February 25, 1996


Is there any way we can fight the overwhelming dominance of the car culture and car-culture brainwashing? Did David have a chance against Goliath? Was it ever fashionable among intelligent people to smoke cigarettes?

Here's something you can do, BUT DO IT IMMEDIATELY. Also, send this e-mail message to anyone else you know anywhere in the U.S. who might take action.

Saab Cars USA has just mounted a print and broadcast campaign that has the following message: "You can rent a tandem bike for $10 a day or you can lease a Saab for $9 a day." The basic idea is that you are MUCH better off with a Saab--and furthermore a Saab is a lot cheaper!

Never mind the obvious stupidity and illogic of the message. Can anyone with enough money to buy a Saab be dumb enough to fall for this? Probably not. Far more insidious and evil, though, is the blatant put-down of bicycling and the strong anti-environmental, anti-cycling subtext. In a radio version of the ad I heard two days ago, a man and a woman are huffing and puffing on a tandem bike. The woman whines "Are we there yet?" Meanwhile, a presumably gorgeous, sexy couple are having a fabulous time as they VROOM away in a Saab that can go from 0 to 60 in a nanosecond. Give me a break!

Here's what you can do: Send either your own letter or any version of the following to James Crumlish, the president/CEO of Saab Cars USA. BUT DO IT IMMEDIATELY. Maybe if we flood them with letters we can succeed in killing the campaign. Which would mean we could chalk up a victory and even move on to another front. (How about bombarding Bicycling Magazine with letters threatening to cancel our subscriptions if they don't stop taking ads for huge, earth-plundering sport utility vehicles? They might as well call the magazine Truck Your Bike.)

DO NOT SEND E-MAIL. That's too easy to ignore. Print out a letter or card and mail it. You never spent such a worthwhile 32 cents. Here's a sample letter.

James Crumlish
President and CEO
Saab Cars USA
4405 A Saab Drive
Norcross, GA 30091

Dear Mr. Crumlish:

Usually Saab cars are associated with affluent people who make an intelligent decision when they buy a vehicle. But now, with its latest ad campaign comparing a Saab and a tandem bicycle, Saab has stumbled badly.

As you must be aware, the ads state that one can rent a tandem bike for $10 a day but lease a Saab for $9 a day. The obvious implication is that a Saab is much cheaper--and more fun to boot.

This is so patently absurd that it scarcely warrants discussion. Much more important, it compares an energy-devouring, polluting machine with the cleanest, most energy-efficient means of transportation known today. It deeply offends anyone who is committed to making the Earth less polluted, including those, like me, who choose to bicycle as much as possible as an alternative to more congestion and pollution caused by cars.

My suggestion: Pull the ad campaign immediately, get a new advertising agency, and make a very visible and public apology to environmentalists and bicyclists everywhere for this terrible blunder. A full-page apology in the New York Times would be an excellent start--it could be the first project you assign your new advertising agency. It would help to show that Saab is not only environmentally aware but that the company is "big" enough to publicly acknowledge a serious mistake.

At the very least I hope you will acknowledge this letter.


Hank Resnik
Bicycle-Friendly Berkeley Coalition

Hank Resnik 71210.2646@compuserve.com

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