live|work: We Own The Streets


Just love this New York image posted on PSFK recently. Bicycles in New York don't seem to quite yet "Own the street", unless you count cycling the wrong way up the street head-on into the traffic, but they could. Or, they are coming. If they are seen on PSFK it means something is a coming. And another one of their trends is relevant to introduce here, that is something they call "branded utility", which means building brands (marketing) through useful services that play a role in our lives and/or participate in social change. Sound Treehugging? Maybe. Here's a version of branded utility that's ready to be exported from Norway and currently being celebrated for its design excellence on lifeiscarbon. And is quite Treehugging. It is a model that combines advertising space, advertising and public access to bicycles. Here goes. ClearChannel Adshel sell ad space AND "Want to participate in making the public environment more comfortable and functional" — they are combining advertising space with utility. And as part of their clever strategy they have given Norway, and soon to be other Europeans cities, access to public bicycles under the Citybikes scheme. Maybe they could come and take over the streets in New York. (I expect lots of comments about this idea!).

Citbikes system is seen as a means of integrating transportation and connecting the city: the bikes overlap various transport routes. The service provides access to mobility without needing to own your own bike. They have over 100 bike racks and 1200 bikes in Oslo alone. You subscribe to the service, pay a small fee and use your member card to access the bikes all over the city. The system is supported by revenue from the street ad space.

So, you no longer need to purchase, store and maintain a bike to move around on one. We love it: it's nearly free, it's green, it is a beautiful example of customer-led design thinking and it turns marketing into a utility.

Why aren't bike manufacturers selling services like this in cities all over? Raleigh bikes in the UK has been struggling for years to increase bike sales and make cycling sexy, even at a time when the country is facing an obesity epidemic and cities are suffering major congestion problems!! The major barriers to cycling in the UK are: storage, theft and lack of sex appeal. Citybike addresses all of these things by combining a bespoke service-ready bicycle design and a great bit of service innovation. And it has the potential to socialise cycling: making it something we participate in, as a group, under the Citybike membership. With enough members, there is potential to "Own the streets".

Streetcar in the UK and Zipcar in the US are doing a similar thing offering pay-as-you-go car services for urban dwellers. The cars are accessed for use but not owned by individuals, but the car manufacturers are missing a trick: they should be delivering the service and providing networked service-ready vehicles. 'Access over ownership' is emerging a potent economic model in the 21st century and they are not on it. And a new worldview — maybe?

Written by Tamara Giltsoff

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