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Regarding this topic, we (me and Bike Hugger) didn't jump on the let's beat up GM bandwagon and I tweeted this instead,

"There goes bike culture again, playing the victim, instead of spinning the @gm ad to their favor. Ads like that have ran since the Model T."

Pro bike races are led around by cars and there's VW & Trek, Volvo & Cannodale, Toyota & Parlee, Mclaren & Spesh or BMW & Renovo. Also while the shrill voices were raised against GM, this Lincoln ad with Calfee started running.

We've got a PR problem, us cyclists, and responding like this to an ad indicates a good reason why people don't like us. We most certainly can't take a joke about ourselves either. Who's next? Going to question Calfee for shilling Lincolns?
General Motors pulls college newspaper advertisement making fun of bicyclists.
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Gotta disagree with ya here. The races we do around here aren't led around by cars, and I didn't see anything humorous about GM's ad. What I did see was a perpetuation of car culture at the expense of doing something that is healthy, good for the environment, and is probably more fiscally responsible for college agers. Just because ads like this have run for years doesn't mean it is right, good, or smart to continue to do so.
I don't see cyclists being the victim here. Looks like a victory to me. Cyclists spoke up, GM pulls the ad, it makes the news. Message: Don't mess with us!
A typical shrill response reinforces that cyclists think we're special and should get special treatment. We're PC. Pro racers are all led by a fleet of cars and the same type of ad has ran on every TDF in recent memory. Cars are aspirational, what are bikes? That's the messaging to work on. Memo to bike culture, people think we're scofflaws and jerks. Probably didn't occur to us that people who work at GM ride bikes too.
I agree that we need to be careful in the special treatment area. We just got two new laws passed here in Nevada, the 3 foot passing law, and the Vulnerable Road User law...a victory for cyclists at a time when I'm seeing more and more cyclists doing illegal crap all over town. If we want to be treated equal, we need to behave equal.
+Jeff Moser the victim mentality is "car company slights us. Bad car company" Other tactics are, "focus on our message." Which brings me to, "what is our message?"

There isn't one, expect attacking ads like this or an ESPN commentator, or a editorial, or the list goes on.
+Jeff Moser exactly. Sure I get that ad, saw it, and understand the reaction but it's right in line with a group that demands and gets special treatment than can't understand why there's a backlash against us. BTW this thinking is being contrarian to the conventional bike advovacy wisdom and calls upon us to take a look. I wrote a long post about it earlier this year

Are We Advocating Wrong?


Enthusiasts v. the Rest of the World
Leaving behind the "special treatment" philosophy, (which leads to "we're all special" and need special treatment, even car drivers think that), I think the main thing is the message aspect here, and with that, I can agree with you.
Maybe I missed what "cyclists reactions" have been that got the attention of GM, but were we really asking for "special treatment"? Obviously companies are going to advertise to convince customers to use their product. If the ad ends up being "wrong" in some way, the companies will probably find out. Via either numbers or backlash. Cyclists deciding not to buy GM cars probably wouldn't be a very loud voice. Apparently, cyclists advertised loudly enough that GM decided the add wasn't worth running.

GM, and others, spend a lot of money planting seeds to grow future customers. Cyclomuters have fewer resources to plant those seeds to encourage cycling. I think ads like this have a VERY negative impact in the long run. I'm glad someone said something and GM pulled the ad.
+Guitar Ted sure and I'll refine the argument about special treatment to "tribal behavior." I think we just can't understand why people would be mad that bike lanes take up car parking or the perennial, "we don't pay taxes." My argument cited in the two posts above is that advocacy has done a great job and created a PR problem. What to do about that PR problem is the issue now. A car ad bothers us so much?
Look closely at the woman in the car. Looks to me like she really wants to get with that cyclist.
+Stephen Wasmund The same type of ad runs during the TDF every hour on the hour. This one got noticed, blogged about, and GM looks good for responding, of course mentioning their cyclists too. What do we look like? They smartly worked the PR and we just complained and we're incensed by another slight.

I'm not concerned about the ad itself or whether it got pulled or not. Not a big deal to me. What I'm saying is what do we do about our own PR, our image issues, and hey check that at the same time Calfee is selling Lincolns. Do we attack him next? I'm way more concerned about being yelled at every time I ride in Portland or how people get killed and it's a misdemeanor than that GM used an ad-making 101 technique. Cars are aspiration. What are bikes to a college kid? Is that student getting a degree so they can afford a bike?
+Tate Peterson or how it looks like an ad Bike Snob would have fun with. Ya think we take ourselves too seriously?
i thought it was humorous... GM is a dinosaur that is dying a slow death on government life support (sad but true, and I own/drive/like some of their product).

at the same time i feel that obesity and car culture are tied and it seems that instead of scraping at the college student cyclist demographic they could embrace it more like what Subaru has done.

honestly it seems that advertising and promotional efforts might drive popular opinion/trends over time and since cyclists feel vulnerable (litterally and figuratively) to cars, the backlash to adds like this which might have initially been tonge-in-cheek could be warranted.
"Is that student getting a degree so they can afford a bike?"

Yes, a Specialized Venge with Zipp Wheels and Schwalbe HT tubulars..... or (name your bike here)
+Justin Mann agreed and by not picking up a pitchfork and storming GM's ad offices, doesn't mean I don't get why people were so horribly offended by it. I saw it and thought, well let's see AutoZone ran the same ad nonstop for 3 weeks on Vs. So did every other car maker since the Model T and oh, ok there's a long history of cars/bike ad programs. That includes current ones with McLaren, BMW, Toyota, and now Lincoln and Calfee. Bamboo bikes paired with gas guzzlers, didn't seem to piss everyone off.
+Guy Browne Spesh does know how to market bikes like exercise equipment. Aspire to fitness and greatness. Don't think anyone has got the aspire to ride to work on a hybrid down yet.
+Byron DL Calfee runs an add about Lincolns? (See, neither I nor many other folks even know about that, but GM's ad ran on a much bigger platform) Had Calfee's association with Lincoln cars, whatever that may be, been widely known, yes- I do think they would have been chastised, especially if the message given was something as backwards as GM's.

That kid is getting a degree so he can fall in line with the buying habits that he's been programmed to fall into. GM was perpetuating that with the ad.
+Guitar Ted The Calfee lincoln add is linked in the post. Here it is directly: Lincoln Craig Calfee 30spot v3

And agreed on the aspirational marketing of buying a car -- get a degree, go into debt! I don't know if they still do it, but when I was in college, you'd walk off campus in your graduate gown with a wallet full of credit cards. That's an absolute take on this ad and a counter message is, "who needs a car?" Or, hey, get an old TDI that gets 45+ mileage and spend money on a super-cool cargo bike instead.
Metrofiets Cargo Bike..... definitely in my future.
i definitely see your point.

i don't so much care about the gas guzzlers, that problem will eventually take care of itself.

i agree with you that the cyclist PR is poor. our image is one of weakness (in many ways) and this is demonstrated by the fact that young punks think it is fun/amusing to harass cyclists on the road (honk, yell, swerve, etc). we also have a poor PR with the older crowd as they feel we should not be on "their roads" thus their tendency to swerve, honk, gesture, etc. to put the final nail in the coffin we don't have a good image with the legal system as evidenced by the fact that the best way to murder someone is to run them over while they ride their bike (likely zero jail time for the offense, even if drunk at the time).

to a non cyclist, someone riding their bike along the road is never a positive thing and responses range from "awww look he can't afford a car" to "that bastard, i'll show him not to be out here with cars!"

when i see someone riding a bike from the driver's seat my reaction is varied, but not one of pity or rage.

how do we change that stuff? i have no idea, but it seems that ads/promotions that cast a negative light reach a greater audience than the whiny cyclist rants on social media...
I think this ad... speaking directly to college students and telling them that cycling is NOT what they want to be doing, is different than other ads, shown during the Tour, trying to sell a car to a cyclist.

Sure. I'd like to see a lot of big corporate ads disappear... that's not going to happen. But can you imagine Kellogs saying "Put down that banana and eat a PopTart :-) !!!" in one of their commercials? If we thought that was ok, and the over-funded fruit lobby didn't complain, our kids would be fatter than they already are. Would no response have been better?

I second +Justin Mann 's last comment.

Now to eat my banana, ride home, hug a tree, and try not to piss off any motorists.
Reality is no matter what ad you run you're going to piss of some group. I guarantee you there hasn't been a national ad that didn't generate backlash from some group who clearly have their undies in a twist and have nothing better to do with their lives.

I agree that cyclists need to focus more on their image. I've lost track of how many local racer/posers I see in their kit treating the roads as if they were on a closed course. Newsflash asshat: you're not Jens Voigt, you're just some lowly local Cat 2 who only impresses other local racers. You're not that good - if you were you'd be racing in Belgium with the big boys - so just get over yourself. To the average motorist (and many cyclists) you're just some tool who thinks they own the road/Burke Gilman and looks like a dork. Only people more annoying are the self-righteous, "I'm superior because I don't own a car" crowd who shriek at motorists about their rights but then proceed to blow through a stop sign all the while being completely oblivious to their hypocrisy. Just because you can spend 2 hours hauling home a sofa on your bike doesn't make you superior, it just proves you don't have anything better to do with your time. Between these two subsets of cyclists is it really any wonder people like to mock cycling?

Let's also not forget that many cycling ads have been run with an anti-car theme. Didn't see too many motorists writing angry letters over that.

As for GM, they probably used the offended cyclists as a way to get some positive spin while pulling an ad that wasn't doing well. As Byron pointed out, pulling it makes GM look responsive and concerned and cyclists look like....whining, uptight, humorless babies. Also very likely they didn't pull the ad at all and that it was only meant to run once. Either way, most non-cyclists won't be offended which makes all the extra publicity a win for GM.
My kids wll be fat or not fat by the example that I set, and not due to any marketing scheme turned out on Madison Avenue. I firmly believe this. My son started riding a Skuut bike at 2, and a pedal bike at 4 not because of some slick Trek or Specialized (or Skuut) marketing campaign, but because he watches me pull on my gear and ride to work every day. Rain, sun, snow.... only changes the bike I ride, not my mode of transportation or the enjoyment I get from it. Kids are fat because their parents are fat. We are their role models.
As for a$$hats who defy cycling laws, I'd say that no subgroup of cyclists holds the monopoly on being bad actors. We as cyclists have to get past this "it's those other cyclists that are giving us a bad name" mindset. We are a house divided and so long as we stay that way (which will be forever if Freud is correct... see: we will continue to be marginalized, as we marginalize ourselves.
Speaking not as a cyclist (I'm not), but the examples you cite show a bit more harmonious co-existence vs. HA HA EFF YOU LOSERS than the route GM took. I'm not quite show how this makes biking look bad especially from the LA gridlock point of view. Spend a bit more time doing the right thing rather than worrying about how it looks. They'll be judging you and you'll be fit, healthy and not stinking up the place. One of those things is greater than the other, and PR ain't it.
+Eric Rice thanks for adding the comment, cause I'm speaking from a cyclists viewpoint and a long history of reactionary behavior like this. As I said above, I understand the win here, bloggers beat GM, but also look at the bigger picture and our image problem.
Further evidence of the issues I note in this post are found in this enlightening post on the GM ad by the PI like,

My experience with cyclists is they simply THINK they are better than everyone else.

or, of course, pay your road taxes and, "They're a bunch of thin-skinned, free-speech-so-long-as-you-agree-with-me smug little extremists who look for any reason to get offended or demand they be treated a certain way."
The stupid of it all is that you don't need to rubbish bikes to sell cars. Hell, I commute to work, do errands by bike - can I manage without a car here in the UK? Hell no.

As for the thin skin bit, coming from drivers, I tend to think that they can get stuffed - commute ten miles in my shoes, and all that. Coming from cyclists, I'm more prepared to listen, although having read recently about how easy it is to reinforce stereotyped behaviour, I wonder if less tolerance of negative ads is actually the way to go.

+Jacques Lesinge Bicycle advocates just handed GM a win. I'd have ignored it. They look great, we look like dicks. The lead-in to the PI story was, "don't make cyclist mad." Cause, ya know, they're angry zealots. My issue is short-sighted reactionary tactics don't help us. They reinforce why people don't like us.
I don't fully agree with you Byron. The media frames this as "cyclists offended" which I don't think is a fair representation of the grievances. Their ad is socially reprehensible given the state of our planet, our economy, and our transportation system.

The tone of media coverage is that "cyclists got mad". The media paints people with the zealot brush so of course it enflames the haters to hate and call people whiners.

I disagree that GM looks "great" after this. They're lying corporate fools that will do anything to sell more cars and car loans. I think they probably planned the whole thing and yes I realize creating a controversy might be good news for them. However — as current protest movements across the country are showing — more and more people are beginning to get upset at stuff like this... and not simply because of the anti-bike issue... But because corporations like GM are being blatantly irresponsible and mean.

All that being said, you make some important points and everyone in a leadership position in the bike advocacy world should think about them. I'll agree that reactionary tactics don't always help... It's how someone reacts that's important. It's possible to express disappoint in something and share it with the public, without "bashing" it and looking like a zealot. (The problem is, despite a reasonable tone, the media will often inject their bias into it and make the reaction look more wingnutty than it actually is.).

I could go on and on about this! Been living it for six years! Cheers.
I feel it was a lazy, sloppy campaign on GM's part that panders to the outdated notion that the "American Dream" means you have a house with a white-picket fence with a big car parked in the driveway. Targeting cyclists and pedestrians and portraying them as second-class citizens is just idiotic. I'm a cyclist, but I'm also a car owner. If I saw a cycling ad that made car drivers look like douchebags I'd have the same critique.
You're missing the point. Cycling isn't just about racing. This GM ad wasn't attacking the racing aspect of cycling - it was attacking cycling as a method of commuting. And the cycling community response was very appropriate, because this community is composed mostly of people who either choose to commute by bike, can only commute by bike, or both. It's healthy, clean, cheap, fun, and sometimes quicker than driving. So there's no way GM can make an ad like this without getting such a response.

Your post shows that you don't represent cyclists as a whole - no cyclist I've ever talked to feels ashamed to ride - so if this is accepted as "a joke", how can cyclists be taken seriously? You sound like you're actually supporting GM, which may or may not be true. Regardless, it doesn't seem like you're a bike commuter, because you would see this in a different light.
+Jenny Oh Hatfield Well reality does suck. I understand the reaction then and now, but bigger picture wise we're in an ongoing battle with cars, so think about what if advocates remixed the ad and shifted people's thinking. Have you seen anyone successfully market "commuting."
+Brandt Absolu You're confused. I got the point and made a counter point about our culture. I also publish Bike Hugger. Like +Jonathan Maus just commented, been fighting this for the past 6 years. Regarding "racing," we can't separate cycling from the influence and partnerships with the automotive industry. See the Calfee Lincoln ad for why. Here's a builder that focuses on sustainability, building bikes with bamboo, and he just associated his name with a gas-guzzling, obscenely large car.
I don't see myself in an ongoing battle with cars. I love cycling, but when people ask me why I ride, the first response isn't because "Big oil is evil." While that may be a reason for many people who have taken up cycling - and alternative transportation is one of many reasons I embrace cycling and I'm all for more of it - it isn't first and foremost. I think it would be hypocritical for me to take that stance. What bothers me is when advertising perpetuates ignorance. And hey, if you're going to be funny, be funny. That ad wasn't funny. It was just lame and isn't going to win any Clio awards anytime soon for its "knee-slapping humor".
There was no point in bringing up racing. The ad was referring to bike commuting, and it had the wrong message. If we didn't react, it would have a long-term negative impact. A lot of cyclists also own cars, and GM also makes bicycles, so making an ad like this makes no sense. Conversely, I wouldn't support any ads making fun of drivers to promote cycling, because, like the GM ad, it's the wrong way to go about it.

I disagree that this makes us look like whiners or dicks - because GM knows exactly what they're doing - so if we didn't say anything, this would be a win for them. Corporations will try anything to sell their stuff, but sometimes they just step out of line.
+Brandt Absolu The point was the bike industry has an ongoing, long-term relationships with the automotive industry. Fondos, charity rides, are all supported by fleets of cars. I didn't say the ad was ok. I said, look at our reaction, and how the public perceives it and us.

For more context to this line of thinking see.

Are We Advocating Wrong?


Enthusiasts v. the Rest of the World

and I will say this every time bike racers v. commuters comes up, every racer I know, including myself, commutes. We've got to stop delineating ourselves and that's what our Mobile Socials are about. I rode next to a Triathlete at once, next to a hipster, who was next to a women in tweed on a bakfiesten. There's also a daily race in Portland with Commuters across the bridges.
I read both articles, and I have more problems with the first one than the second one. The problem with the type of advocacy you're referring to is that it includes commuters and racers. They can't be put in the same group, because not all of them commute - a lot of these guys also have SUVs. I know of people who work hard to get group rides in order, in order to not piss off others and to not hurt themselves. I myself don't participate in any competitive cycling - I ride just for commuting (or just aimless riding). I follow the rules of the road (for the most part), and this kind of riding is what we're looking to promote. The group riders that don't follow road rules are the ones ruining our image, not commuters. With some exceptions, bike commuters do follow the rules, because we actually care about our lives.
I agree with +Guitar Ted and +Jonathan Maus ; there are over zealous reactions (which I'm not reading), and there are critical reactions that say "hey, that was totally inconsiderate and uncalled for." I'm just guessing that the critical response from biking people and ad retraction from GM will result in greater future awareness on GM's part, or even an attempt to reach the same audience they just miffed. In an age of hip-looking fixed-gear bikes at Urban Outfitters and Walmart, GM needs to retreat AND change course. -Howard (bikedenton)
+howard draper I doubt it. More like they just move onto another ad. +Brandt Absolu your line of thinking is just like Slow Biking is the only form or biking in tweed with leather shoes and on old Dutch Bikes. I'm inclusive to all cyclists, not those that think they cycle better or have more rights than others, sorry. I'm sure "commuters" own SUVs too.
If that's what my line of thinking is to you, then it's better if I stop, because it won't be a fruitful discussion from here on out.
You're welcome to explain your opinion further. So I'm clear, I don't support any division of cyclists along style, type, or bikes. Racer's v. commuters especially, I've been raced more in Portland by commuters than any of my leg-shaving bros.
I'm not supporting cyclist division either. What I said in my previous comment was that the type of riding that's being done should be, though - if you're going to ride on the road, just follow the rules.

I'm just saying that the only PR damage that's being done is when cyclists do stupid things like in one of the articles you mentioned. Letting a company know how we feel about a senseless ad, however, does not negatively impact our PR.
Brandt's last sentence is spot on. Rational, critical reaction to GM's is appropriate and helpful. People who interpret the reaction as bad PR are already biased against people who bike (as the war-on-cars and PPW bike lane types do).
I take issue with the assertion that "racers" or "group riders" are the primary scofflaws and bad actors out on the road. I have raced, ridden with my team on group rides, and I have ridden just to ride. I also commute on my bike every working day of the year. Of all of these groups, I've seen so called "regular commuters" flout more traffic control measures, more often than any other group. Unless one has accurate statistics to back up the idea that commuters are the saints of cycling, I call BS this one. I also take issue with the idea that cyclists can not be one voice. We all need to be safe out on the roads whether we are commuting or just getting in miles as part of a training regimen, or following our whim and going where the road takes us. As cyclists, we still want to get home in one piece. As I stated in an earlier post, we as cyclists bicker at each other as though we are the enemy. This needs to stop. If cyclists can't get past the hate, how can we expect anyone behind the wheel of a motorized vehicle to do differently.
+Nick Warren I know a bike racer that commutes (there's a tumblr blog for you) who buys everything from sponsors of bike races, on purpose, to reward them for supporting the sport. As this thread grows and into different angles, I want to state that I'm not Pro-Car. What I'm doing is calling for a new advocacy, cause what happened is the current generation did really good at getting lanes, promoting bike to work, commuting, raising awareness. But they're ill-equipped to handle PR problems and the bike backlash. The reaction to the GM ad is a quintessential example. ESPN commentator who made fun a bike crash before that and the list goes on and on to include editorials like this:,0,970403.story
the ad is also denegrating to women, portraying them as materialistic and anti-eco
+Jed Reynolds I guess. I was just in France, where sex is part of the ads. 1.2 naked, pregnant women on billboards. They've got no puritanical past with a weird madonna/virgin/whore complex.
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