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GM ad urges college students to ‘Stop pedaling…start driving’ – UPDATED

Posted by on October 11th, 2011 at 10:20 am

GM ad running in college newspapers.
Click to enlarge

General Motors’ latest ad campaign running in college newspapers throughout the country urges students to ‘Stop pedaling…start driving.’

Image from GM website.

The newspaper ad features a guy on a bike ashamed that his “reality” involves riding a bike while a cute girl drives by in a car. “Reality Sucks,” says the campaign, “Luckily the GM college discount doesn’t.” GM’s website continues the mockery of active transportation by featuring a woman on the sidewalk being sprayed by a passing GM vehicle.

An image of the ad was sent to me by a source who saw it in the UCLA Daily Bruin newspaper. The source is a professor at UCLA and he included this note (emphasis mine):

“Not only has GM violated the norms of decency with the use of this crudity in a student newspaper, UCLA’s Daily Bruin, it has violated the decency and courtesy appropriate of a debtor. GM, the company that required us taxpayers to bail it out in 2009, is now biting the young people who bear and will bear the environment and health damage of its gas swilling ways. While every driver in LA knows that the reality which truly “sucks” is the grid-locked, car-loaded, obesity-enhancing, stress-generating car-toxicity of simple commuting in this region. The company that helped destroy public transit in Los Angeles is now running a campaign to convince students who travel by environment-, fitness-, and efficiency-friendly bicycles that they are inferior to those who travel in highly discounted mini-trucks. Shameless, isn’t it?”

Yep. Shameless. But just more of the same from the auto industry.

UPDATE: GM has apologized profusely via Twitter. They say they are working on changes to the ad and that they didn’t mean to offend anyone.

UPDATE, 10/12 8:30 am: The L.A. Times reports that GM has decided to pull the ad.

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  • Dave October 11, 2011 at 10:26 am

    Heh, yeah, the reality that our country can’t pay for health care and education because we’re too busy propping up GM and friends sucks.

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    • Hugh Johnson October 11, 2011 at 6:37 pm

      awesome, the company our president bailed out.

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  • JRB October 11, 2011 at 10:26 am

    This seems like a waste of money by GM to me. I don’t see how it would convince anyone thoughtful enough to be inclined toward active transportation to suddenly give up their bike and buy a car. If this is the best that GM can come up with to sell cars, it’s not hard to see why they needed a bailout.

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    • Jack October 11, 2011 at 11:54 am

      I don’t think that current cyclists/pedestrians are the target of this campaign; rather it’s likely the people who already think biking/walking is an indication of lower social status. The ad is attempting to reinforce those feelings and remind people that one way to ensure their own social status is to buy from GM.

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    • Otto October 11, 2011 at 5:52 pm

      If GM were more intelligent they would realize a lot of cyclists and peds also have cars and would create ads that appeal to them.

      GM should have been taken to the woodshed long ago.

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  • Steven Vance October 11, 2011 at 10:33 am

    Check out this article about “10 ways colleges are encouraging students to ditch their cars”.

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  • Brad October 11, 2011 at 10:34 am

    Cue righteous and predictable indignation in 3..2..

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  • Paul Johnson October 11, 2011 at 10:36 am

    “We know your Pell grants won’t actually pay for a complete college education, so you’re probably going to go up to your eyeballs in debt anyway. Let us help!”

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  • Scott Mizée October 11, 2011 at 10:42 am

    interesting but predictable ad. I would liked to have been in the brainstorming room when this one was put on the table. I suspect no one saw anything wrong with it and thought it was clever. It certainly plays on the emotions of an insecure individual.

    This brings up the point again—WHY AREN’T BIKE MANUFACTURERS OFFERING SUCH INCENTIVES!?? Get recent graduates into a nice ride they can peddle for years to come. Nearly every car salesman uses this tactic. I remember being tempted by it myself when I had a freshly minted degree.

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    • q`Tzal October 11, 2011 at 11:26 am

      Lack of incentives for bicycle purchase by college students?
      Could it have something to do with the exceedingly high rate of bicycle thefts that occur on college campuses and the complete apathy with which these thefts are dealt with by campus “security” and police departments?

      It’s not just a matter of the convenience of driving; it is simply much easier to recoup or recover investment lost when an automobile is lost, stolen or damaged in the USA then it is with a bicycle.
      Simple fact.

      That GM’s ad agency is selling to the lowest common denominator is probably a tacit admission that they know that the intelligent students are aware of the long term infeasibility of the automobile so they might as well focus on the jocks and students that are only at college because the parents said so.

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      • Chris I October 11, 2011 at 1:27 pm

        By easier, do you mean having to find insurance, then pay hundreds of dollars every year, then spending hours corresponding with the company once your car is stolen?

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        • q`Tzal October 11, 2011 at 1:59 pm

          Whoa Whoa Whoa There!
          Are you suggesting that at any point in our American public school education or public or even private colleges students are taught about managing personal finances and how to recognize what amounts to a financial con job?

          We in America place a high value on Ownership of ones belongings.
          There is a certain insanity in expecting to “own” an item with a high up-front price, quick depreciation and constant high and hidden costs of ownership. If any of these costs are neglected your investment evaporates.

          But this is the current “common sense”.
          It is common sense now that a person in the developed world needs a personal internet connection to be economically competitive.
          20 years ago it was common sense that the internet was a waste of time.
          40 years ago it was common sense that cheap oil would last forever
          100 years ago it was common sense that a boy would be taught to hunt and slaughter his own kill to provide his own food.

          Common sense is a fluid thing that changes with society. With societal changes accelerating beyond the ability of most adults to conceive we are stuck with vast segments of the populace that simply retreat in to their own worlds out of fear.

          Given a fully forceful and obvious Peak Oil situation it will cease to be common sense that a personally owned automobile is they way to go for all but the most rural uses.

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      • kest56 October 11, 2011 at 4:51 pm

        By the time they deprecate the car and take off your deductible you could have 5 campus bikes stolen and still come out ahead

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      • was carless October 11, 2011 at 10:02 pm

        You should see the excuse for “locks” clueless college students tend to use. Also, quick release wheels = no-no.

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      • RickG October 11, 2011 at 10:53 pm

        $500 deductible and continuing insurance premiums & maintenance expenses & parking fees. Yeah, losing a car to theft is a lot cheaper than losing a bike. On the other hand, it reinforces tha notion that all bikes weigh 40lbs. Forty pound bike, no need for a lock, 20 lb bike — you need a 20 lb lock.

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    • Randall S. October 11, 2011 at 11:34 am

      Probably because bicycle manufacturers know they can’t just spend themselves billions of dollars into debt with failed plan after failed plan, and then expect US taxpayers to bail them out.

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    • Richard Masoner (@cyclelicious) October 11, 2011 at 12:08 pm


      The entire U.S. bike industry had $6 billion in revenue last year. That’s Walmart bikes, sporting good stores, mail order and bike shop bikes, as well as all the gadgets and gear that go under the ‘bike industry’ label (tires, helmets, shorts, lights, etc).

      General Motors *spends* $3 billion each year just on marketing. That’s half of what the entire American bike industry earns in revenue for six months. They’ve been doing it a long time, and they’re very very good at it. They hire the best, and have huge teams. This single campaign aimed at college students possibly exceeds the marketing dollars spent by Specialized or Trek in a decade.

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      • 9watts October 11, 2011 at 1:09 pm

        “They’ve been doing it a long time, and they’re very very good at it.”
        Yes. No.
        They’re bankrupt; their model is bankrupting us & the planet; they’re desperate. What is it that you think they are ‘very good at’?
        By (getting away with) spending taxpayers money on this s&*t, perhaps?

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        • Richard Masoner (@cyclelicious) October 11, 2011 at 2:37 pm

          What is it that you think they are ‘very good at’?

          GM’s marketing people are good at manipulating people. They sell fantasy and entice people to believe that spending $30,000 on a 4500 lb behemoth is a necessity for life.

          The fairy tale collided with reality in 2008 with bankruptcy soon after, but the large majority of Americans still believe and participate in the myth, and GM marketing are still doing their best (along with Ford, Toyota, Honda, BMW, VW, and all the rest) to perpetuate the fantasty.

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          • q`Tzal October 11, 2011 at 4:07 pm

            Richard Masoner (@cyclelicious)
            What is it that you think they are ‘very good at’?
            GM’s marketing people are good at manipulating people. They sell fantasy and entice people to believe that spending $30,000 on a 4500 lb behemoth is a necessity for life.

            Kinda like the fantasy lifestyle used to sell cocaine, meth and every other deleterious addictive drug.

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      • Scott Mizée October 11, 2011 at 2:13 pm

        Thanks for the reply Richard. I imagine there are a number of reasons why we do not see this from bike manufacturers. But I’m not convinced that cost of advertising it is the main culprit.

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  • jon October 11, 2011 at 10:50 am

    They did this to transit a few years ago and faced backlash, apparently they are still playing this game now by deriding bikes and peds.

    Creeps & weirdos GM ad against transit

    Nevermind riding a bike around a city or riding a city bus is more respectable than driving some planned obsolescence GM lemon 2 door sedan designed for the Avis rental market. The only thing the Big 3 are good at is spending billions a year on endless propaganda peddling their crap to a brainwashed dumb public.

    The old mechaphile geezers longing for a return to the 1950s may eat up this kind of derisive advertising but GM has lost this millennial generation of “consumers”. Even if they do buy a car it will never be a Big 3 and its stuff like this that hurts their brand even more amongst the 20-30s generation.

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    • Spiffy October 11, 2011 at 11:25 am

      hilariously it’s creeps and weirdos that drive Cavaliers… c(:

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      • Paul Johnson October 11, 2011 at 11:30 am

        Well, that make the perfect car for los angeles?

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  • Jason October 11, 2011 at 10:51 am

    I like it! Go GM!

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  • 9watts October 11, 2011 at 10:55 am

    Silverado pickups (4WD anyone?) for LA college students. Now that’s really a good idea. Fossils.

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    • Mindful Cyclist October 11, 2011 at 1:37 pm

      Looks like it is a 2wd from the ad. Still well over $20 grand, though. Chump change for a college student, right???

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    • Oliver October 11, 2011 at 3:08 pm

      I was looking for this comment. What use does a college student have for a full size pickup? Seats two (maybe 3) Load capacity of 15 times the sum total of all your worldly possessions.

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  • 9watts October 11, 2011 at 11:04 am

    We could interpret this differently.

    We’ve won!

    I can’t think of a moment over the past hundred years when GM would have deigned to explicitly acknowledge competition from outside the automotive realm. The fact that they believe they must stoop to scrape a few bicycling college students out of the gutter to prop up their failing enterprise is beyond pathetic. Remind folks on bikes (since they’ve obviously forgotten) how the world looks according to GM. The macho undercurrent almost manages to gloss over this desperate move, but not quite.

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    • wsbob October 11, 2011 at 4:40 pm

      “…a few bicycling college students…”9watts

      It’s very doubtful that GM’s target market for this ad is limited to a few bicycling college students.

      With it’s ad GM would be seeking to arouse the consideration of every student that’s seeking to move up from the mode of transportation they may have felt obliged to rely on while prioritizing completing their education.

      Going to school, having to rely on an ugly, pathetic beater car to get around in, is common. The quality and condition of bikes some students, for practical reasons, have to or choose to ride around on are depressing too.

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      • was carless October 11, 2011 at 10:07 pm

        This is actually not so true at PSU – there are lots of decent road bikes and fixies. They probably number 50% – the rest, of course, being the K-Mart special mountain bike with 25-pound front fork suspension. XD

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  • wsbob October 11, 2011 at 11:11 am

    Looks to me as if the girl in the car is admiring the guy on the bike, hoping to catch his eye. Leaning forward in her seat, it looks as if she actually might want to be on a bike herself rather than being cooped up in the car.

    Dude’s expression doesn’t show he’s ashamed to be riding the bike. If he was ashamed, he’d have one of those Madison Ave, eyes rolled up, frowning, shoulders turned away body language things going on. He’s got a kind of smile on his face. His hand is adjusting his helmet, not shielding his face from the girl’s glance. Unfortunate timing on his part.

    GM’s ad copy ‘Stop pedaling…And Start Driving’ has got to be one of the more stupid efforts to sell cars GM has come up with. Other car companies have promoted the use of cars to extend options for riding bikes. Why didn’t GM go that route rather than to stupidly allow itself to annoy a lot of potential buyers?

    Next thing, cigarette companies will demand equal marketing play…’Reality Sucks! Stop Exercising…Start Smoking’

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    • beth h October 11, 2011 at 11:23 am

      The tie-in potential is boundless (cigarettes, cars and fast food — all heavily subsidized by the military-entertainment-industrial complex). None of these industries can afford to lose customers, and markest in developing countries aren’t developing quickly enough to stop the fiscal bloodletting here at home.
      I don’t normally think of myself as a conspiracy thoerist but this ad makes it way too easy to connect the dots, real, imagined, or potential.

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  • K'Tesh October 11, 2011 at 11:19 am

    This ad looks like something that belongs on the FAIL blog.

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  • A.K. October 11, 2011 at 11:19 am

    You know what reality is going to suck more? When you get your first car payment on your 7-year loan (that you stretched out to 7 years to get the payments low enough to afford, because you didn’t have enough money for a decent down payment in the first place, or to buy a car out-right) and realized that you’re paying that for the next 7 years on an asset that depreciates.

    Yay for debt! Right GM?

    I’m not opposed to people buying cars who need them. I have one, so I can’t be a hypocrite here. But I am opposed to getting young folks to take on more debt than they already have because of college, and trying to tell people that riding a bike is “shameful” is just silly.

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    • jon October 11, 2011 at 12:51 pm

      GM cars last 7 years?!? That would suck to be paying for a car that has already worn out

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      • Ryan Good October 11, 2011 at 1:57 pm

        You know what I thought of the first time I heard of a 7-year car loan? The fact that 7 years was generally the standard time-frame for indentured servants…

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        • was carless October 11, 2011 at 10:09 pm

          Haha you should see my student loans. 😛

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      • Paul Johnson October 11, 2011 at 2:17 pm

        I’ve got a 1999 Malibu that I bought last summer from Sooner Fleet Auto Sales on Route 66 in Sapulpa, with over 100,000 miles on it when I bought it, it’s got about 115,000 miles on it now, and it’s still going strong. Only complains I have it (besides the usual car hassles) would be that the driver’s seatback is frozen and there’s a broken cupholder, mostly because I haven’t gone to a junkyard and replaced both yet. So, yeah, at least the cars GM’s selling to fleets built out of their Oklahoma City plant will last at least 12 years. I plan on keeping it at least until I’m back in Tulsa.

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        • wsbob October 11, 2011 at 5:02 pm

          And you probably got the car for $6K or less. Not a bad looking car. Probably very comfortable riding in and has decent handling. Putting maybe four or five thousand miles a year on the car, except for increasing difficulty in finding parts for cars older than 10 years…it could be a solid ride for decades to come. Amazing how many really old cars there are still on the road driving. Last week, I saw a Pinto.

          Cars become a beautiful thing when the temperature drops down below 45 degrees, it’s raining or worse, and people that need to travel are living about anywhere but right downtown.

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      • Mindful Cyclist October 11, 2011 at 9:33 pm

        I have a 17 year old Saturn that still is going along fine. Over 170,000 miles on it as well that were mostly put on because I used to have to drive during my job doing community-based mental health work. It is getting a little beat, but can easily see it reaching 200k if I continue to maintain it. Considering I drive less than 2,000 miles a year now, it will just take a while.

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    • John Mulvey October 11, 2011 at 1:50 pm

      Financing is more profitable than selling cars. (See

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  • Andycigarettes October 11, 2011 at 11:26 am

    Maybe they could have had the “reality” actually “suck” by picturing the driver talking on her cell phone and running him off the road.

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  • Spiffy October 11, 2011 at 11:28 am

    the reality here is that a cute girl is smiling at a guy on a bike and he’s tired of all the attention that his manly physique draws… if you’re tired of cute girls ogling your toned calves then get a car to hide in and put on some weight…

    you can’t fault GM for that truth in advertising…

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    • Arem October 11, 2011 at 11:43 am

      Ha ha ha yes! 😀
      All the other advert tells me is that GM drivers are jerks that will spray you the second you walk on the street. We’re all pedestrians some of the time each day.
      Also, any of you that have ever watched the BBC series “Top Gear” should know their opinion of American manufacturers of cars. >:-)

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      • Corey October 11, 2011 at 1:02 pm

        Yep, my takeaway is that GM drivers are jerks. Probably not the messaging they were hoping for.

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  • Joe October 11, 2011 at 11:31 am

    dang sad !

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  • BURR October 11, 2011 at 11:32 am

    GM is runnin’ scared

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  • Russ Roca October 11, 2011 at 11:33 am

    Debt Sucks.

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  • mikeybikey October 11, 2011 at 11:33 am

    The anti-active transportation stuff is to be expected from them. What is more troubling for me is the pressure to get college kids to finance an automobile at a time when students are already going in debt with student loans and are finding themselves under-employed upon graduation. Really, is GM even paying attention to the news and all the occupations that are popping up all over the country?

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  • Scott October 11, 2011 at 11:35 am

    Some people don’t have the game it takes to get a date out of the car and on to the handlebars. Those types need to have a 4 wheel drive truck with leather interior to match their dates fake tan skin tone.

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  • John Landolfe October 11, 2011 at 11:36 am

    I see a lot more people stressed about their bills than about pedaling. I’m not one to get up in arms about a silly ad that doesn’t speak to me but I think it’s also worth calling people on their BS.

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    • wsbob October 11, 2011 at 12:24 pm

      “I see a lot more people stressed about their bills than about pedaling. …” John Landolfe

      That’s getting to the heart of the difference between Critical Mass and the Occupy effort.

      It also addresses the logic behind prioritizing accessibility to the use of and and possible purchase of a motor vehicle. For many people, having a motor vehicle means the difference between having and not having a job.

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  • jeff October 11, 2011 at 11:37 am

    GM is a competitive car company with a long standing history of attempting to squash/deride/destroy any form of transportation that would reduce its market share. This is nothing new and will have much the same effect as past advertising campaigns. What poor college student is going to suddenly realize they’d like a new car payment, higher insurance rates, and increase parking costs associated with a new car, on top of their books and tuition fees?

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  • Smitty October 11, 2011 at 11:37 am

    Sell your Surly… buy a Buick.

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    • Ryan Good October 11, 2011 at 2:51 pm

      I have two Surlys and I wouldn’t trade either of them for a fleet of Buicks!

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  • Mike October 11, 2011 at 11:38 am

    Hilarious. The absurdity and irony makes me laugh.

    Not even worth getting upset over, unless I was actually considering buying a GM product, in which case I would be considering a lobotomy as well – Do they give college discounts for those?

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  • Brent October 11, 2011 at 11:48 am

    The problem that GM has with these ads… and I’m sure this is due to poor or even non existant research… is that they assume people ride bikes ONLY because they cannot afford cars… They assume that people ride bikes because they have no other choice.

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  • Tim October 11, 2011 at 11:54 am

    Was it Volkswagon who offered a bike rack as a car sales promotion and didn’t Subaru offer a bike?

    I believe Subaru and Volkswagon both outsell GM to the younger set.

    I think GM needs to buy a vowel.

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    • Brad October 11, 2011 at 11:57 am

      VW’s “Buy a Jetta, Get a Trek” campaign was hugely successful for both partners.

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  • Dan V October 11, 2011 at 11:55 am

    The tag-line should have read ” Stop pedaling… Start driving, PLEASE! We’ll going broke over here and we’ll never be able to wring another bailout!” Apparently, the girl couldn’t afford a car either, so she latched onto some poor schmoe to drive her around…

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  • JF October 11, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    When I was in college, I was excited to afford going out for dinner and not eating top ramen or microwave burritos. Who can afford a new $30k car in college? Oh sorry, $29k with the discount.

    This reminds me alot of when credit card companies were targetting college students. Why isn’t GM getting the same scrutiny as them?

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  • tonyt
    tonyt October 11, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    To me, this seems like they are acknowledging that bikes are a real enough threat that they need to address it.

    Too many in the younger generation see reliance on cars as a yoke, not freedom. They’re trying to change that perception. Good luck.

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  • Andy October 11, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    Here’s the response you get if you email GM and complain! I asked them to forward my complaint to someone getting a million dollar bonus this year.

    Hello Andy,

    We apologize that our College Discount advertising campaign has offended you in any way. Campaigns and slogans are designed to excite and entice eligible GM College Discount participants to purchase a GM Vehicle and are not intended to offend anyone. We will forward your complaint to our marketing team.

    GM College Discount

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    • Mike October 11, 2011 at 1:07 pm

      Wow – I am suprised you received a response.

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    • Otto October 11, 2011 at 5:59 pm

      “Move along. Nothing to see here. Thank you for your cooperation.”

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  • T Martinez October 11, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    Your blog got linked on the Social Cycling Austin FB page, followed shortly by this “corrected” version:

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  • Both Sides Are Wrong October 11, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    I’m getting tired of reminding people, GM repaid their loans in April of 2010. Bailout money given to GM not in the form of a loan, was in the form of stock in GM. So, the taxpayers didn’t give something for nothing. Additionally, GM is one of only two large automakers that has produced an all-electric car. It might not be perfect, but it’s a step forward. For those of us who aren’t within riding distance of work or a grocery store, a car is a necessity.

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    • 9watts October 11, 2011 at 1:31 pm

      “For those of us who aren’t within riding distance of work or a grocery store, a car is a necessity.”

      tell that to Dave Weber.

      This predicament we’re in isn’t about solidifying bad land use decisions of the past century. We need to think beyond the present moment where a lot of people might be inclined to agree with you. The fact is we’re going to find out soon enough just how 20th Century that attitude is because the cars are going away.
      Yesterday’s necessity is today’s albatross is tomorrow’s opportunity. And GM knows that, which is one reason they are so desperate to squeeze more blood out of this turnip.

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    • Richard October 11, 2011 at 2:20 pm

      “GM is one of only two large automakers that has produced an all-electric car.”

      Then why does the Chevy Volt have a gas tank? Oh, right: the gasoline engine generates electricity.

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      • Paul Johnson October 11, 2011 at 8:06 pm

        A gasoline-electric car is still more efficient than the traditional gasoline-mechanical car. Heck, remove the battery packs that give you the initial plugin range, and you have removed from the rails a gasoline version of the same basic design GM’s Electromotive Division has been promoting in long-distance locomotives for about 60 years now.

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    • JRB October 11, 2011 at 3:20 pm

      What’s your point. GM still got help that average Joe, Jane and small business could never get in America after they landed themselves in pile of crap of their own making. I don’t want GM to fail. I have way too many relatives back in Michigan whose livelihoods are tied to the automobile industry to want to see that.

      Like the folks in the occupy movement, I want the rules of the game changed so that, as originally envisioned, corporations serve the needs of society rather than the reverse. I want American car companies to be the leaders in developing new technologies to move people and things around that aren’t powered by internal combustion of hydrocarbons. If they expended their resources on that, they could benefit society at large, pay their employees a living wage and provide a reasonable return on investment for their shareholders.

      Instead we have GM running stupid ads implying to college kids that the won’t get laid if they ride a bike. I’m not angry because I think the ad effectively promotes an anti-bike agenda. I’m aggravated that a company which wouldn’t be around but for the largesse of the taxpayer is spending resources running stupid ads like this.

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    • Otto October 11, 2011 at 6:05 pm

      So are taxpayers getting a dividend check from GM? Also, ask GM bond holders what they thought of the deal. They were screwed worse than anyone.

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    • Carlos October 11, 2011 at 9:10 pm

      If you are getting tired of reminding people, why do you keep doing it? Are you an apologist? Is this astro-turfing at its worst? Or are you paid to keep reminding people? Pulling forward TARP funds to repay a small part of the money which was given to GM is not repaying loans – its an accounting gimmick designed to baffle and confuse – and of course to base TV ads on. How much of the loans were converted to equity? How much is that equity worth? Do you really think the taxpayer will ever recoup the entire bailout funds? In real terms (for the accounting illiterate thats taking into account inflation) there is not a chance.

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  • Matt October 11, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    Go to the GM link in the story and give them a piece of your mind.

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  • Kevin Manning October 11, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    Anyone who drives a big old giant GM truck has a small you know what. Every girl knows that. But bike riders are in shape and can go all night.

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    • Paul Johnson October 11, 2011 at 2:23 pm

      I think a caveat would be whether or not they actually need a pickup like that to live their life because another mode isn’t going to carry stuff like oilfield pipe, ladders, tools, and other stuff some occupations need on a day to day basis. But a 4×4 pickup truck being advertised in a market where a fullsize sedan is overkill? You’re probably right.

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    • Otto October 11, 2011 at 6:12 pm

      Fictional girl in ad, “OMG! I thought all guys were fat and dull!”

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  • mabsf October 11, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    A pick up truck for a college student? Seriously? I would be GM, I would fire my PR firm – did they do any user research?

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    • noah October 12, 2011 at 12:14 am

      A pick up truck for a college student? It’s more likely than you think, in Eugene!

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  • bill October 11, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    GM hasn’t made a product that interests me in several decades. This only reinforces my distaste for the company and their practices.

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  • craig October 11, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    My message today to Congressman Earl Blumenaur, via

    Congressman Blumenauer,

    Is this what we all paid for when the taxpayers of the USA bailed out General Motors?

    Scroll to the last page of the Stanford Daily, below:

    As you know and have so boldly and steadfastly represented, our collective dependence upon the automobile, and a country built around that dependence over the past 50 years, is the reason for the sedentary lifestyles that generated the USA’s obesity epidemic and the deadly offensive against our economy that the resulting health care crisis has wrought.

    I know well that you are a champion for a national transportation strategy that shifts the balance away from self-serving mega-industry influences of oil and steel that hold society captive to their greed, and toward active modes that promote better physical and psychological health, stronger local economies, and safer more livable communities.

    I know too that I’m preaching to the choir. Nevertheless, I want you to know that my voice is among the 99%, and I want you to tell Congress and the President for me–and for all of us–that the USA won’t tolerate General Motors’ treachery against the people of the USA as manifested with impunity by their ad in The Stanford Daily.

    GM needs more than some inconsequential public outcry in response to their anti-people campaign; they need a sound thrashing by the federal government, and one that will teach them well not to bite the hand that fed them. Whether or not such a thing can ever happen, I believe this to be true: we can only make a difference if we make our voices heard as far up the channels of power as possible. We can each do what we can each do.

    Please, Congressman, do what you can do, for all our sakes.

    Thanks go to Jonathan Maus of for alerting so many of us to this cold, mean tactic by GM.

    And thanks to you, Congressman, for your continuing faithful service to the people of the USA.

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    • Otto October 11, 2011 at 6:08 pm

      What GM needs and what should’ve happened is going out of
      business, no Federal involvement necessary.

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  • Brian E October 11, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    i’d be more inclined to purchase a truck for splashing people.

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  • Ian Stude October 11, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    Sadly, this ran in the PSU Vanguard as well. But I can’t blame them for taking the money (things are tight all over).

    Since only 22% of student trips to PSU are by single-occupancy vehicle (and just 25% of employee trips), I prefer to see this as a desperate gasp from a company that is struggling to stay relevant in the minds of America’s next generation of adults. Nationwide, the rates for driving among young Americans is continuing to go down. Meanwhile, our students are increasingly multi-modal. Our survey from Fall 2010 showed that 16% of students rode a bike at least one day during the survey week (and the weather wasn’t anything spectacular).

    GM would probably have done better if they’d gone the VW/Trek route. Just another sign of our divisive times I guess…

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  • Rol October 11, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    Reality sucks, eh? That must be why Detroit prefers pickling itself in that soup of lies and delusions they’re swimming around in!

    Any industry that broadcasts images like these (especially the one on the upper right), you gotta know, is no kind of authority on what “reality” is or what it’s like!

    In fact, any industry responsible for so much destruction, and continuing in such stark defiance of actual world conditions, is best off not even admitting there IS such a thing as reality.

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  • are October 11, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    i thought the guy was trying not to look at her because he was ashamed that someone he knew was driving a car

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  • tom October 11, 2011 at 7:30 pm
  • Ginny Sullivan October 11, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    So maybe someone posted this already, but thought I would share as someone showed it to me at work. – this attack on transit makes me not believe for one minute that GM is sorry.

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    • craig October 12, 2011 at 9:57 am

      Wow, that was six years ago. So, not a one-time offense.

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  • Deeeebo October 11, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    They’re just preaching to the choir and is not their choir. Their choir is, in fact, a majority of americans that believe that if you do not own a car you are a loser. Case in point: I was once walking out of a store to my locked up bike around the corner when a crackhead (not hyperbole, she in all likelihood was )came up talking all nice, asking if she could hang out with me, etc. At first I was skeezed out but then thought, hey, what a great experiment! And so I proceeded to entertain her advances as she walked with me about 1/2 a block. As I bent down to open my ulock her insinuating banter came to a screeching halt, she said “oh, this is yours?” and walked off.
    My interpretation of her thought process no car = no money = not worth my time.
    You see, even crackheads won’t hang out with bike riders.

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  • noah October 12, 2011 at 12:07 am

    The only time I’ve been in a scene that looks anything like what’s depicted in the ad, the girls in the car were complimenting me on my legs, and I was hiding my face because I was embarrassed.

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  • yeahthatsright October 12, 2011 at 12:42 am

    That girl is totally checking out that guy’s stem

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  • Al from PA October 12, 2011 at 7:07 am

    Intellectual and moral bankruptcy, as well as financial.

    What did we expect?

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  • Justin October 12, 2011 at 7:30 am

    Everyone in GM’s marketing department who had a hand in this should probably be looking for a new job.

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  • mike October 12, 2011 at 7:48 am

    Uh, it’s an ad designed to sell cars. Does everyone here take things so seriously all the time. Boy, cyclists here are the most uptight bunch. Relax

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    • 9watts October 12, 2011 at 7:58 am

      yours is a familiar but odd response.
      Why should we relax, exactly? Does our time, this moment in our history, strike you as one in which relaxation is the appropriate or preferred response? Sort of like, GW Bush’s admonition to go shopping after 9/11? Good luck with that, dude.

      My take on Jonathan’s blog and the majority of the comments posted here is that many of the topics here offer opportunities to explore the subtler, countervailing, even pernicious effects of our policies, of the status quo. If you find that uptight, I’m not sure why you hang out here and post comments.

      Sure it is just an ad…. that is what GM wants you to think. But viewed from a more critical angle (what Jonathan does here, and quite well), it is not just an ad, but a reflection of a particular view of the world, of ranking consumer choices if you will, that is unhelpful, reactionary, worth calling out.

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    • Al from PA October 13, 2011 at 11:09 am

      Do conservatives laugh it off when they get a slap in the face? Au contraire, mon ami.

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  • Stu October 12, 2011 at 8:03 am

    …My bike is worth more than a lot of used cars on the road.

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  • just thinking October 12, 2011 at 9:20 am

    Sooo what’s stopping GM from producing OEM frames for the growing American cycling market? Seems to me that they have a skilled workforce on unemployment and plenty of unused/underused production plants.

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    • Pete October 12, 2011 at 8:43 pm

      Unfortunately they wouldn’t be able to do it for less than the Chinese, partly due to us not having the balls to cap trade when their government manipulates currency.

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  • kevin October 12, 2011 at 9:21 am

    Guess what, you’re talking about GM. It worked.

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  • Peter October 12, 2011 at 10:57 am

    While GM disses cyclists, Ford actually is working on a stunning E-Bike concept.
    Makes me sad knowing that we still own 25% of GM.

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  • craig October 12, 2011 at 11:22 am

    Paul Johnson
    You know they paid us back and aren’t government owned anymore, right?
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    No it didn’t:

    from 2010…

    …and… just last month…

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    • Paul Johnson October 12, 2011 at 11:51 am

      A website that times out and Fox News don’t credible sources make.

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      • craig October 12, 2011 at 12:20 pm

        Um, your ineptitude aside, the reality is what it is.

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  • Mindful Cyclist October 12, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    I thought the cyclist was gay and he was sick of women checking out his tight gluts and bulging quads.

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  • Richard La China October 12, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    Crazy, but no surprise at all.. come on GM! Who is working over there that thought this was ok… unreal.

    Richard La China


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  • PorterStout October 12, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    There’s a lot of personal offense being taken on this ad because people feel singled out but it’s really just more typical Madison Avenue nonsense. Decades of research have identified our hot buttons, and I know it will come as a surprise that these include feelings of insecurity or inadequacy, sex, masculinity, image, respect and the like. These issues tie especially in with the motivation for driving this car vs. that one, but you see variants of the same buttons in virtually every ad for any product (Including political). The reality is, the issue isn’t about me feeling insecure when I’m sitting on my bike next to a car at a light (or seeing an ad trying to play that angle), it’s with the person in that car who’s bought into the advertising propaganda thinking “I’d never ride a bike because people would think I’m not a man.” Or that I’m poor, whatever. Pity the fools that can’t think for themselves.

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  • francis October 12, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    Instead of going after cyclists GM ought to compete in the housing market. Among the students I know, the ones who own GM vehicles use them for living in. That’s reality…

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  • prevent October 12, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    Paul Johnson
    You know they paid us back and aren’t government owned anymore, right?
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    Uh…. they paid us back a FRACTION of what we loaned them, do you believe everything GM puts into an ad ?

    GM still owes $45.3 billion to the U.S. and $8.1 billion to Canada, money it received in exchange for large stakes in the company. The U.S. government now owns 61 percent of the company and Canada owns roughly 12 percent.


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  • Pete October 12, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    Zoom back to see that girl checking out the guy’s butt as he pedals away while they sit in traffic. We had traffic lights out here in Silicon Valley and I pedaled by 7+ miles of stopped traffic – so stoked I got to ride in today!

    Here’s some reality for you GM: I just paid off the 10-year-old 30-year fixed loan you held on my house. Guess how I saved some of that money…

    You didn’t think we had to bail them out just because their cars suck, did you?

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  • GlowBoy October 12, 2011 at 10:01 pm

    I wasn’t greatly offended by the ad, at least not more than a lot of other drivel and crap spewed at us by Madison Avenue on a daily basis.

    But hey, great that it’s gone. Looks like a few voices raised in indignation made a difference. Good for you.

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  • domotion2011 October 13, 2011 at 6:59 am

    We can thank GM for this negative ad and giving bike riders the opportunity to be heard. Does anyone know who the AD agency was that created this spot? Have they been called on the rug?

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  • El Biciclero October 13, 2011 at 9:53 am

    Wow. I just realized that according to the “examples”, qualified students could save as much as $292 when buying a $16,495 Sonic or $1,813.74 when opting for the $32,840.00 Sierra. That’s a whopping 1.7% discount on the former, and 5.5% on the latter.

    Seems as though if they really wanted to cut college students a break, they would offer cheap financing (0% – 1%), rather than insignificant paint chips off the purchase price. The difference between 8% and 1% on a $30,000, 5-year loan would be about $5,700 over the life of the loan. That’s a lot more than $1,813. Making the same comparison for a $15,000 loan, the savings would be about $2,800–almost 10 times the $292 purchase price discount.

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  • markphilips October 13, 2011 at 9:57 am

    Giant Bicycles ad in response to GM ad: Reality sucks, luckily bicycles don’t…Stop driving and start biking

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    • wsbob October 13, 2011 at 12:15 pm

      That’s a cool ad and response to GM’s ad, but I’m wondering whether it’s an official Giant ad, rather than somebody’s satirical mock-up. Looked on Giant’s website…couldn’t find much about company advertising.

      Just now checked another website that’s covering the ad story:

      So it’s looking as if the Giant ad is legit. Cyclelicious also posts a link to a LA Times story, saying GM pulled its ad due to outcry from ‘cyclists’. Haven’t yet read the story though.

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  • sleuthed October 13, 2011 at 10:02 am

    Omnicom Group (GM’s main agency)
    Tribal DDB subdivision
    Matt Freeman (head)
    James Malloy (design)

    Schawk agency is also responsible prob for concept

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  • CLB October 13, 2011 at 10:20 am

    Met a girl through a fellow roadie. We rode together. I cycled 50 miles from my house to her house. I had no car. We’ve been married 33 years. I can’t “drop” her.

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    • q`Tzal October 13, 2011 at 11:32 am

      Future father in law developed a great deal more respect for me when I started making a 60 mile round trip from the far side of Columbia, SC out in to the middle of nowhere to see his daughter.
      Not a very bicycle friendly area (that’s where I learned to dodge beer containers, cans and glass, always mostly empty), no accommodation on the roads and temps >100F for about 2 months in summer.
      Bring ice.

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  • Kieran October 13, 2011 at 11:01 am

    I’ve remixed the thing, working the “cars as part of a sedentary lifestyle” angle:

    Someone else did a nice remix playing on the debt angle, too:

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  • Todd Boulanger October 13, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    Whom at the ad agency thought it was a good idea to show a driver of a GM car doing the splashing is beyond me?…I know they like to show their product truethfully in ads, but that seemed odd.

    Perhaps the ad copy would have been only made ‘better’ if instead of a spashing, the pedestrian in a marked crosswalk were struck by a distracted car driver using their new GM radio/ email equiped console while running a red traffic signal.

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  • skinner city cyclist October 16, 2011 at 4:28 am

    funny, I always think people look sexier on a bike..;)

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  • Steve McGrath November 1, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    Great work, BikePortland. We blogged on it:

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