Tag Archives: stereotypes

Marketing the Simple Bicycling Lifestyle

Today there is an interview with me on funsherpa, whose tag line is “uncovering what interesting people are interested in.” What a compliment! In my experience people who ride bikes to get around tend to be pretty interesting – they are independent people who take the time to question and challenge the status quo.


One of the most thought-provoking questions funsherpa asked me was:

Lets say you worked for a marketing firm tasked with getting Chicagoans to switch over from cars to bikes – what would you do?

I would use all the tactics that automobile advertisers use. They show the car as sexy, safe, freeing, fun, attractive, normal, necessary. In my experience, these adjectives describe bicycling more accurately than driving, especially in the city. Bicycling delivers the kind of freedom that car advertising promises. We need images of successful and happy people on bikes dressed nicely, going on dates, smiling and laughing. Exposure to such images, like those on Copenhagen Cycle Chic, is necessary to show the public the possibilities that the bicycle presents. Most women here have no idea that riding a bike with a skirt and heels is easy; that bicycling does not have to be a sport; and that the bicyclist does not have to get sweaty.

My answer is a start, but I’d like to hear all of your ideas. We’ve touched on this in The Bike Commuter Stereotype, and now we’d like to take the issue head-on. What would you do with unlimited resources, or what can you do working with the resources you have? How do we go beyond preaching to the choir and reach the general public – posters, commercials, product placement in movies? Let’s hear your ideas!

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The Bike Commuter Stereotype

Let’s face it: bike commuters are stereotyped as fringe, eccentric, a bit odd.  Even in Chicago where there are plenty of cyclists, I am an anomaly as a bike commuter.

"This is what a bike commuter looks like"

"This is what a bike commuter looks like"

The reaction I get from most people is easy to predict, as I watch their stereotype confront reality.  Usually, they are surprised and slightly impressed.  The average Chicagoan is aware of bike commuters, so that big hurdle is cleared from the start, but people are surprised because I am a fairly quiet and unassuming female – I don’t fit the stereotype. There are always questions.

The most common:

  • Aren’t you scared of cars? You do wear a helmet, I hope?
  • You didn’t ride here in that skirt, did you??
  • But not during winter, right???

Some people are “hip” to the bike commuting “trend.”  Their questions tend to be:

  • Cool, where do you shower and change clothes?
  • You didn’t ride here in that skirt, did you??
  • But not during winter, right???

Once they learn that I ride in skirts and through the winter, they are shocked and confused. I love talking about cycling – obviously!- but even I grow weary of answering these questions.

I want to know from all of you:  What reactions do people have when they learn you are a bike commuter?  What questions do they ask you the most?  Which of your characteristics contribute to the way people react? How about your geographic location?

Finally, assuming this stereotype prevents a lot of people from considering bike commuting, what can be done to revamp our image, short of enlisting Don Draper’s assistance?

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