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SINCE 1971

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Making light of a very real Danger

April 9, 2017

There has been a conversation the last few years among cyclists, dealers, and major companies in the bicycle industry about safety. A major push for products that improve our visibility to motorists who may not be able to see us right away for whatever reason (insert your choice of 1000-word-rant about cell phones and texting here). Another unfortunately common cause of accidents involving the injury, and deaths, of cyclists has been "sun glare" or a driver being "blinded by the sun" and hitting a cyclist from behind. A quick Google search for reference. While I don't have the most current statistics available, reports and articles can be found readily, which indicate that incidents involving cyclists are increasing year-to-year despite efforts made to reduce fatalities.

 

I take this seriously, and frequently advise fellow riders to never ride into the sun. I also have joined in the industry's response to use and stock day-time-mode head and tail lights. The same with high-contrast apparel. The point of these products of course is to hopefully increase my visibility during the day to someone who may not see me immediately.

 

What I want to make clear is that this is an issue that almost all levels of the bicycle business, top to bottom, has acknowledged and continues to address. 

 

Watching TV a few nights ago I saw this ad for Benjamin Moore exterior paint. The ad uses several examples of how bright UV-ray light affects us (and the color of your front door). At about 12 seconds in, you're presented another example of a commuter cyclist approaching an intersection who, blinded by the sun, blows through a red light and causing chaos as a result. Oh, and I mean 'chaos.' Watch the ad again. You can see the light is red by the way, maybe due to all the shadows cast by the large buildings of the dense urban setting. There's a man with a large stack of papers. A woman downing a large coffee drink. Next scene, our guy is blinded. Next scene, the man's papers are scattered in the street, the woman is shaken, a truck with empty water jugs dumps them into the intersection which is also now occupied by a car and a moped/scooter. There is a taxi in the lane where the cyclist came from .. a two-way street. Just to drive it home, the whole instance cuts back to the cyclist with a dumbfounded look about what just happened. Very few persons who ever see this ad will do as I have and actively seek it out for analysis. In fact, I expect most will only see a "derpy" cyclist almost causing a major accident. Everything placed in the setting serves to present the cyclist as irresponsible and "silly." What does this say about the rest of us? How does Benjamin Moore view cyclists? Considering the issue I presented earlier, sun glare leading to cyclists being killed, why didn't they instead just use a guy in a car? Never mind there is an ever present issue between cyclists and motorists sharing the road (and responsibility), but why would you specifically use this example to show how bright light doesn't affect a freshly painted front door with "Aura Grand Entrance Paint by Benjamin Moore?" The other examples prior to the bicycle situation are harmless: the goth guy as a prom date and the lounge performer with way too much flair for an outfit. Why make light of what could be, and many times a year is in fact, a dangerous situation?

 

If I haven't been overt enough in my disdain for this ad yet: this is an advertisement, that makes light of situations that have killed people, in order to sell paint! An advertising department decided that this was an acceptable and effective way to sell paint! You know, by relating to us, the consumers. 

 

I've watched the YouTube video several times, shown it to my co-workers and some family, and thought about my issues with it as I put them down. As riders, we are representing the activity. We are ambassadors to cycling. It makes sense that the best way to combat a skewed perception of cyclists as derpy accidents just waiting to happen is by riding responsibly. Wearing the appropriate attire and using the proper equipment certainly helps make us safer, but we have to be seen riding the right way. That means using hand signals and obeying traffic lights and signs. Defend your right to the road but be courteous to those you share it with. Be the ideal model of cycling. The poor examples bring us all down. Don't be reduced to a paint advertisement.

 

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