Whether with malicious intent, or as a result of the acceptance of cultural misconceptions, it seems Microsoft, the software giant, has chose to finance an ad campaign against cyclists! While the campaign is not an overt attack against cyclists, it is just a distasteful, coming in the form of a subversive attack against people who choose to be self-propelled. An ad campaign that painfully buys into the accepted myths of North American society, namely that cyclists are second class citizens.
I noticed the ad while reading the Nov 2006 issue of eWeek. I happened to be taking a meal break, while working on one of my projects. The facility where my office is located has a rather nice lunch room with with an assortment of magazines and scientific journals. The issue eWeek happened to catch my eye as it was covered the use of open source wiki software (think bike maintenance wiki).
Anyway, as I was reading the article I happened to notice an ad for Microsoft Visual Studio 2005. For the most part, its the stereotypical, glossy main stream ad affair. It depicts life before and after Microsoft's programming productivity software (Visual Studio). The over all message is clear; this software will make you efficient and therefore successful. Okay, sure, whatever you say Microsoft.
It wasn't this message that annoyed me, in so much as the subversive message they associated with success. They have the typical things associated with geek success, attractive women giving the "eye," a newer computer, and a cornucopia of geek gadgets (I will leave this stereotype for others to have fits over). However, they also have one additional subtle item, that just happens completely infuriate me and I suspect most other cyclists. So what is it? Well, they have the successful version of code slave, ditching his bike for a car.
See for yourself, I have highlighted the before-after section of the ad associated with cycling (pictured below).
The message is abundantly clear, successful people do NOT ride bikes.
And to that I say, "What a bunch of bullshit!"
Its scary really. We are still facing such archaic attitudes in light of the current world wide grudge match we are facing with global warming.
The Problem With Modern Media
Modern society as a whole lives in denial, due to the fact modern media aims to placate the masses into consumer hell. For example take global warming. As a scientist, I see global warming as a global disaster that is currently spiraling out of control and may likely be the biggest disaster to hit humankind (see An Inconvenient Truth, or a recent Georgia Straight article, if you need any convincing). Currently, no peer reviewed scientific paper in the last decade has questioned global warming (there is one sole critic, who is no longer practicing science, out of the thousands of scientists who believe it to be occuring). Yet in the same period, 50 percent of media articles still question the effects of global warming. We are rapidly heading to the point of no return, while the placated masses are gleefully driving us towards this abyss in their new shiny new SUV's. Its "ok" they all say. "You worry too much," just sit back and watch the newest episode of the OC on the built in DVD player and everything will be alright.
In the same way, media has, and still does, marginalized cyclists. Think of this ad as a litmus test for the perception of North American society towards cycling as a whole. The message is clear, people who cycle do so because they have no other choice. No wonder we have to fight tooth and nail for every inch of road we use. No wonder most drivers refuse to yield the right of way to a cyclists (on bike routes even!), but complain about cyclists as a whole if one disobeys a traffic law. After all, who cares about "them cyclists," we are afterall unsuccessful losers, why all would we be riding a bike?
Its the accidental bloopers that give you the most information to someones true underlying beliefs, rather than the glossed over politically correct garble we hear spewed forth on a regular basis. Unfortunately, such its also the same incites that tells us we are still have along way to go to bringing cyclists out of the perceived margins of society and into its lime light.
Cycling for success
I find this marginalization truly ludicrous, since there are so many benefits associated with cycling and choosing to commute by bike. Such benefits include,
- Improved fitness
- Improved health and energy levels, as a result of the aforementioned fitness.
- Improvements in the looks department, since we often associate fitness with sexual appeal.
- Get to avoid the nonsense which is traffic congestion.
Not to mention one of the often cited benefits of success, the ability to demand more free time for the pursuits that capture our hearts. It would have been just as easy for the ad should to have shown the programmer have having MORE time to ride his bike. For example, they could have had the picture of him winning bicycle races, rather than becoming shackled to a smoke pit car. In fact I think I will send their marketing department this very same advice.
Will Microsoft take heed of my advice? Probably not. However, its my hope that all of you reading this article will take a second out to help others realize that the majority of cyclists do so because we want to, not because we have no choice.