Selling the sizzle of cycling

Today’s not the best day to write a post about the joys of cycling when we’ve had sleety snow in London and every rider in town has probably arrived at their destination with a wet bottom. More soggy than sizzle. Rain on that BBQ. But bear (bare?) with me.

Over the course of COP15 things have got a bit miserable, like the weather. Demonstrations. Arrests. Leaked documents. Mistrust. Power struggles. And there’s more to come now the world’s leaders are arriving. We haven’t heard much positivity. The Ecotopia event sounds like a rare light. The idea of positive visions is addressed by Futerra’s new report Sell the Sizzle which challenges communicators with where’s the sizzle? Where are our visions of a positive, exciting, desirable future? The ‘sizzle’ concept is that heaven sells better than hell. So why do we keep flogging hellish visions of climate apocalypse in the hope people will get it and change their behaviours and save the planet? The mouth-watering smells and the stomach-rumble inducing sounds of the sausage sizzling over the coals sells far better than a cold, limp lump of uncooked meat-of-sorts.

Take this analogy to the bicycle. And I speak from my point of view, but the kick comes from the ride, the wind in your hair, the adrenalin of weaving in and out of traffic, racing off the lights, getting to places faster, door-to-door and avoiding public transport. The feelings from riding are more than the sum of the bike parts. Not to say I didn’t carefully choose every part of my bike, I did and I love it. But the sizzle is in the ride and not the metal. The metal is the facilitator.

The awful accidents and vulnerability of riders on the roads doesn’t help win over new converts. My friend Bev works in the intensive care unit of a South London hospital where the latest woman to die in London this year in a bike accident was transferred before she very sadly died. Bev didn’t see her, but her friend did, and what I heard about her injuries was horrific. No wonder Bev, a very new cyclist, has been put off. There’s no sizzle in danger.

There are also the constant antagonisms between vehicles and riders, pedestrians and riders, and old and new riders. The last category I find the most upsetting. Where’s the solidarity? There’s definite sizzle in solidarity.

A recent Sunday Times feature on cycle rage asked if ‘cyclists should be give the red light’. Okay, so some cyclists are a little crazy and ride dangerously but so do drivers and they do far more harm to other people. But articles like this don’t really help sell the sizzle of cycling.

What does sizzle for a certain target audience is this music video featuring a critical mass of very cool looking cyclists. It won’t make cycling mainstream, but it’s a beautifully shot film and it’s a long way from the ‘Evansisation’ of cycling. There’s an interesting blog from Copenhaganize about it. I quote from the post: “Don’t we – the writer and reader of these words – sometimes secretly feel as though we are the cycling Kings and Queens of Promise?” Yes we do and let’s sell that sizzle!

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2 Responses to “Selling the sizzle of cycling”

  1. Dave Willans Says:

    Yes, yes, yes! As a cycling King I completely agree.

    I think the answer lies somewhere between the uber-cool, fixie sub-culture and Evans. We need it mainstreamed, but with a huge dose of creativity and individuality – massclusivity as Trendwatching would say.

    Thankfully every spring and summer there are more cyclists on the road either continuing their passion or just getting their first taste of it.

    I’ve made a rather poor start on it with my own blog, which I need to dedicate time to and change the name of, but it’s a small step.

  2. georginacombes Says:

    Like it Mr Willans. A bit of massclusivity including that baby seat for Arlo so he can join in as possibly the youngest member of critical mass next year when it’s a bit warmer!

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