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Bike Gallery uses ad to make ‘Plea to Portland Cyclists’

Posted by on September 22nd, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Bike Gallery, an institution in Portland with six local stores, is running an interesting new ad in the Willamette Week. The ad is a ‘Plea to Portland Cyclists’ and it implores people on bikes to wear bright clothing, use lights, and obey traffic laws.

Here’s the ad:

I find the language in the third tip unfortunate. The use of “drivers” and “us” sets up the classic dichotomy between road users that doesn’t exist — and that there’s no need to perpetuate. I also cringe when I read “traffic laws apply to bikes too,” not because I disagree with it; but because it furthers the common perception that all of “us” (and there is no “us” in my opinion) feel the opposite is true.

This plea from Bike Gallery seems to be something of a trend.

I recently got a mailing from the “SmartTrips” program at PBOT’s Transportation Options division. It was a newsletter with a calendar of rides and walks in my neighborhood and other tips. The section that caught my eye was titled, “Share the Road – Be Nice”:

What struck me about it is how PBOT continues to divide up road users based solely on their chosen mode of travel. I think that’s a bad move. It isn’t necessary (a simple “Road users, please slow down, stay alert, and obey traffic laws” would suffice) and it furthers the divisiveness that leads to stereotyping, labeling, and the lack of understanding and compassion between road users we should all be working toward.

I also noticed how they singled out “bicyclists” as the ones that need to “commit to obeying” stop signs and traffic lights. This singling out (which Bike Gallery does too to a lesser extent) perpetuates the urban myth that people on bikes have a larger problem obeying the law than other types of road users.

Then there’s author, advocate, and president of Alta Planning + Design, Mia Birk. Birk writes a regular column in the Portland Tribune. Her most recent was titled, “Law-breaking cyclists: the answer.”

At the end of the article, Birk asked readers to take a pledge. She had two pledges, one for people who consider themselves drivers and the other for people who consider themselves bikers. Here’s the bike-oriented one:

I pledge to use bike lights at night, stop and stay stopped at each and every red light, yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, be predictable and wave and smile at any driver who shows me the slightest shred of courtesy.

I share these because I’m curious what others think about them. I also thought it was interesting that I came across all three within a few weeks of each other.

What do you think?

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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capthardcore
Guest
capthardcore

meh. much ado about nothing. cyclists run stopsigns and stoplights all the time. don’t be such a crybaby, JM. the whining tone of this site is just getting so hard to read…

seems like a pretty heartfelt and innocuous ad to me.

Schrauf
Guest
Schrauf

The Bike Gallery ad is awful in so many ways. I always shop there, but now will turn to River City and smaller local shops. Besides all the reasons you list, and being poorly written, it uses scare tactics to get people in to their shop to purchase brighter, supposedly safer and definitely uglier clothing. Bright orange? There are plenty of ways to be visibile without looking like a traffic cone. There are visible color and reflective clothing options and lights that do the job, and yet do not keep future potential riders from ever considering bikes as transportation simply because other people they see on bikes look like aliens and appear to invest hundreds of dollars in special gear.

Esther
Guest
Esther

I think it’s interesting that while there is a certain amount of enforcement (red light cameras at certain intersections) there doesn’t seem to be widespread education/finger-wagging directed towards drivers (or people driving cars, whatever you want to call them) about obeying traffic control devices, particularly running red light. Running red lights is far more dangerous both for the driver her/himself, and other road users, in a car than on a bike. Yesterday I saw two cars on 12th both running a red light, approaching each other, only one was turning left onto Belmont and they almost slammed into each other.

The Bike Gallery ad rubbed me the wrong way, at least partially because I think it’s more effective to advertise bright lights than bright clothing. Particularly generator lights, which are useful and extremely pragmatic. Bike Gallery should be pushing generator lighting the way Clever Cycles and citybikes do, and all the bike retailers that are not are foolish.

Jack
Guest
Jack

1) Be considerate of others.

Should be enough.

Joe Rowe
Guest
Joe Rowe

Did not Like ad. I’d suggest they stock better lights and have a sale on lights and jackets. Fun events with a free raffle. And lead the coalition of bike shops against the CRC freeway. Why preach at bikes and be so apathetic about the big $5 billion dollar picture. Jay Graves, Please join in here. Or any bike gallery staff.

KJ
Guest
KJ

Bike lights are expensive, why not suggest carrying extra BATTERIES instead. Then you don’t have to buy a second light. But I guess this IS an ad.

Frank M
Guest
Frank M

As both a road cyclist and bicycle commuter (and driver), I welcome the call – within the bike community to its own members – to be courteous, law-abiding road users.

There a chinese proverb that goes something along the lines of ‘before complaining about neighbor’s roof, sweep own doorway.’ There’s not a lot a cyclist can do to ‘make’ a driver share the road better; but from my experiences cycling around the Metro area, there’s still plenty of room for us, as cyclists, to improve the way we present ourselves to drivers.

In the long run, the best way to positively influence those drivers who may dislike sharing the road with bicycles is probably for us as cyclists to be good partners on the road: wear helmets, use lights, obey the rules, be respectful. Sounds pretty reasonable!

TN
Guest
TN

Orange clothes: No, absolutely not. “Dress for the destination”, as Mikael Colville Andersen would say.

Lights: Sure, but one battery light is enough if you watch it. Or, use a generator light with a battery light. That’s what I do.

Traffic laws: Maybe. But frankly, the bike paths here in suburban Seattle are more dangerous than the roadways because of all the individuals riding as if they were the only person on the path, completely oblivious to the other people around them.

John Mulvey
Guest
John Mulvey

I’m a big proponent of enforcement of the laws of the road, which is almost unheard of in this city. There’s not the slightest doubt in my mind that strict enforcement, across the board, would be a way bigger shock to motorists than it would be to bikers.

otis
Guest
otis

It’s a law of observation: Bike lights seldom “die.” Rather, their batteries are gradually drained.

By paying attention to brightness and being willing to charge your batteries at home of pull over at Plaid Pantry, one can easily maintain luminance and legal compliance without purchasing redundant lights.

Seems to me Bike Gallery’s heart is in the right place but this ad falls short on sensitivity and logic.

bagel
Guest
bagel

I take issue with the perpetuation of this “us versus them” stigma. Especially considering that Bike Gallery’s mission (according to their website) is “putting more Portlanders on bikes.”

Imagine any of the 60% of Portland residents who identify themselves as non-cyclists who are “interested but concerned” reading this ad. This doesn’t do much to encourage them. If I were a non-cyclist, I’d be content to stay out of the saddle and avoid the “hate.”

Rol
Guest

I agree there are some morons out there. Nonetheless, I don’t have anything bright orange, sorry. Other vehicles are not bright orange, utility poles are not bright orange, and most things found on the road as a matter of course are not bright orange, but people seem able to avoid them okay.

“A plea to Portland’s utility poles: Creosoted Doug fir may be all the rage on the utility-pole fashion runway, but for poles in the know, it’s all about the bright orange, babay!”

(Gahhh, like I give a crap what’s on the runway? CONDESCENDING. Why don’t I just go powder my cute little pussycat nose too.)

Also, that “new Newtonian law of nature” is usually known as good old “Murphy’s Law,” for those who’ve been out of diapers a while. Mentioning Newton only distracts me by reminding me of the actual Newton’s laws, which state that if a 4,000-lb car hits me, I’m some variation of dead meat.

This ad has one purpose only, which is to paint the Bike Gallery as having tried to “solve the cyclist problem.” A lot of people mistake them as “ambassadors” (which they’re not) for the “biking community” (which doesn’t exist) and it helps their position if they can say they’re making outreach efforts like this.

Clodhoppper
Guest
Clodhoppper

It’s great to know that bike shops like Bike Gallery are looking out for out best interest. This is simple, common sense advice and I appreciate the shop for reminding us and perhaps preventing a simple (or tragic) mishap. Bright or visible clothing will get me seen on the street. As a commuter I need every advantage on the front lines of our city streets. Yes, I need a good backup plan if my light fails after dark. And yes, car drivers are going to judge me by the way I ride whether I want them to or not. Those who feel that Bike Gallery is just out to sell us something should note that the shop is offering this advice in support of the BTA Bike Commute Challenge. Why wah wah over a business that is trying to show they care?

Ryan M.
Guest

There’s no way i’m wearing any orange clothing, even if it’s a cool band shirt. Terrible color for clothes. Ride safe, and carry extra batteries if you’re really that worried – you don’t need 2 sets of lights… DUH

9watts
Guest
9watts

The ‘riding to the right’ admonition indicates to me that the filling the word quota was more important to the Bike Gallery than keeping this high level.

I think you’re on to something, Jonathan.
none of these examples you’ve stumbled upon speak to enforcement, better infrastructure, more equitable laws. They all instead focus rather asymmetrically on making nice, being considerate (with all the little unfortunate stereotypes and divisions you note).

Georg Lakoff would, I think, note the paternalistic tone of these messages too. People riding bikes are treated implicitly like children. No one would dream of telling people in cars what to wear, where to ride, to top off the tank, act like a boy scout etc.

dwainedibbly
Guest
dwainedibbly

I think this ad is aimed at the “interested but concerned” group. BG is just trying to defuse some of the recent tensions and get everyone to sing Kumbaya so that perhaps more people will ride and they can expand their market. “Cars won’t hurt you if you’re polite, brightly dressed, and lawful”, etc. That’s a message that “concerned” group can probably relate to because right now they’re seeing things from the motorist’s perspective.

Frankly, I’m not hugely bothered by any of it. I think perhaps it could be done a little better and with more sensitivity, but I’m not going to avoid their shops just because of it.

And +1 to generator lights.

Bob the Biker
Guest
Bob the Biker

Take a deep breath all. Nothing scary in their ad. You certainly don’t have to wear orange and you don’t have to buy lights or clothes from Bike Gallery; it is just common sense. The third bullet on the ad is common sense as well and why everyone has a fit when someone or some group mentions it has always astonished me. Don’t give them (and by them I mean drivers including myself and anyone else who drives and is a bike rider, most of us correct?) a reason to get mad because we (the riders) break the law. Sure it is a ad but a good reminder and I still wonder why we don’t obey the laws; why does riding a bike give us a get-out-of jail card? Maybe Capthardcore can answer that, the answer escapes me.

G Man
Guest
G Man

I trust Mia.

Cycling has come a long way, but I’m sensing a growing backlash. When I talk to my friends at work, most of whom know I’m a bike commuter, sooner or later the topic of “idiot cyclists” comes up. Yeah, cars are stupid too, but claiming that we can be stupid because they’re stupid sounds a lot like the Balkans where your grandfather killed my uncle, so I can kill your son. That kind of attitude leads to chaos.

I can’t control what cars do, but I can control what I do. A little good manners goes a long way, snarly behavior and bad attitude only makes enemies. Bikes need friends out there, not more enemies.

We can laugh at Bike Gallery for their suggestions, but I run into ninjas all the time in the dark winter commute, and sooner or later they’ll take me, or themselves, down. Bike safety in the dark winter is a topic that needs discussing, not nit picking. You don’t like orange, try radioactive lime green.

We can do better.

Matt
Guest
Matt

People need to relax.

mikeybikey
Guest
mikeybikey

nothing new here. ignoring the bull. after all, if your lights or bright clothes are for one reason or another obscured, say by a blind spot or windshield pillar, then the law isn’t gonna be on your side.

sabes
Guest
sabes

This article is pure flame bait.

Chris
Guest
Chris

Awesome. Excellent ad.

Ted Buehler
Guest

Yes to any and all ads to this effect.

Even if bicyclists didn’t have to worry about disrespect from car drivers, it’s smart to have headlights, bright clothing, helmet, and stop at stop signs.

A high percentage of bicyclists in Portland run stop signs fast, disrespectfully, and frequently.

While it may not be necessary to stop at all stop signs and wear bright orange and have 2 headlights, sometimes you need to oversell to get the message across. If you ask for this, you might get folks wearing one bright garment, slowing for stop signs, and having one headlight.

Failing to yield at stop signs can kill you.
http://bikeportland.org/2009/05/14/fatal-bikecar-crash-near-ne-prescott-and-57th-18634

Given that there’s more bicyclists all the time, and, if anything, an increase in the speed at which the average bicyclist runs stop signs, running stop signs will certainly kill more Portlanders in the next couple years unless there’s an effort somewhere, by some group, to curb it. We can all start this movement by slowing down a lot more than the average bicyclist, and lighting ourselves more than the average. Peer pressure works.

Plus it will help keep you alive. Your friends and dependents may thank you for it.

Thanks Bike Gallery,

Ted Buehler

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

still waiting for Ron Tonkin to take out a full page ad urging customers who own grey cars to repaint them yellow.

Ted Buehler
Guest

Jonathan wrote
“What struck me about it is how PBOT continues to divide up road users based solely on their chosen mode of travel. I think that’s a bad move.”

But necessary.

I walk, I bike, I drive. I appreciate the specific instruction for what specific behavior I need to cultivate with each mode.

Ted Buehler

Ted Buehler
Guest

&, if any of ya’all are riding without lights tonight, I’ll add my personal suggestion —

Get a light.

I’m delighted that I see dozens of bicyclists wherever I go, riding beautiful bikes and looking happy and fit.

But the 25% of ya’all I see at night who are riding without lights (and that’s a huge number of people) really owe it to yourself to get lit.

Ted Buehler

Hart Noecker
Guest

I giggle every time I see someone dressed up as a road cone. Stop being so afraid of riding a bike, Portland. It’s really not that dangerous.

are
Guest

presumably, jonathan, you are not asking pedestrians to slow down.

the fact is that there are three distinct modes in play here, and the fact is that most motorists are not also cyclists and many cyclists are not also motorists and neither thinks much about the needs of pedestrians. so the us versus them thing is a valid meme, and papering it over with circumlocutions accomplishes not much.

that being said, i find the ad unhelpful, largely because it is placed where many nonmotorists will see it and take away the message that a cyclist who does not wear orange or hide at the edge of the road is an outlaw even among bike shop owners. as others have noted, the paternalistic tone does also somewhat offend.

the third item is actually a fairly close paraphrase of the statute, 814.430, but it gives an entirely wrong impression to anyone not sufficiently schooled in vehicular cycling principles (there, i said it), because it is anyone’s guess what “safely” means. unless the right travel lane is at least fourteen feet wide, it means asserting enough of the lane that a motorist is required to put a wheel over the center line in order to pass, which means the motorist has to think twice.

i generally shop the community cycling center or citybikes, and i do my own repairs at the bikefarm, so i have not much need for the gallery. but i would be very pleased to see any shop buy a competing ad that explains the principle i just sketched in the preceding paragraph. that would actually be a helpful message, not only to the motoring public but to cyclists as well. instead we get the usual baiting.

timbo
Guest
timbo

I like the ad. ESPECIALLY number three. We need to do a better job of selling ourselves. Currently our on the road PR skills are horrible.

FauxPorteur
Guest
FauxPorteur

Wow, I’ve always wanted a bike shop to act like my over-protective and out-of-touch grandmother.

Peder Horner
Guest

But neither Rapha or Assos make anything in Orange. What are we to do???

Joe
Guest
Joe

biking is not a crime.. ride more.. obey something. 🙂
TGIF.. I have a BG hat and it scares me to wear it now, lol.

Joe Adamski
Guest
Joe Adamski

If you ran a lifestyle business that experiences the number of bad outcomes as road cycling has as its history; and you wanted to contribute your part to making it better, do you deserve brickbats or acknowledgement?
One of the things that distinguish Portland from other places I have been is that the bike shop owners are cyclists as well as business people, as opposed to business people who sell bikes. BikeGallery, as well as every other bike related business wants to see their customers enjoy cycling as well as be safe. These aren’t mutually exclusive messages.
Changing the level of discussion from heated rhetoric to well considered discussion takes time and willingness to make the transition. I view BGs ad campaign as a tentative first step. And a brave one.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

I agree with G Man – the backlash is getting stronger. The resentment seems to be growing, and getting more vocal. And in Seattle, too, perhaps even more strongly. Not that it’s all cyclists’ fault — it’s mostly unjustified — but it’s out there, and brat cyclists are definitely contributing to the problem.

We’ve already had lots of discussion last week about how peer pressure is utterly useless to combat rogue cyclist behavior, and so seems law enforcement except for the easy target of picking off people who rolling through stop signs.

So I’m all for the ad. I’m not seeing any better ideas at the moment. Condescending? Sure! About effing time someone talked down to the hooligans!

Fashion: I can’t believe all the orange haters. It’s one of my favorite colors (heck, one of my bikes is orange). It you really do hate orange, then don’t get all defensive, just wear bright yellow which is just about as good. Highway workers, who might be on to something, wear BOTH — and we’re just about as vulnerable.

I don’t really give a s*** if I’m fashionable or ugly on the road, and I’ve never understood people who do (nor have I ever understood all the people who are terribly concerned about the image their car projects) … fashion follows function IMO. It’s not like I don’t change out of the orange, yellow and reflective stuff when I get to the office anyway. But then I was given the nickname “GlowBoy”, so I might have pretty strong opinions on the matter.

bikefish
Guest
bikefish

Thing is – the actual cyclists who die are not the supposed rogues. People riding sensibly, following the rules in bike lanes or along major bike routes die when cars crash into them. That’s what we’ve seen in Seattle-King County. Meanwhile, dozens of pedestrians and hundreds of car drivers and passengers die every year in car crashes. It’s the cars, folks. Tame the cars.

sorebore
Guest
sorebore

I am with you Jack. I was wearing my completely black outfit today, ( like i have since seeing the Ramones in ’75, yeah im that old!) when, OMG!! a motorist blew through the intersection ( way, way in excess of the posted speed limit.)I WAS HALFWAY INTO while crossing with the right of way. The eighty some odd year old man that witnessed this, ( also a motorist) looked at me and gave me a knowing WTF shrug. Life goes on..I ride in black, live in black.see only black, own 36 bicycles ,9 of which are black…. bike gallerys ad is obsurd IMO. peace.

Jc
Guest
Jc

What I’d really like to see is an ad reminding cyclists to stop for pedestrians who are crossing with blinking lights/striped pavement. We have two such lit crossings by my house and cyclists never stop for me (pushing a stroller) despite it being the law at such an intersection. Often I have to wait for the cyclist who is clearly not going to stop even though cars have. It’s apparently not something most cyclists feel applies to them. These two areas are on E Burnside/24th and NE 28th and Everett. I see this happen to other pedestrians too. A whole slew of cars will sit there waiting for us to cross while cyclists blow through. NE 28th is the worst. There have been several near misses for pedestrians.

Mike
Guest
Mike

Jonathan, You know you love to put a wedge between cyclists and motorists. You do it all the time here. You can’t continue to stoke the fire and plead your innocence at the same time. And if someone calls you out on your BS stop playing the victim!!!!

captainkarma
Guest
captainkarma

Whatever the opinions of responders here, I applaud JM for being willing to examine the attitudes and behaviors of advertisers and famous names “in the bicycling community” whatever that is. Refreshing in the current limp wimp state of most”journalism”.

Lisa
Guest
Lisa

Bike Gallery sells jackets and jerseys in black and gray. Bike Gallery sells whatever people in their market will buy.

Right now it’s trying to sell stuff to newish commuters in the bike-commute challenge. This is the market who will buy orange, or expensive extra lights so they feel better about their “life expectancy.” This is the market who is likely to stop and put both their feet down at all stop signs. This might even be the market that rides so far to the right they’re on the sidewalk.

Make no mistake about it. This ad and all business ads are about one thing in the end and one thing only: the bottom line. Archer Daniels Midland feeds the world. Bike Gallery helps us stay alive. PR that tugs emotional strings is effective.

Cheney119
Guest
Cheney119

Why do bike shops feel compled to promulgate such messages? Auto shops do not.

I do not have to accept responsibility for all cyclists behavior, any more than i have to accept responsibility all drivers behavior.

I think I agree with the editorial, and screw driver backlash. When oil is $200 a barrel we’ll all be on bikes.

rider x
Guest
rider x

Perhaps this is ad is simply a message to all the “car drivers” who think that “cyclists” break laws all the time that “we” are trying to police ourselves? If so, I’d say that’s a fine idea. Perception is reality. Half of the above comments appear to be from an episode of Portlandia………..so smug. Wow. Please do your best to explore life beyond the cycling bubble that you live in here.

Paul
Guest
Paul

Thanks mom. Now on with life.

Rainfish Umbrella
Guest

Rainfish Umbrella

Jack
1) Be considerate of others.
Should be enough.
Recommended 13

Jack is right. Every thing you need to know in life you learned by the 3rd grade.
Luke 6:31 ” And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise”.
Recommended 0Comment awaiting moderation.

I only wish in my life I have done these words justice. I do best the things I practice most (not all of which are good).

I think Jonathan clearly identified that BG, while a good source in the Portland market offered good common sense: Be seen, Be prepared, and Do unto others… intertwined with skillful marketing.

Also noting that the propaganda put out by the PBOT futher polarizes each mode of transportation with the nanny effect. The current road use laws are sufficient without the bureau’s critlque of proper edicate.

I cant wait to get my first ticket for not waiving and smiling at an automoble driver who “shows me the slightest shred of courtesy”. Much less “j”walking and poor eye contact implemented with photo enforcement.

I guess my point is if it’s “common sense” it would seem that BG and PBOT need to publicly post reminders to themselves.

Huck Bales
Guest
Huck Bales

them=us

Huck Bales
Guest
Huck Bales

Another way PBOT could have written it, “When you are driving your car…” and When you are riding your bike…” This gives the reader the idea that they can do both things. Lot’s of US do!

Jerry_W
Guest
Jerry_W

Agggh, these comments are so predictable and tiring. Doesn’t matter the topic, same people saying the same things, taking the same positions and oppositions.

Jim F
Guest
Jim F

Wow. Chill folks. It’s just an ad.

Would be nice if everyone (cars and bikes) obeyed traffic laws, though. Makes for dangerous roads without them.

I’d like to see the sneaker company ad asking joggers and walkers to kindly not walk/run 4 across on the esplanade. That would be nice.

tb
Guest
tb

A minority of Portland cyclists are of the Lake Wobegon, Ayn Rand spouting, your rules don’t apply to me school. I applaud those who actually pay attention and make it easier for all of us.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

What do you think?

about the Bike Gallery ad: I side with Lisa on this one… they’re targeting new riders, for revenue… those that have been pedaling on the pavement for years know that it’s just advertising, those that are new know that those things are a good idea… we all know what we all know… (:

about the SmartTrips mailing: yes, the people in all those modes CAN do all those things… it’s true… but the Bicycles section should have included “can use the entire traffic lane to ride in”…

about Mia: I think it’s great that she doesn’t think bicycles need to stop at stop signs… I took her pledge…