The offer caught Russian advertising people by surprise. They were meeting with Mayor Yury Luzhkov this morning to express their thanks for his support of the week-long World Advertising Forum, which has attracted some 3,000 ad practitioners and students from inside and outside Russia. One Russian adman said it was "awful" that Mr. Decaux made his proposal during a private gathering.
A Russian representative of News Outdoor, a Rupert Murdoch company, who was attending the meeting said her company could also provide free bicycles. Mr. Decaux joked that he noticed that she had a French Hermes handbag.
At first Mr. Luzhov seemed cold to the idea of free bicycles. He reminded Mr. Decaux, the co-CEO of JC Decaux, the family-owned outdoor giant, that with Moscow's 8 feet of snow a year, there would be limited use of the bicycles. But the mayor seemed to warm up to the idea as the meeting progressed, saying that the bikes might be a "wonderful solution" to offset the 3.5 million cars on the roads of Moscow.
Paris' 'Bike Revolution'
Mr. Decaux said the free bicycle idea became the "Bike Revolution" in Paris. His company reduced the number of its billboards from 5,000 to 4,000, charged advertisers more for each billboard, and used the extra money to buy 20,000 bicycles. Mr. Decaux said that Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago was in Paris this week and he planned to bring the bike idea to the Windy City.