Saturday, October 17, 2009

Car Ads Suck...

I will admit without any apprehension that I am no fan of internal combustion engines, nor of the often arrogantly piloted steel boxes that encase them.  I will also admit that I have on occasion made hopeful (if not positive) bleatings regarding electric and hybrid vehicles.  That said, I can add that I have never felt anything less than disgust and outright anger in relation to the manner that this means of transportation is being marketed.

A case in point:

What’s wrong with this picture – beyond illegally passing while speeding on a blind curve, or the preposterous helmeted guy trying to negotiate a crowed public street on a friggin’ Segway?  C ‘mon! Helmet... Segway... He’s not even moving faster than the bloody pedestrians!

Not only does this ad encourage dangerous driving like so many ads before it, but it once again requests that you not consider why you make your transportation choices other than to ask you what’s more fun.  The assumption is of course that the answer is a fast car, and in particular one that is driven with reckless abandon.  Speed = Fun.  Fun = Speed! What is also interesting in this ad, however, is that they have chosen to mock those who might choose otherwise.

They would likely argue that they are not mocking at all, but that they are merely wanting to point out the better choice, or differentiate themselves from the competition.  But of course anyone who has made the choice to ride a bike or use public transit (I can’t speak to the ridiculous man with the Segway... so I think these things are pointless -- sue me) has likely already made that choice for reasons financial – therefore the car industry isn’t interested – or, for whatever personal reason, they believe it to be the better choice – again, a crowd that would be of little significance to the car industry.  So why slag the biking, public transit crowd (I’m surprised we didn’t see a pedestrian awkwardly spill into a huge puddle) if you really are only speaking to the speed-loving car-addict horde anyhow?  Is it possible that they think they have something to worry about?

Mahatma Gandhi  said’ “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”  A very likeable quote, but if there is anything to that sequencing then we know we’ve passed the being ignored phase, and with the kind of resources that the auto industry could bring to bare, I find it difficult to imagine that this is the “fight” stage. So they laugh.  And of course, they lie.

Do they really think that even the dullest motorist thinks that cycle commuters don’t bother with rain gear and can’t hold a straight line in traffic.  And you’ll notice no mention of rain, or crowds (or even any suggestion of commuting) when their gleaming white-knight is high-speed slaloming along his practically abandoned highway.  My daily commuting experience is quite the opposite.  It’s not uncommon to find myself pedaling gleefully past lines of frustrated, seething motorists (oh, I've seen the glares).  And some of them in very swanky high-end autos that I’m sure are capable of speeds that they rarely get to experience due to those maddening real-world traffic laws.

Automakers spend almost $9 billion annually in advertising in the United States to promote their products, including $6.5 billion on television advertising.  Young male drivers are the demographic group targeted by automobile commercials and is the very demographic group that is involved in 70 per cent of driver deaths in North America. Advertisers in Canada are supposed to be bound by the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards which in part states, "Advertisements must not display a disregard for public safety or depict situations which might encourage unsafe or dangerous practices, particularly when portraying products in normal use."  But neither the automotive nor television industries follow any  specific guidelines on automobile commercial content, including the depiction of potentially dangerous behaviour, such as speeding. In contrast, the advertisement of other adverse health behaviours, such as tobacco and alcohol use, is limited by either voluntary codes of conduct or legislation. This is the case even though the total annual economic cost of motor vehicle crashes has been estimated at between 7.5–20 billion dollars in Canada and 230 billion dollars in the United States.

So the fight is coming if it isn't already here, and if Gandhi has anything to say about it; we win.

Hold onto your helmets kids, it's going to be a rough ride.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sue meets the cheese and all...

When I first heard of the case of Sue Abbott in Australia fighting a helmet ticket and posted a link to the original video I really didn't think that very much would come of it. Unfortunately my instinct on this account was confirmed. Sue isn't the first person to lose a court challenge to a helmet ticket and she won't be the last. Even though it's a rather more melancholy story then I hoped for I believe that there is something to be learned from this event. And fortunately Michael Rubbo has created another short film; with an expected less upbeat tone than the first but well done none the less.

I received an e-mail from Michael Rubbo last night and in it he said: "Her's as you say, is a touching story. She's a courageous lady, especially since she plans to appeal with no hope for better treatment than last time. I told Sue that I think it's silly to appeal unless she/we can get her story into the media beyond our blogs, which would be great of course. If she can do that, its likely the court will pay her and her cause more respect, even if she loses." He added, "Here' s an Idea, do you know any bike sympathetic journalists in Vancouver?  It would be neat to have someone write a piece from there in part about the woman who's a non person in her own country. It would be a legitimate angle, and the wider questions could easily be brought in."

Unfortunately I don't know any bike sympathetic journalists but if any one does, please point them in his direction.

Like Sue says, this is something that we have to solve at the political level.

Mike Rubbo's blog

As seen on Google StreetView...

It's official Google StreetView has come to Vancouver.

I recalled spotting one of those Google cars trolling around my neighbourhood last May (as I noted in this earlier blog post) so of course when I heard that things were up and running, I flipped open my laptop and went looking for my house. Then I remembered the Google car passing me around Fraser and 10th and went looking for that.  Well what do you know.

I guess I'll have to get an "As Seen On Google StreetView" sticker for my bike now.

And one weird note; as the car passed me I was too close to it for my entire bike to be clearly photographed.  There is this weird blurred out circular area at the bottom of all of the shots.  I'm assuming this is to hide any details of the Google car... but if you get caught in it look out -- or it's off with your head!


I've embedded the actual StreetView link below so you can tour around my hood.

Friday, October 2, 2009