City rules governing advertising bicycles attached to cycle racks?
April 1, 2011 6:15 AM   Subscribe

Anybody know their local city rules governing advertising bicycles attached to cycle racks? What does your city do?

I have been asked to think on a new local government rule on unwanted street advertising. Does anybody know their local city rules governing advertising bicycles attached to cycle racks? Or can point me in the correct direction? My city is starting to be plagued by stores attaching advertising to bikes, or decorating bikes with their signage, and then locking the bikes to the publicly funded cycle racks. One chain, yes you Banana Republic, recently locked 12 bikes around the small city center. Cyclists see it as a form of obstruction, as they then have to park elsewhere. Non cyclists complain about the visual pollution. There seems no reason for me to reinvent the wheel (sorry) if there are already well thought out responses. Any experiences of direct action against this practice are also welcome.

The city doesn't have an objection to mobile advertising bikes, ie somebody pulling a trailer with a sign - it is the static ones we need to deal with.
posted by priorpark17 to Law & Government (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Wow, what odious behavior. Two approaches:

1. If it's just a few advertisers, then some negative publicity may nip it in the bud before it becomes a trend. Talk to the local paper. Talk to Critical Mass. Cyclists will rage against this. I would happily write a nasty letter to Banana Republic HQ and boycott them, and it's one of my favorite places to buy clothes.

2. Defining advertising for the purposes of banning it is problematic. Look at other ways you can distinguish ad-bicycles from normal bicycles; for example, to ban advertising on telephone poles, it would be sufficient to say "thou shalt post nothing on a telephone pole", which solves the problem without ever mentioning advertising. You could declare any bicycle that hasn't moved in 48 hours to be abandoned, and then cut the lock and impound it. Now the advertisers have to constantly move their bicycles, and they'll quickly tire of that, so you probably would only need to aggressively enforce it for a couple of weeks.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 6:29 AM on April 1, 2011

How long do they leave the bikes there, and what rules are already in place to determine at what point a locked bike becomes abandoned property?
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:29 AM on April 1, 2011

Never seen this in my city but I would be tempted to report it as abandoned if I saw one and it was obviously left there long-term, and not actually being used e.g. by a staff member of the shop.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:32 AM on April 1, 2011

I don't know too much, but I remember that my undergraduate college had a policy that if a bike was locked to a rack for more than a month without being moved it was cut off the rack. I think a note was attached to the bike first, but then it dissapeared.

These bikes are just for advertising right? No one rides them? Free bike parts. Tell your bicycling friends. I love free parts bikes and if someone isn't going to be riding a bike I know a lot of people need those parts. Banana Republic's ads wont be very impressive on a stripped frame.

now I'm going to be on the lookout for advertising bikes.
posted by fuq at 6:34 AM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

You could propose a law that meant all companies who advertised via bikes on city bike racks would have to allow free, unfettered cycle parking in any part of their premises 24/7.

For direct action: chain old bikes/bike parts to their premises, perhaps with a note that enquired whether locked bikes were really a helpful way to advertise their brand.

Other direct action: change the signs on the advertising: along the lines of "These assholes hog cycle parking" with an arrow to the brand. Photograph. Upload. Disseminate.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:40 AM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ordinance saying that all bikes parked at a public funded station must be moved every X hours. Plenty of municipalities do this for automobiles already.

Since (most) bikes do not have any sort of registration # that cities can use to ticket the owner, the enforcement part is cutting the chain and impounding the bike, returned upon $_fine. To be auctioned after X days.
posted by edgeways at 6:48 AM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Typically, these ad bikes are not abandoned as they are taken into the stores every night. Banana Republic left the bikes out but they were already wrecked. After one day of complaints BR indirectly employed a man to move the bikes around and after a few more days they disappeared. You can see a video of the visual pollution caused by Banana Republic. You have to appreciate that I live in a city where there is no fly posting and even real estate agents cannot put boards outside a house for sale.
posted by priorpark17 at 6:55 AM on April 1, 2011

I have never seen this but would be incredibly annoyed at the usurping of perfectly good bike parking spaces by bikes that just sit there all day and advertise. Annoyed to the point that I would not patronize the advertiser, or the store that allows the advertisement bike in front of it if it's a different product/service/store than the ad on the bike.
posted by pdb at 7:01 AM on April 1, 2011

but they were already wrecked

Sounds like the problem is going to solve itself. Declare yourself to be laissez-faire and congratulate yourself on a job well done!
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 7:11 AM on April 1, 2011

the store that allows the advertisement bike in front of it

Go stores have the right to disallow particular bikes from public bike racks? Calling them abandoned could backfire if the sponsor just decides to give away large numbers of branded bikes, where say, branded bike riders can get free coffee or something so that they are hanging around.

Why not fight fire with fire and lock your own bikes with anti-advertising messages on them there first, or parked next to their's? (Just for a while, until they stop.)
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:12 AM on April 1, 2011

Since your city is already advertising adverse (yay) could you just essentially say any vehicle used solely or primarily for commercial advertisement falls under the no fly posting, and can not consume (unpaid) public space/resources. Have an appeals board for marginal cases. You obviously, don't want to apply this to someone who is biking around has their bike plastered with "advertising/promotional" stickers for something, especially a political cause.

Those BR bikes do not look like they are really functional, which is another angle of attack. Wrecked, or nonfunctional bikes should easy to take care of and possibly you don't even need a new law to do so. It is trash on public property.
posted by edgeways at 7:13 AM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Agree with edgeways. No additional bureaucracy is required, just an updated policy of enforcement. What would happen if somebody dropped a wrecked car plastered in advertisements in a public parking spot?

Those bikes are trash, and they should be ordered thrown out by the garbage collector on their next pass. Their owners should be informed of this and have the chance to take them back, but if they're put out again they should be fined for littering.
posted by Jon_Evil at 7:21 AM on April 1, 2011

Edgeways, I think you are on to something with the first paragraph, it is just going to be tricky to write the ordinance. Perhaps there is a way to classify the ad bike as an "A Board". The council has plan is that A boards need to be registered and then the council can just not register any A board that looks like a bike.
posted by priorpark17 at 7:22 AM on April 1, 2011

Perhaps there is a way to classify the ad bike as an "A Board".

Something like:
"Apparatus attached to [a bike]* purely for the purposes of displaying advertising shall be considered to be an A Board for the purposes of this regulation"
* or any other object or street furniture
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:33 AM on April 1, 2011

I can't say what to do legally but I'd be tempted to get a bunch of my own cheap locks and double lock those bikes to the racks. Then they're "abandoned" and become a legal issue for the advertisers.
posted by monkeymadness at 7:39 AM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I know in my home state (Massachusetts) there is a special "commercial" license plate one must get for a car that has any kind of company name or advertising on it (my stepfather once got a ticket for not having a commercial plate after he bought a pickup truck from his boss that had the company name painted on the door). Perhaps create a "commercial" bicycle permit that 1) is required for any bike that has corporate advertising on it, 2) includes a significant registration fee, and 3) a clause that restricts "commercial" cycles from parking at public racks?
posted by Rock Steady at 7:46 AM on April 1, 2011

That may well be a good angle of attacking the issue. The line to walk, as I inferred above, is narrowly defining when a bike would be considered a board. As annoying as the fellow who loves brand X so much he turns his bike into an advertisement for X is... as long as he is actively using that bike and not leaving it chained, consuming limited public resources, for hours/days he should not fall under the ordinance. If employees of BR really where willing to bike to and from work on (functional) bikes that looked like that, I'd say leave them alone. Obviously this is not the case here, and as such I think they are fair game for moving against however legally one can do so.

I hate advertising, seriously. But, if companies would give employees bikes to use (ideally for commuting) that where covered in advertising I actually would have no trouble with it and would even think it a great idea
posted by edgeways at 7:59 AM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

My city is working on a bicycle parking ordinance. We try to be a bike-friendly city, so currently the ordinance says that there needs to be a minimum of 25% bike parking. A bike parking ordinance is necessary for any bike-friendly city to have at some point, anyway. (Let me know if you want me to dig up the actual ordinance.) You can use this discussion about bicycle parking and advertising as a starting point to discuss where your city stands on bike parking in general.

I like edgeways's idea.

Point of information: My bike-friendly city has a problem taking care of abandoned bikes. We have insufficient resources (or maybe skewed priorities in spite of being relatively super bike-friendly) to go around making them all go away fast enough. I don't know if that's the case in priorpark17's city, but it might be.
posted by aniola at 8:00 AM on April 1, 2011

Perhaps allow the bike "boards", but require that for every advertising bike, the business has to fund the installation of two new permanent bike racks, renewable yearly.

No one would do it, but if they did, hey, lots of bike parking!
posted by rockindata at 8:26 AM on April 1, 2011

I think the bikes as described are probably already prohibited under your sign ordinance. once you affix advertising to it, it's no longer a bike--it's a sign, just like any other movable sign. i'd be really surprised if this was some kind of loophole in the current ordinance--sounds like someone needs to let people in code enforcement know.
posted by lester at 8:50 AM on April 1, 2011

Advertising within the public right of way should already be covered in many city ordinances. You may want to read through your municipality's ordinance to see if that is already regulated.
posted by JJ86 at 9:26 AM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

You should just destroy them or cut the locks off.
posted by ofthestrait at 10:20 AM on April 1, 2011

We had a company here in Chicago who started to do this. A very popular bike message board got wind of the situation and many people wrote emails to this company about how this was a terrible campaign and all it was doing was ensuring we would NEVER use their services. The company responded promptly. No more advertising bikes taking up our spots.

Granted, this was not a company as big as BR.
posted by Windigo at 11:30 AM on April 1, 2011

You need to plan ahead for how this guy is going to fit into your rules. (The mast on his bike is at least as large as the one pictured on his car. I wouldn't believe that he could ride like that but I've seen him peddling down the street as well as parked at a bike rack.)
posted by anaelith at 9:21 PM on April 1, 2011

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