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Nice people always Share the Road

Nice people always Share the Road

Share the Road is a joint awareness campaign produced by Share the Road Cycling Coalition, CAA, and the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, featuring creative work from Toronto ad agency Top Drawer. Television, radio, print and digital advertisements will run in Ontario, Canada this summer with the support of broadcast and print media partners. Here’s the 30 second spot.

This PSA feels warm and pleasant. The score is soothing and dream-like. You might note that “moving in slow-motion accompanied by gentle piano music” is not typically representative of an experience cycling in the city, or navigating around cyclists as a driver.

The call to action is similarly soft: “Let’s share the road”.

We already share it, whether we like it or not, that’s sort of the problem.

It feels like this spot is asking us to acknowledge that we all drive in the same space. Sure we do, but how can we improve our behaviour on both sides to reduce accidents?

The campaign’s stated goal: “reminding Ontarians – motorists and bicyclists – of the importance of sharing the road” could be clearer to me. What is important when “sharing the road” ? Should we slow down, check our blindspots more often, learn appropriate traffic laws, advocate for bike lanes or cycle super highways? Let’s assume “Don’t run over a cyclist” and “Don’t peddle into cars” are understood.

Eleanor McMahon, CEO and founder Share the Road Cycling Coalition, spoke about the campaign objectives in Marketing Magazine: “We need to inject a human element, because from my perspective cycling can sometimes be a very polarizing conversation. We knew we needed to change that paradigm of ‘them versus us.’”

Certainly, the dialogue between cyclists and motorists can sometimes seem a bit heated in Ontario. However, the idea that people on bikes are motorists themselves and have loved ones too shouldn’t be a shocking insight. Is negative tension between drivers and cyclists the cause of accidents?

The Ontario Cycling Death Review included very specific recommendations for reducing fatalities in accidents involving cyclists. The report suggested mandatory helmet use, cycling safety education, funding for infrastructure changes, side-guards on trucks, and a one-metre rule for vehicles. When discussing contributing factors in fatal accidents, driver speeding, lack of a helmet, and driver and cyclist distraction topped the coroner’s list.

The Share the Road PSA feels very Canadian to me. It’s calm, nice, and it’s conciliatory. If you are a cyclist or a driver, what do you remember about this ad? Will you do something differently the next time you’re on a bike or in a vehicle?

Compare it to a classic safety PSA, also in the genre of “telling an emotional story in slow-motion accompanied by piano”:

I know what I have to do here. Put on a seatbelt the next time I get in a car.

Share the Road’s website says this PSA is “just the beginning” of a province-wide public awareness campaign. As many non-profit campaigns have limited viewership time to speak to their audiences; I’d love to see more focused messaging in future spots. It’s true that we can all be kinder to each other on the road, as well as make behavioural changes that will improve our chances of avoiding serious accidents.


On an updated note … One commenter here suggests the final shot contains some dubious cycling best practices. In fact, riding side-by-side is not a violation of the Ontario Highway Traffic Act but is a ticketing offense in some cities (like Toronto) under city by-laws. Thanks to the experts on Facebook who schooled me on the law!

Share the Road Cycling Coalition
Top Drawer
Marketing Magazine

I am Director of Digital Philanthropy at Artez Interactive and not-for-profit veteran. Read more