Peace in the Streets: Spreading the Message by Dave Snyder, SFBC Executive Director

This month's "peaceful coexistence" campaign is the biggest public relations effort the SFBC has ever undertaken. We'll have 45 transit shelters and two huge wallscapes. Our message will be coordinated with a campaign by the Department of Parking and Traffic that includes 50 posters on the backs of buses, complete "wraps" of the backs of 10 buses, thousands of bumper stickers and scores of permanent street signs.

If we're lucky, it will stir up some controversy, because the more discussion we can generate about road rage, the better.

There's no denying the SFBC has an image problem. When I introduce myself as the director of the Bicycle Coalition, far too often people ask me, "Are you the people who organize that Friday night ride?" That's the response I get in polite settings. In response to a survey we conducted to prepare for our campaign, people asked if we were "those &*@#$ who mess up traffic on Friday night."

This campaign is the first step in a public relations blitz designed to position the Bicycle Coalition as "those effective advocates who push for safe streets for bicyclists and everybody else." Other goals of the campaign include imparting specific safety messages (like, check for bikes before opening your door) and getting people to visit our web site and call our hotline, where they can learn more about peaceful coexistence, and how easy and fun and safe it can be to ride a bike.

Our transit shelters depict really angry people (hopefully, looking pretty silly in their anger). By addressing directly the image of road rage, we hope to spark a discussion on the topic. We want to steer the discussion towards the idea that, for safety's sake, we shouldn't be yelling at each other, but at the policy makers who let the roads be designed so poorly.

This campaign will be followed with further messages of peaceful coexistence, focusing on a more purely positive message to encourage more people to try bicycle riding. Picture the "San Francisco Soccer Mom" riding in the Valencia bike lanes with a soccer ball in the handlebar basket and a couple of kids following her on their own bikes. Maybe the San Francisco Soccer Mom should be a man!

Special thanks to Pacific Bell for providing the bulk of the financing for the transit shelters. The developers of the reduced-parking office and housing complex at China Basin Landing also helped with another big chunk of money. And the talented people at Publicis Dialog who are developing the campaign for us, pro bono, have been outstanding!