By Dianna Waggoner
I just picked up a used black step through bike courtesy of the Velo-City Global 2010 cycling conference. Just as I was about to set out for a ride to a jewelry store recommended by a new friend, I spotted a session called Campaigns Reducing Short Car Trips, not too exciting, but with an intriguing subtopic: "No Ridiculous Car Trips."
Turns out that the cycle happy town of Malme, Sweden where 20 per cent of its citizens already use their bikes for trips shorter than five kilometers decided that it wanted to increase that number. Since this was a campaign about cycling the natural way to advertise it was by cycling, right? First, a large color billboard with the slogan "No Ridiculous Car Trips" went up in the middle of the town square.
What caught people's eye, though, was the flesh and blood cyclist pedaling his (or her) bike while perched on a platform attached to the sign. That's not all. The city dressed bikers in orange vests and silver helmets, certain to stand out in gray Swedish weather, who timed their daily trips. Another group of volunteers slipped orange covers emblazoned "Thanks for using your bike" onto bike seats during rainy weather.
They also used social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and this year sent out a reporter and photographer, on bicycles, of course, to find out who the commuters of Malme are, where they're going and why they're on their bikes.
The city understands that repetition of the message is essential, so they've just completed their fourth year. And the numbers? A ten per cent increase in the number of folks who leave the car in the garage for trips. Not bad.
But the heart of the campaign was the Tell Us About Your Ridiculous Car Trip contest. Small cards were clipped with suction cups onto windshields encouraging drivers to tell their stories. Volunteers on street corners passed out forms and encouraged people to write their accounts. It's not that we're making fun of them, said one staffer, but they're telling us what they do and then they'll say, "That is ridiculous, isn't it?"
Permit me to pass along this year's winner. "I drive my daughter to school although it's just 70 meters away. I have always thought it was to save time but because it's always so crowded outside the school I ended up parking in front of the house."
And what did this thoughtful mother win? A bicycle, of course! And, by the way, her daughter who already had a bike is thrilled that mom is no longer going through this silly process.