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13 Comments

cityscape

MEC Advertising Ghost Bikes—No, Not Those Ghost Bikes

New campaign promotes a brand of bikes called Ghost, but also inadvertently evokes ghost bike memorials.

Photo by {a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/martinreis/6884429097/in/pool-89872566@N00"}Martin Reis{/a} from the {a href="http://www.flickr.com/groups/torontoist"}Torontoist Flickr Pool{/a}.

A few eyebrows shot up in Toronto recently, when passersby noticed the above ad at Mountain Equipment Co-op’s King Street location. It’s not, as you might think at first glance, a public awareness campaign about the perils of cycling, a way of picking up on the theme of the memorial ghost bike installations that appear in Toronto from time to time. This, instead, is an ad for a brand of bikes called Ghost—and the confusion is causing consternation among some cyclists.

Most often, the words “ghost bike,” when uttered in Toronto, refer to a certain kind of memorial: bicycles painted white and installed in remembrance of cyclists who have been killed while riding. Often, they are installed at the site of the fatalities. There was one outside City Hall in June 2010, in memory of Darcy Allan Sheppard. Most recently, one was temporarily put in at Dundas at Sterling, in memory of Jenna Morrison.

But Ghost is also, coincidentally, the name of a German high-performance brand of mountain bike, one that MEC recently announced it would be selling. The deal is exclusive and MEC is, according to their press release on the subject, the first North American retailer to sell Ghost bikes—which also means it’s a brand name many local cyclists aren’t familiar with.

MEC hadn’t returned our call as of press time, but here is the full text of a reply a MEC customer service representative sent to Toronto cyclist Martin Reis in response to the concerns he expressed about the ad campaign:

GHOST brand bicycles originated in Germany in 1993, a decade before bike memorials appeared in North America. The introduction of Ghost bike memorials in the UK and Europe has not been denigrated by the previous existence of the GHOST brand bikes in those countries; just as the co-existence of the memorials and the GHOST brand in Canada should not devalue the memorials here.

Apart from the name, moreover, GHOST bicycles bear no resemblance to bike memorials: were you to place one next to the other, the two would stand in sharp contrast. In short, GHOST bicycles are a performance-oriented product geared to meet the demands of cross-country, single-track and free-ride mountain biking.

I would also emphasize that MEC continues to support safe cycling. In addition to providing members with clothing and gear that makes them more visible and better protected, MEC also provides financial support for cycling advocacy and infrastructure. By working with cycling organizations and municipal planning authorities, our aim is to provide tangible changes that can reduce cycling accidents and fatalities.

The introduction of these bikes is squarely in line with MEC’s support of members’ cycling needs, and there was never an intention to devalue cycling memorials.

We spoke with Rick Conroy, who has previously helped organize ghost bike memorials in Toronto; his reaction is that the situation is both unfortunate and confusing. It’s not a matter of condemning MEC, which he said is clearly interested in bike advocacy, but his worry is that this will dilute the message ghost bike memorials are trying to convey. “I don’t like the idea and I think that MEC has such a strong presence in the cycling community that I’m a little surprised that they are not being more receptive to our concerns,” he said. “On the other hand,” he went on, “I’m not sure what MEC can do.” The manufacturer is hardly likely to let MEC rebrand their bikes, he pointed out, so there are a limited number of options available.

Conroy told us that ghost bike memorials date at least to the mid-’90s, but he couldn’t say whether they predated the creation of the Ghost bike brand. No matter the history, given that is the brand name, it seems MEC is in a bit of a bind. Short of deciding not to sell the bikes entirely, the store is bound to call the bike by its name—associations and all.

Comments

  • http://twitter.com/greenwoodinn Ed Horner

    No confusion in my mind what-so-ever. Bit of a tempest in a teapot. The Ghost memorials (recently on my street at Greenwood near Cosburn) honour cyclists and do a good service. I don’t imagine there will be much confusion in the mind of the public. Ed

  • MEC member

    MEC could sell the bike while scaling back the “ghost” advertising. That would be an appropriate nod to those who are remembered. No one will get confused on the showroom floor.

    • TomOn2wheels

      “The brand has nothing to do with the memorials, and does not diminish them in any way. There will be no re-branding”

  • Anonymous

    Only dumbasses will be confused and/or outraged. Next.

    • http://twitter.com/RespectTO ARC

      Troll.

      • Anonymous

        You seem to be mistaken – they’re Ghost Bikes, not Troll Bikes.

  • MHelmet

    Making a big deal out of something so ridiculous. GHOST brand pre-dates the memorials by a decade.

  • Dwight_js

    There is zero controversy here. The number of people in an uproar about this can be counted on one hand. The brand has nothing to do with the memorials, and does not diminish them in any way. There will be no re-branding, no scaling back of advertising, and no dishonour done to the memorials.

  • JoeAcylist

    Only does with a twisted and narrow minded will make such a connection and waste time writing articles…. enough said….
    There is by far much better subject to write about than the name of a brand of bicycles.

    You should focus on making street safe, trying to find and build solution for a car free city.
    I understand that we need to remember the people that passed, but that’s don’t by focusing our effort in making it a safer place to ride our bicycle and to actually ride them…. more rider on the street, the safer they will become. So MEC do sell do bicycle; I will be very happy to see more cyclist.

  • JoeAcylist

    * Only those with a twisted and narrow mind will make such a connection and waste time writing articles…. enough said….

  • JoeAcylist

    *I understand that we need to remember the people that passed, but that’s done by focusing our effort in making it a safer place to ride our bicycle and to actually ride them…. more rider on the street, the safer they will become. So MEC do sell do bicycle; I will be very happy to see more cyclist. (auto-correct…making mistakes)

  • Rider

    Sweet MEC finally got great mountain bikes.
    I don’t know ’bout you, but I don’t care ’bout the name of the bike. “I just want to ride my bicycle”

  • TomOn2wheels

    Are you kidding me, you are wasting time judging the name of the brand > that time should be spend looking at ways to help the cycling community and influence people to stop taking their cars in the city.