A PR company is coordinating a cross-industry, multi-organization promotional campaign to ensure the current boom in cycle usage endures after lockdown ends. Fusion Media of Warwick has persuaded British cycling brands, retailers, and advocacy organizations to get behind the “Bike Is Best” message.
Online retailers Chain Reaction Cycles and Wiggle are backing the campaign as are bike brands Specialized, Brompton, and Islabikes. Organizations pledging their support include Sustrans, British Cycling, London Cycling Campaign, and Cycling UK. Accessory brands Le Col, Muc-Off, and Wahoo have also pledged support, with many others either already taking part or set to join.
Bike Is Best is the most extensive coordinated promotional campaign for cycling since the 1970s.
The new campaign’s centerpiece will be an inspirational short film majoring on the freedom of cycling: freedom from fares, freedom from parking charges, freedom from being stuck in traffic congestion, and freedom from the blight of air pollution.
The message chimes with official pronouncements from the U.K. government—Prime Minister Boris Johnson told parliament on May 6 that the near future “should be a new golden age for cycling,” and on May 9 transport secretary Grant Shapps announced what he called a “once in a generation” £2 billion plan to boost cycling and walking both during and after the lockdown.
The £2 billion plan starts with £250 million to enable local authorities to pay for “pop-up” cycling and walking infrastructure to cater for physical distancing during lockdown. Bike Is Best will lend its support to these measures.
The brand-neutral Bike Is Best campaign is funded by industry partners. According to Fusion Media CEO Adam Tranter, the campaign’s behavior change film could be ready for online distribution by the end of May.
It is being shot by Human Creative of Brighton, which has previously worked with Red Bull on films that have achieved more than 18 million online views.
“The film will question why we would return to our transport status quo as the nation emerges from COVID-19 lockdown,” said Tranter.
“It features a protagonist returning to supposed freedom, only to be met by crowded trains, traffic jams, and endless waiting. The campaign explores what could happen if we choose a better future by cycling and highlights that 68% of U.K. car journeys are under 5 miles.”
Tranter continued: “For many journeys, and many reasons, the bike is the best option.”
In addition to running Fusion Media—a 12-person PR and marketing agency—Tranter is also the Bicycle Mayor of Coventry, a part-time voluntary role coordinated by the Dutch nonprofit organization, BYCS.
“The industry has a once in a generation opportunity to reach an entirely new audience of potential cyclists and to show off the very best the bike has to offer,” said Tranter.
The campaign has attracted the support of Olympic gold medal-winning cyclist Sir Chris Hoy.
“It’s been great to see so many children and families enjoying cycling and hear about little ones learning to ride for the first time,” said Hoy, a father of two.
“I’ve enjoyed the time I’ve been able to spend with my children on our bikes. Cycling brings so many long term benefits, both for our health and the environment, so I’d actively encourage everyone to give it a go – whether it’s riding to work, for exercise, or just for fun.”
The campaign—hashtag #BikeIsBest—is being advised by Dr. Ian Walker, a University of Bath environmental psychologist and an expert on behavior change.
It has been almost fifty years since the British cycling industry pooled resources to promote bicycles through a coordinated PR campaign. In 1965 the representative bodies for bicycle retailers and bicycle manufacturers jointly raised a levy on all sales to pay for the British Cycling Bureau, which was charged with lifting flagging sales.
The Bureau was a front for Planned Public Relations of London. In 1972, it launched a “National Plan for Cycling.”
George Shallcross, national director of the retailers’ organization, said that this plan would “press for traffic-free cycleways and to make the authorities, national and local, recognize the bicycle as an asset to the environment, as it is noiseless and fumeless, and takes up so much less room in parking and riding than motorcars.”
The National Plan was promoted to national and local government via a handbook, Before the Traffic Grinds to a Halt which campaigned to “create separate cycleways in towns and cities.”
As part of the plan, the Bureau approached the Friends of the Earth “suggesting that its campaign was in line with the Friends’ own objectives.” This approach was “enthusiastically received” and the organizations agreed to work on a “manual for action groups around the country with advice on how to pressurize local councils to institute a cycleway system.”
The British Cycling Bureau was disbanded in the 1970s.
Tranter believes the lockdown could see the implementation of a “new normal” and that cycling has its best-ever chance of being taken seriously by planners and politicians as a practical mode of transport.
“We need to continue to influence the implementation of high-quality cycling infrastructure in our towns and cities, but we also need to present cycling as the obvious solution to many problems, in its most open, attractive and enticing form,” he said.