What surprised me about Seth Godin’s blog post today on cars vs bicycles was the way he based his pro-bike arguments in classic liberal altruism: protect the underdog, ensure the safety of the less powerful. This is even more remarkable because he lives in New York City, whre bikes have clear superiority over cars for many purposes. (His tounge-in-cheek pro-car arguments, on the other hand, were like the modern Republican Party: I have more power than you, so get out of my way.)
I’m a big believer in convincing by harnessing the reader/listener/viewer’s enlightened self-interest. So I’d rewrite his pro-bike list with these eight positive reasons:
- In dense urban areas, you’ll get there much faster on a bike than in a car, for trips of up to five and maybe as much as seven miles, especially in rush hour
- You can park within a few feet of your destination (in big cities, I often start looking for a parking space half a mile/one kilometer ahead, and sometimes don’t find a space until a mile/2KM on the other side)
- In less populated areas, the bike provides a healthy, fun workout
- You notice more on a bike: stores and restaurants to check out, architectural details, big scenic vista, some ripe and yummy fruit to pick on a wild raspberry vine, that gorgeous hawk soaring above you
- You enjoy that wonderful feeling of being outside with the breeze and sun
- Your carbon footprint during your trip is reduced by orders of magnitude
- You get to smile and be smiled upon by other people; positive human connection, no matter how fleeting, is a good thing, and hard to achieve encased in a ton or two of steel and plastic
- Bikes are waaay cheaper—bike economics: outright purchase of something between $200 for a decent used street bike on up to, say, $600 for a new one of better quality, maintenance costs of $50-$100 per year, fuel cost of zero; car economics: at minimum, $5000 plus hundreds or thousands in annual maintenance for a functional used car with a remaining lifespan of three years or more, plus costs of fuel and insurance, on up to several tens of thousands for a new one.
Of course, Seth is using the bike vs. car argument as a metaphor for the caring vs. selfish economy. But as an avid biker (going back to commuting to high school in New York City, and continuing through my current rural lifestyle)—and a benefit-focused marketer, I had to point out that bikes do actually offer a number of real advantages.