People for Bikes: Improving the Future

Creating a Two-Wheeled Movement From Scratch

By Published on .

Mike Caguin
Mike Caguin
There's a pedal-powered revolution happening in this country. People of all ages, in communities big and small, are rediscovering their love for riding bicycles. We are riding more for leisure, exercise, sport and transportation. We are even choosing two pedals over the gas pedal more often for short trips such as errands. And with urban centers becoming more densely populated and roads increasingly congested, the need to unite all different types of riders to make bicycling safer, more convenient and appealing couldn't be greater. That's why was formed -- to make our world a better place to ride.

Working closely with the Bikes Belong Coalition, a national bike advocacy organization supported by U.S. bicycle manufacturers, suppliers and retailers, Minneapolis ad agency Colle & McVoy created the name, icon, identity system, website, collateral, point-of-purchase materials, gear and event stage from the ground up. The long-term goal of the movement is to collect 1 million names of supporters from across the U.S. to advocate for more bike lanes, paths and trails. That number is significant enough to influence Capitol Hill to increase federal funding for bicycling, which would translate into more grants to help create more and better places to ride, as well as sponsored programs to help cities and towns become more bicycle-friendly. Major cities such as Minneapolis; New York; and Portland, Ore.; have been realizing the benefits of incorporating cycling into their transportation infrastructures, with autocentric metros such as Dallas and Los Angeles now following suit.

In order to bring about more change, our approach is simple. is an inclusive, positive movement that's not about being anti-car, but rather pro-bike. We've avoided messaging that's adversarial or moralistic and chosen to be celebratory and optimistic. And we've positioned as much like a brand as an advocacy group. Here's why:

Brands exist to build a mass of loyal followers
Rather than limit our target to the thousands of diehard cycling enthusiasts in this country, we decided from day one to construct a brand that can appeal to the millions of Americans who ride their bikes at least once a year. Like all great brands, we wanted to ground our story in sound rational benefits and elevate our messaging beyond statistics into strong emotion. Regardless of skill, age, niche and frequency of participation, every person who has ever ridden a bike can relate to one universal truth: being on a bicycle is joyful. Our measurable goal may be to capture names, but the overarching objective of is to make riding a bicycle in this country more enjoyable for everyone.

Brands know that how you look is as important as what you say
All credible advocacy groups and nonprofit organizations do a great job of articulating their missions and initiatives, while the most successful seem to invest in the time required to package them with just as much care. As we were writing the mission and messaging, we were simultaneously refining a brand icon and surrounding elements to work together seamlessly.

Our aim with the icon was twofold: to feel credible as an industry authority and to capture the joy of being on a bike. We chose a color palette that was inspired by highway interstate signage, to convey the aspect of transportation, and complemented that with a smiling bicycle graphic to exemplify the fun tied to the activity. We also created several versions of the icon with different kinds of bikes, so that everyone -- from casual riders to road racers -- could personally identify with our movement.

On the website, we took a wealth of information and statistics from Bikes Belong and reduced it down to a visual graphic of information in the Why We Ride section. This allowed us to provide enough substantive facts without it being overwhelming. By doing this, we were able to emphasize our call to action: taking our pledge. We even simplified the process of taking the pledge itself, making it easy enough for busy people such as Lance Armstrong to sign up.

Brands inspire
Congestion, greenhouse gases and carbon-footprint messaging would be an easy card to play, but that would only get us so far. After all, most people who ride bikes also drive cars, and we felt it was important as a brand to recognize and embrace that. Like most strong brands, we decided to focus on the countless benefits of cycling, rather than on the negatives, as the core of our brand.

For example, an iconic stage -- a lifesize representation of our logo that people stand on to talk about why they love to ride -- travels to cycling events across the country, allowing people to become part of the brand's identity and share the myriad reasons they ride on video. The video content is then being shared across social media channels to build awareness and participation for the movement. So far, cycling industry legends such as Gary Fisher and Hans Rey have graced our stage along with hundreds of other people of all ages to share why bicycling is an important part of their lives.

The movement is working with consumers, cycling enthusiasts and the industry. People from all 50 states and several U.S. territories have already taken the pledge. And the cycling industry continues to share its enthusiasm by promoting our cause on websites, in stores and with donated ad space. Even Lance Armstrong of Team RadioShack and Team LiquigasDoimo sported the logo on his bike during this year's Tour de France. We look forward to building on the momentum with more social media and by leveraging partnerships.

Mike Caguin is the executive creative director of Colle & McVoy, a Minneapolis-based advertising agency that is part of the MDC network.

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