As a part of its Share The Highway marketing campaign, Ford constructed an idea jacket for cyclists that shares emojis and switch alerts with drivers behind them. However the big query is, why?
Comfortable face, indignant face, impartial face, left and proper arrows, and a hazard sign: You may say so much with only a few symbols.
Ford immediately launched a video (beneath), photos, and lots of advertising copy a few jacket that may seemingly by no means be produced. The idea product is a jacket with a big LED mesh panel on its again to show symbols to drivers behind cyclists.
The idea will not be totally distinctive, though that is the primary time we’ve seen the house on the again of a jacket used to share alerts. Different manufacturers, corresponding to Lumos, make bike helmets with flip alerts and brake lights. And simply final week at The Pitch, upstart Intentful Movement made a case for its bike lights that combine into your current bicycle and performance as brake lights and switch alerts.
So clearly, the concept has advantage. As Ford notes in its press launch, emojis convey highly effective messages in a really small quantity of house.
“This jacket,” Tilburg College professor Neil Cohn defined in an announcement, “permits riders to precise their emotions and creates an vital emotional hyperlink between them and different highway customers.”
It’s a pleasant sentiment. So why, then, does Ford not point out the value of the jacket or when you should buy one? More than likely as a result of it would by no means manufacture the jacket and that it’s simply half of a giant, coordinated public relations marketing campaign generally known as Share The Highway.
Share The Highway: Lipservice vs. Motion
On the floor, Share The Highway is a marketing campaign the place Ford says, actually, “roads are for sharing.” It breaks down “how you are able to do your bit,” has a digital actuality view of what it’s prefer to trip a motorbike in heavy site visitors, and even discusses just a few real-world modifications the corporate is making.
For instance, Ford’s Sensible Mobility Plan “incorporates car sharing and e-bikes for commuters and business customers. The Plan additionally consists of FordPass cycle rent and crowd-sourced Chariot shuttle buses.”
However that single webpage is the place the plan stops. The place are the public-private infrastructure enhancements? The place is long-range planning? And the place, oh the place, can I purchase this jacket?
Properly, from what I can inform from the handfuls of media articles overlaying this product launch lock-step with Ford’s messaging, you may’t. And that’s a reasonably good trace that Ford has already accomplished its mission with this marketing campaign — to make itself seem like it’s attempting to make biking safer whereas placing forth the naked minimal by way of sources.
What Would Truly Make a Distinction
Ford already is aware of what it will possibly do to enhance security for cyclists. Because it notes in its marketing campaign, “Taking a recent take a look at transport and discovering smarter methods to get individuals round could make an enormous distinction, notably in busy cities with poor air high quality and growing congestion.”
And I don’t wish to hate on the model an excessive amount of. Heck, I drive an F-150 and adore it for all my mountain adventures.
However I even have just about given up on commuting by bike in Denver, despite the fact that I solely dwell about three miles from work. Why? As a result of I don’t wish to get hit by a automobile.
Bike-car accident fatalities are a weekly prevalence in Denver, a metropolis that totally matches Ford’s rubric about “smarter methods” above.
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However the place is Ford’s funding right here? As a substitute of a fluffy marketing campaign a few jacket that no person will ever put on, the place is the public-private partnership? If it cares a lot about cyclists, why is it not sending engineers to assist design higher bikeways across the nation, particularly in cities like this one?
It’s clearly not in Ford’s curiosity to take action. There’s no revenue available in reworking our city infrastructure with cyclists in thoughts, particularly for an enormous automaker. And I don’t actually blame Ford for eager to solid itself in a optimistic gentle with cyclists, most of whom additionally in all probability drive a automobile or truck extra usually than they trip a motorbike.
Nevertheless it’s arduous to swallow dozens of publications feeding me the identical line about Ford’s jacket being an answer to bike owner fatalities. It’s not going to cease the texting driver from swerving into the bike lane, and it’s not going to maintain a raging commuter from working a purple gentle. And within the case of an accident, it received’t hold the bike owner from shedding the battle each single time.
So I’ll hold driving to work most days besides when feeling notably courageous. And I’ll sit up for the day a model like Ford will sit down with metropolis planners and work towards an actual, viable resolution to city transportation that places the human first.