Michael Newton is a graphic designer who reads this blog. He read this post, where I first introduced the rationale for a World Bike Hour, and designed the poster that has since amused thousands of people. By present estimates, at least a few hundred people world wide will observe the first Hour Hour, this coming equinox (20 March), and just maybe, it will be bigger 6 months from now.
The scale of the social media phenomenon that is Bike Hour, does not parallel the profundity of the idea and its potential for global change. The strength, or otherwise, of the idea, would seem to influence its spread via facebook, twitter and blogs. The degree to which it has caught on, correlates to the time Michael Newton spent making the poster. Far more time was invested producing the clip behind the catch Joseph Kony social media frenzy, that has reached billions, in the same week that news of Bike Hour has been reaching thousands.
I see alarm bells for social media campaigns here. Let’s face it, more people are interested in the story of the Kony campaign’s use of social media, than really care about the story itself. Many would click “like”, just to see the counter go up one. “The medium is the message”, as Marshall McLuhan would say. When a social media campaign is out of proportion to the lasting groundswell of concern, a backlash seems inevitable. Already people are picking on the campaign, in ways that seem petty, yet nonetheless could stop its momentum. Global warming campaigns were gnawed away at, in the same way.
The lesson for Bike Hour supporters, is to let Bike Hour run its own course. People who have followed this blog for a while, know the idea of Bike Hour has a sound rationale, speaking to the individualistic nature of cycling, while at the same time understanding our present need to all band together, somehow. My best hope would be for a few witty video clips to come out of the March 20 running, and for many more people to see themselves as leaders of the idea, before it is next trotted out in September (the next equinox date). I have secured @BikeHour on twitter, and facebook.com/BikeHour, to safeguard against the idea being stolen by someone registering it as a trademark, or the Bicycle Network thinking they can take charge.
I interrupt this deep reflexion, for some housekeeping now. A lot of people would like to do BikeHour in groups, which is unnecessary, but fine all the same. Personally, I will be riding alone, but I do have a media engagement near the Newcastle Maritime Museum just before 7. So, if you feel like getting together for a drink after, that’s where I’ll be. People in other cities should use the facebook event page for the March 20 Bike Hour, if they would like to rendezvous near the end (I do suggest meeting near the end of the hour, rather than at the beginning, to save confusing Bike Hour rides with Critical Mass).
Thanks Michael for that beautiful poster, and thanks everyone else for your interest in raising awareness of cycling. Now go and write a letter, on paper, to a politician saying you want forces deployed to catch Kony.