Advertising in bike lanes

For those of you still on vacation (or you have the ability to listen to radio while at work), I just finished a half-hour appearance on Ontario Today, the early afternoon show on CBC Radio 1. I was asked to discuss the recent decision by the City of London (Ontario) to allow the Egg Farmers of Canada to advertise their “Get Cracking” campaign in bike lanes.

Unlike other outdoor advertising campaigns that use guerrilla marketing techniques (illegal spray-painting of sidewalks or “impromptu” performances promoting products), the Egg people paid London a whopping $5,000 to place 20 logos along the city’s dedicated bike paths located in public parks. Not only did the city get ripped off (that’s $250 a logo!), they used the paltry sum of money to print a newsletter promoting the city’s parks instead of investing it back into bike infrastructure or putting it towards, you know, something useful.

I was happy to hear that almost all callers agreed with my position that this kid of ad creep cheapens a park, not to mention compromises the integrity of the city’s infrastructure (notice that the bike stencil in the ad is in much better shape than the one on the road). What’s the next step? Using the dashes on the road to point you towards a Wal-Mart, or use the traffic screens on highways to promote a new car model?

I don’t blame advertising companies for trying to get their products into new venues; that’s their job to be creative (though I wish they would show some respect for the sanctity of our parks and visual landscape). But it’s part of the incremental ad encroachment problem. Ten years ago no one wanted to have their ads on garbage bins; now they’re everywhere. When I went to school, parents fought to keeps ads off of school buses and out of cafeterias. But now ads are a common part of our school system.

The blame lies squarely on the managers of municipalities who forget that their primary job is to provide quality service to residents, not to sell our sight-lines and turn our infrastructure into advertising opportunities. There are many different and unique avenues for large scale advertising to be executed. A city doesn’t always have to say yes.

15 comments

  1. i really don’t understand the image with this post. are their two bike lanes? the egg one looks to be on a sidewalk. is it supposed to be there? i don’t get it 🙁

  2. aww look at the eggy he’s riding the bike!

  3. and, at the same time, an unintended PSA for helmet use…

  4. Chris, that sense of confusion is what I experience on a daily basis living here in London (so happy to leaving soon!). Yes, that’s the actual bike lane on the road to the left, and the ad is painted on the sidewalk. Most of the ads are on bike PATHS in the parks and along the river. The photo is telling though – there is a huge problem here with bicycles on sidewalks. Maybe because there are very few bike lanes, but I suspect it has more to do with the ‘suburban mentality’: drivers seem to have no idea what a bike is, let alone a pedestrian!

    I think that London is a very interesting ‘city’ as it is a ‘dying city.’ The downtown has shifted down Dundas about 5 blocks, and it is now nearly completely abandoned. There are groups here that are forever seeking to ‘revitalize’ the downtown, but one wonders ‘why bother?’ People who live here are content in the suburbs with their TVs. See if you can count how many Walmarts are here, with 2 more coming! And one of them is going into a empty field right across from an empty existing plaza! Laugh or cry…

  5. I like this article, I also like the concept of advertising on bicycle lanes, this means that bicycle lanes are becoming a market which could help the cycling community.

    In this case it didn’t help cause the money went else where, here’s something for the cycling union to do.

    Also when you have a provincial and federal government that don’t support city programs, then you have to find ways to make money and advertising is one of the best ways.

  6. The Ex is using professional vocalists who are singing an A Capella version of “Lets go to the Ex” at street corners throughout downtown. On first listen it’s charming. But then I imagine hundreds of singers belting out jingles for soap, mattresses and toilet paper. Although good for musicians (who deserve the work) I’m uneasy with another invasion of private interests on public space.

  7. That egg should be wearing a bike helmet.
    Outrageous!

  8. What do you think about using advertising on the walls at city pools and school pools to subsidize the cost of running the pools?

  9. At least one person here in London, Ontario has counter-attacked.

    First someone spraypainted on and around the ads. Here’s an example – http://www.flickr.com/photos/29125594@N03/2774376974/

    Then someone scrubbed at least a couple of them away somehow. Here’s an example – http://www.flickr.com/photos/29125594@N03/2801963258/

    Those photos were taken in the same location by the way. I bike down that path, and I happened to see the changes not long after they were made.

  10. By the way –

    Eggs need helmets. Look what happened to humpty dumpty.

  11. And cyclists need to be looking down not up and around while the ride?

    For 5000 fucking dollars this ad creep is now polluting the streets?

    I really hope this was a one-off and enough people complain. Soon enough we’ll all be walking on tv screens. But it’s good right? Because

    as Mehdi so poignantly pointed out:
    “bicycle lanes are becoming a market which could help the cycling community.”

    Ugh. What help? We’re going to be more noticed by advertisers? How does that work? It’s not like the measly sums paid to the city ever come back to us.

  12. Instead of advertising directly ON the pavement bike lanes themselves, you can now also advertise USING bikes, riding on the bike lanes. With GoAdBike (www.goadbike.com), your company can display a six-foot poster on the back of a quadricycle riding IN the bike lanes, visible not only to bike riders, but also to the pedestrians and/or vehicles to either side of the Adbike!

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