites
06-25-2007, 09:32 AM
Hey Jonathan,

Thanks for commenting. That's a fine defense of PDOT ... but, I like them, too!
I know a lot of folks who work at PDOT, and they are amazing - getting a lot of green projects going, and facing the future.
Indeed, I'm piping up because of general encouragement of this City's agencies to get feedback, and try to continually improve. I didn't say there was a done deal, or even a bidding process. So NOW is the time to check in on policy. Having these discussions early prevents future issues.

I guess I'm saying that 'LOCAL BUSINESS' SHOULD BE AT THE TABLE AT THIS TIME - and not after some deal with a non-local corporation has been penciled.

My writing is sub-par if you are sensing a negative tone - meant to be firm, but not negative.

Just trying to prompt a discussion here ...

Jonathan Maus
06-25-2007, 10:03 AM

my intent is not to defend PDOT. I'm simply sharing what I know and what I think.