Skip to Content
Streetsblog San Francisco home
Streetsblog San Francisco home
Log In
Streetsblog.net

What Do Sushi and Bicycles Have in Common?

9:05 AM PDT on June 1, 2010

3691249508_d02e5c8ae7.jpgA Danish
take on the sushi-bike connection. (Photo: Mikael
Colville-Andersen
via Flickr)

How is a bicycle like a fish? Specifically, a piece of raw fish on
sticky rice wrapped in seaweed?

Over at Copenhagenize
Mikael Colville-Andersen is talking about the parallels between bicycle
culture and sushi — from a marketing standpoint.

It’s part of a great conversation going on at Colville-Andersen’s
site about the difficulties of marketing bicycling as transport in a
country like America.

In a guest
post
on Copenhagenize over the weekend, Brian Glover pointed out
that in most of the United States, people who bike to get places rather
than for sport are viewed as either losers or freaks.

How to change that? Glover, who lives in North Carolina, is
skeptical that people in the American heartland will ever buy into
cycling based on the sleek urban images popularized on the Copenhagenize
and Copenhagen Cycle Chic sites. Here’s the core of his argument:

I do think it’s possible to market cycling to the mainstream
here in the U.S., and in developing cycling cultures around the world.
But the way to make that happen is to tie cycling to high-status
lifestyles in specific local cultures. A one-size-fits-all approach
won’t work. Though it may trouble Mikael to admit it, “Denmark” is not a
magic word for everyone. So, advocates and marketers need to look at
what people really want; to be crude about it, they should market
cycling in ways that, for the mainstream of a given local culture, just
might get you laid.…

[E]ven [in North Carolina], and in much of the South, I can see
possibilities. For instance, I think a
"Charleston" approach
would appeal to quite a lot of people — blonde
sorority girls on updated beach cruisers, tailgate parties with kegs
and dogs (arriving by bike trailer), couples who look like George W. and
Laura Bush (or even better, Cindy McCain) pulling up on expensive city
bikes to big ol’ Victorian houses in dense, Spanish-moss-draped
neighborhoods right out of Southern Living. Ladies who lunch, pedaling
stylishly in pastels to an azalea-shrouded church that isn’t an exurban
megacomplex.

But Colville-Andersen, who has worked for years now to improve the
image of cycling worldwide, sticks to his guns. The innovation, he
insists, must come from the urban centers and infuse the culture from
there. And that’s where the sushi analogy comes in:

Sushi was "trendy" in L.A. and then New York, where it strandedfor a while — but didn’t go away. The Theory ofDiffusion of Innovations came into play. The Innovators took hold of sushi. It moved over to the Early Adopters and then the Early Majority. It’s now been embraced by the Late Majority and, in the case of sushi,there are probably many Laggards who will never try it. Nevertheless,it’s a success.

The bicycle is "hot" again, all over the world. With a bit ofluck, the trend won’t fade and we will continue to sell urban cyclingpositively, in order to allow the bicycle to tango its way into thelives of the Early Majority. We’re well on our way.

What do you think? Will bicycling as transport one day be as
ubiquitous as California roll?

More from around the network: The National
Journal Transportation Expert Blog
asks if transit authorities
should get $2 billion in emergency operating aid. Human
Transit
has more on transit and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (a
continuation of a conversation we took
note of
last week). And Cap’n
Transit
looks at the pernicious effects of parking requirements.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter