What GMs anti-bike ad tells us

It was intriguing that General Motors ran an advertisement last week depicting the bicycle as the inferior competition to its product. Instead of trying to compete with Honda or Toyota, they chose the bicycle.

Although GM was shamed on Twitter into pulling the ads, the concept makes sense if you look at it from an automotive manufacturer`s point-of-view.  Young people are driving less, and presumably buying fewer cars than they used to.  Increasingly young Americans are saying they want to live in walkable urban communities and get around on foot, bicycle or by transit. If they need a car, they belong to Zip Car or another sharing equivalent (not much data on young Canadians, but anecdotally it seems to be similar).

Is private automotive ownership going to diminish?  Have we passed peak car? By this I mean automotive ownership per capita is probably on the way down.  Soon a typical American couple or family might only own one car–and some urbanites no cars!

We could see all of the automotive companies fighting back with ads that glorify automotive travel and ridicule the other options.  Maybe they’ll form an industry alliance to promote their sector (like more nascent groups will sometimes do).

I can certainly tell that my Walkscore-98 neighbourhood has passed peak car.  There are many more open parking spots on the street at all hours than there was when we moved here 10 years ago.

What’s happening in your community?  Has it passed peak car?  And should we shed a tear for GM?


  1. It seems to me that no one I know under the age of 50 owns a car, where I live (Brooklyn, New York).

    As you may know, there is a proliferation of bike lanes, bike shops, bike riders and bike options all over new york, including ingenious front-loading bike wheelbarrows (from the Dutch company Rolling Orange)…so, as biking thrives in NYC, there’s a concerted media backlash against what this seems like to terrified Fossil Fuel executives: a growing FF/auto boycott.

    As advertisers for the MSM, these powerful lobbies seek to protect their interests by raising the spectre of plummeting revenue to print media, TV, etc.

    CBS2, whose Midtown studios sit atop a giant GM dealership on West 57th Street, annually launch their scorched-earth campaign when the weather turns warm and bike-friendly. The campaign’s name is ludicrous, and usually preceded and followed by car commercials. It’s run as a ‘week-long investigative special report’ called, “Bike Bedlam”, and features fear-mongering reporters bashing transportation reform as some vast, left-wing conspiracy to put all NY pedestrians in mortal danger. It’s a fascinating development, and it shocks me that no one seems to be making the connection.

    O.K….that’s my rant — and I’m stickin’ to it!

    Jackesavage@gmail.com/ Brooklyn

  2. Wendy Waters says:

    Thanks for the comment Jack. Here in Vancouver, many have noted a disproportionate amount of MSM time devoted to discussing “the bike lane controversy” instead of some of the real issues the city faces (affordable housing, homelessness, overcrowded schools in gentrifying and densifying areas, etc.).

    Your comment makes me wonder whether there is pressure on the MSM from their advertisers to continue to find people willing to speak out against 1.5 miles of bike lane.

    No politician with any hope of winning the upcoming election will campaign on removing the bike lanes because it would cost them many more votes than it would gain (and they know this).

    But the MSM won’t drop the subject.

  3. I’m glad to hear that the ad was pulled, but I’m happier to hear that people are desiring walkable cities. My husband and I currently own one car (we sold mine due to financial reasons about 2 years ago), and we love it. I use the car during the week for work (job site visits), and my husband takes the bus to get around. I would enjoy biking and walking, but Houston isn’t the most pedestrian or bike friendly place. I’m hoping it changes for the best over the next few years. For Houston, I don’t think car ownership will go away due the sprawl, but one can hope that ownership is reduced and that other options will become widespread.

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