Specialized Combines Social and Their Clout to Get Kids On Bikes

As a new parent (of the cutest kid ever) and a cyclist, I’ve already mapped out my child’s path to bicycle lifestyle. He started off in-utero going for rides on mommy’s bike and on the back of my Xtracycle, and come spring he’ll head out in a trailer, then move up to a ride-along bike, then a tandem, then his own bike.

But what about the rest of the kids out there? How do they find out about cycling, learn to love the two-wheel lifestyle? What’s the path to go from toddler on a balance bike and turn them into a podium finisher or a bike commuter?

That’s the question that lead to Specialized’s new First Gear program, a mashup of social-media and marketing power designed to get kids on bikes. The idea is pretty simple (and pretty brilliant–why don’t more companies combine their message with their marketing like this?), connect people around the world to the small grassroots programs that actually help get kids on bikes.

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The site, filled with success stories and direct links to ways to get more involved in each of the various programs.

The best component of the First Gear program is the Join In page (pictured in the thumbnail above) which breaks down various advocacy and service programs by time commitment and financial outlay. Have only five minutes but you can spare $30? Click the link to buy an IMBA membership. Can you spare 30 seconds and spend nothing? Then sign the People for Bikes pledge.

This quick visual approach is a great way to demystify a complicated issue–it’s something that feels similar to the way that the Obama campaign leveraged smart web design to get people to create at-home phone banks.

Excuse me now, while I go spend five minutes and a few bucks to help get more kids riding bikes.



2 Comments

I’m particularly impressed with Specialized effort because instead of building yet more infrastructure for existing cyclists, it actually aims at increasing our numbers. If you look at the change in cycling among population groups, you’ll see that kids have been abandoning bicycles in record numbers over the past 20 years which, of course, has huge implications for the number of cyclists 20 years from now.

By attacking a number of problems (number of cyclists, childhood obesity, community involvement in cycling, public awareness) simultaneously and tying it into a social media format, Specialized has potentially done the best thing for both cycling *and* advocacy in recent years.

Very cool to see a focused approach to indoctrinating the kids early.  With a 5yo and a 2.5yo of my own, I’ve thought about this a lot.  Increasing the numbers of people on bikes and making bikes a part of a family’s transportation equation are the keys in my mind to making a more bike-friendly world over the long term.  My xtracycle, and riding my kids around on it, specifically, is a key part of making sure that your kid’s bike isn’t viewed as merely part of the playground equipment or a toy for races.  It’s transportation, and kids need to learn the skills to ride like that before you expect them to be able to ride off the playground and into the street once they get old enough that they’re beyond your control (which seems to be about the 2-year-old mark in my household).
Even if cycling is not fully part of your city’s/country’s culture, you can make it part of your family’s culture first.  And that’s what makes it part of the broader culture later.

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