Truth in Advertising, Or Lack Thereof

Promotional videos like this one concern me with their overgeneralization. I often hear bike advocates equate bicycles with happiness, sometimes going so far as to suggest you can’t ride a bike and be unhappy. In the video above, we get a very general claim that people from one of the world’s most bikey cities are “happier,” without any asterisked study to back it up. This is followed by a claim that the video’s fictional character is happier riding their bike. Of course, because in Bikey Land, everything is kittens and rainbows and the mere act of pedaling quite magically curbs your obesity, clears up your backne, and makes you irresistible to the opposite sex. Right?

Personally speaking, one of my most unhappy periods was when I was riding my bike in the wet, cold weather for at least two hours a day. Several of my bikey friends have struggled with depression. A few obese friends have ridden bikes regularly, and gotten stronger, but remained obese. We struggle with our backne almost as much as we do getting along with the opposite sex. The point is, while ads like these make biking attractive to people (which is, of course, the mission of this organization), the truth is so much more complex. And as a person who doesn’t need to be courted anymore, it’s hard to see such overly optimistic (and ultimately untrue) messages. Maybe it’s because when videos like this make the rounds among the same old people, they’re preaching to the choir?

This may be one of the reasons advocacy sometimes irritates me. Gray areas are rarely acknowledged by many die-hard advocates I know—just the black and white talking points which lead to a central message. Personally, I’d rather see advocates acknowledge complex issues, spur dialogue, and approach their advocacy intelligently (say, backing it up with research) than merely giving a the old razzle dazzle.

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