I like bikes, but…

they are uncontrollable and their drivers can’t be trusted.

Wandering the internet (trying to avoid some really boring work that I intend to make as difficult and torturous as possible by dragging it on all day), I came across this little car-culture gem:

Part 1

Part 2

The little parting shot, “why can’t they pay attention?” is pretty ironic 30 years later, huh?

BTW, I like Steve’s comment at the above-linked post. It is an inadvertent advertisement to ride visibly, predictably and follow the rules. But with the patronizing expectation that we’re not capable of it. One can’t argue the fact that many cyclists are unpredictable, but that’s largely a product of them being scared or bullied to stay out of the way. Another irony.

These are the forces that have shaped our culture. They have not only influenced the self-image and behavior of cyclists, but of bicycle advocates as well.

12 replies
  1. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    Such a strange piece of work, sponsored by a major motor vehicle manufacturer. So many sections would be good material for TS101 classes for how not to ride, but a few that showed good lane positioning too.

    I know that every time I see a little water on the road, I expect to slide and fall to the ground because “little things upset us”. Too funny.

  2. john
    john says:

    Video: “I like bikes riding fancy free. Safety wise you should never trust me”. Did GM mention how many individuals are killed or maimed by autos each year? Warning: Propaganda-at-Work.

    • Eric
      Eric says:

      This really is very high quality propaganda. Plays right into motorists preconceptions while denying it’s true goal. Uses almost all major tactics:

      Propagandists use a variety of techniques to communicate messages and influence others.

      A commonly used technique is name-calling, which takes its cue from playground behavior. Often, this technique is utilized to divert attention when someone is trying to avoid answering a question or providing hard facts. Name-callers frequently use labels like terrorist, traitor or hypocrite. They also utilize negatively charged words to describe ideas or beliefs, including radical, stingy and cowardly [source: Propaganda Critic].

      The bandwagon technique encourages the viewer or listener to join the crowd by aligning with the most popular, successful side of an issue. This type of persuasion, often used in religious and political propaganda, plays to the human desire to be on the winning team.

      Glittering generalities are very common in political propaganda. Glittering generalities combine words that have positive connotations with a concept that is particularly beloved. Few people are willing to denounce any idea that purports to defend democracy or preserve freedom. The idea is that by using these terms in tandem, people will accept them as they are and avoid looking for supporting evidence. Other words used commonly in this technique include liberty, dream and family.

      Card stacking is the presentation of only the details, statistics and other information that impacts public opinion positively. In other words, the bad stuff is left out entirely. Experts maintain that although the information that’s presented is usually true, this type of propaganda technique presents a lopsided and unrealistic viewpoint that is dangerously deceptive. Card stacking is often used in political campaign advertisements.

      The plain folks technique is designed to get ordinary citizens to identify with a political candidate or other figure that they otherwise may have nothing in common with. For example, many politicians come from prestigious backgrounds and sport hefty bank accounts. However, they often present themselves as humble people with ordinary lives by doing “ordinary Joe” activities in public, like hunting, fishing or kissing babies.

      Propaganda based on fear is designed to scare people into choosing sides. Often, worst-case scenarios are presented of horrible things to come if a particular action isn’t taken. Special interest groups use this technique to encourage people to avoid behaviors such as smoking, drinking alcohol and driving recklessly.

      The transfer technique is more subliminal (operating on a subconscious rather than conscious level) than the other techniques we’ve discussed. Using this method, a group or person attempts to align themselves with a beloved symbol in an effort to transfer the status of the symbol to the cause they represent. Some people see parallels between propaganda and subliminal messaging, in which images or words are presented too quickly or abstractly for people to consciously recognize and process them. This method is really more common in advertising than in propaganda, although some political ads utilize subliminal messaging.

      Many other propaganda methods exist, but they subsist on the same basic principles as the ones listed above: Manipulate the message to portray an issue or person in the most favorable light possible, and when necessary, make the opposing side look shabby in comparison.

      • Keri
        Keri says:

        “This really is very high quality propaganda.”

        That was my reaction as well. And if you can bear to watch it more than once, you may notice the more subtle and insidious imagery woven under the really blatant stuff. It’s packaged as a piece to make motorists more aware and attentive toward cyclists, but the motivation is to paint cyclists as a burden on motorists.

        • Eric
          Eric says:

          I watched it three or four times, trying to catch all the subtleties.

          I really liked the part where she bonds with “us motorists” after waiting and waiting for her license, then backs over her bike. She’s all grown up now and has no need for her bike anymore. Now she has the burden of watching out for people that insist on playing with their toys in the street.

  3. Mighk
    Mighk says:

    Certainly it has all the characteristics of effective propaganda, but is there a real motive? Did the auto industry of the mid-1970s see bicycling as a threat to auto ownership and use? Even with the bicycle boom of the early 70s, I doubt bike use ever got high enough to even be considered such a threat. The real threat GM et al were focused on at that time was Japan, not Schwinn.

    I see it more as a reflection of the culture than an attempt to change it. Adults who were rediscovering the bicycle in large numbers in the ’70s were probably as unpredictable as the kids (or as many of today’s adult cyclists). Streets were reframed as places for fast cars way back in the ’20s; this was probably just a “friendly reminder” of that (sarcasm).

    • Eric
      Eric says:

      “I see it more as a reflection of the culture than an attempt to change it.”

      Not trying to change it. Trying to reaffirm it. That’s what makes it clever.

      Carter was in office. We still had a national speed limit. Gas lines were still fresh in everyone’s memory and GM was getting blamed for everything.

      Proof that it was Firestone and GM that bought up the trolley companies and shut them down had just come out (was just a conspiracy theory). The anti-car sentiment was building. Corporations were taking over the government. Cyclists were asserting that they had a right to the road and they said that GM hated bicycles because motorists hated bicycles. Motorists don’t even like passing them, did you catch that?

      That’s why, the last thing in the movie says, “GM Likes Bikes.” More like “GM likes bikes, just not what they do”, so it affirms the motorist’s dislike while claiming to do otherwise.

  4. Wayne Pein
    Wayne Pein says:

    That is priceless!

    There seems to be no audience for the film, except perhaps guffawing, cigar smoking, big bellied GM executives or board members.


  5. acline
    acline says:

    I think this thing was shot in Kansas City. It appears to me that the shopping district she drives to is The Plaza. I find that interesting only because I lived there for 20 years 🙂

    Propaganda, yes.

    Was it necessary at the time? That’s difficult to say. This appears to have been made around the time of the first oil embargo — exactly the time I was learning to drive (circa 1973). I can see how GM might have wanted to reach kids my age with an an anti-bike message at the very time we’re learning to drive.

    As luck would have it, my parents refused to buy me a car and made me beg to drive theirs. So I got around on my bicycle 🙂

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