NZ campaign 'Feel more, ride more' shows the rough and smooth of cycling

Talk about a breath of fresh air – with a shower of rain thrown in as a bonus.

A cyclist sets off to work on a clear morning, flying past a driver in a line of traffic, before riding in an office lift in Lycra shorts and a scruffy T-shirt.

Later, he powers through the dark in driving rain, lifting his face to the elements with mouth open and eyes closed as he reaches his home.

He's one of three riders featured in a video that recently bobbed up on my social media feed.

Titled "Feel More, Ride More", the 30-second spot for the NZ Transport Agency is a compelling departure in style from so many of the cycling information and promotion ads I've seen over the years.

Sure, it sends messages about the advantages of using a two-wheeler as transport – beating gridlock, being able to chain your steed in handy places and the general urban portability of bicycles.

But what cuts through is the mood. These riders are fired up and loving the journey, even if there are challenges.

In the noise and controversy that often surrounds cycling, it's easy for people to overlook the most important thing about riding a bike.


It's fun. 

Changing gears

Yes, there may be bad experiences, hassles, safety concerns, days you just don't wanna. 

But I find all this is overruled by the sheer joy of getting out in the open – even in an urban environment – and clearing my head while spinning my legs. 

Still, would that video resonate with everyone? Perhaps more people would be attracted by the concept of gently rolling to work, not punching along on a racer?

But it turns out there's a method to the message. The Transport Agency says NZ's growth in cycling has "mostly occurred in the recreational space and has not transitioned to people choosing to use their bike for everyday trips".

The aim is to get regular riders to see their bikes as a transport option.

Feel good inc

Street posters will seek to remind people during their day that "they could be experiencing the 'feel good' factor right now if they'd chosen to bike".

And rather than sugar-coat the possible challenges of helmet hair, rain and sweat, they decided to embrace the issues.

"We need more people to get over these barriers and use their bikes more often," said the agency's Victoria Slade. 

The campaign is just the first stage of a three-year promotion aimed at encouraging cycling as transport – and it'll be interesting to see what comes next.

On the other end of the scale when it comes to mood was a cycling safety video released in the UK last year.

Titled "things you shouldn't get caught between", the campaign was intended to "remind cyclists about the dangers of getting caught between a lorry and a left turn – the area where most collisions happen".

Nevertheless, it drew fury for its graphic imagery - gunfighters, bighorn sheep butting heads, boxers punching it out, a piano falling from the sky, meat being chopped with a cleaver – culminating with a still of a bicycle crushed by a truck. A bold attempt to capture the public's attention, perhaps, but hardly encouraging of cycling.

Many commenters also questioned whether the exact cause of the collision was clear in the video – and whether the driver or the rider was at fault. 

The campaign's creators later released a lengthy response to the controversy, saying "the serious nature of the issue warranted the powerful treatment deployed" and they welcomed the debate.   

Closer to home

Looking at Australia, two videos released this year by Victoria's Transport Accident Commission are balanced between the joys of cycling and issues of safety (with the instructional elements repurposed in shorter clips).

Cycling commentator Matthew Keenan tells of his passion for cycling in one, and gives a good demonstration of how to perform a "hook turn" on a bicycle.

It's a good way to navigate a right turn at a busy intersection – if you're unsure how to do it, check it out (and the companion video featuring pro cyclist Peta Mullens)

Fairfax journalist Michael O'Reilly has written the On Your Bike blog since 2011.

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