Alibi, a new London-based vitamin drink company, has produced a video showing the placement of stickered-up helmets meant to be used by Boris-bike hirers in London. The company is promoting its video – which contains news footage mentioning deaths of cyclists – by sending out identical, spammy tweets to cycle bloggers and cycling organisations.
The company has left 150 "one-size-fits-all" helmets at seven different locations in London. (Helmets are only effective when fitted properly, and are not designed for impacts with motor vehicles.)
The promotion is being coordinated by Alibi's PR company, Hope and Glory PR of London. A press release said "risk taking cyclists are rife on London’s roads, with just over half of commuters jumping on a Boris bike helmet-free."
The PR company's research was done by the PR company itself. Hope and Glory PR said its research echoed findings from 2012 which found that those who didn't wear helmets while cycling in London were doing so for "vanity related" reasons as well as having "the hassle of carrying a helmet around."
To combat this "Alibi has left bike helmets on Boris bike docking stations around London, with the hope that cyclists take the opportunity to wear them and leave them at their docking station destination for the next person." It might be nit-picking, but people tend not to like wearing headgear used by others.
If the campaign was created to cause a social-media backlash from cyclists in order to gain YouTube views – and viewing from non-cyclists perplexed at the social-media backlash from cyclists – the company and its PR agency has done an excellent job.
The campaign is being criticised on Twitter and on YouTube.
Karl Roche said: "Never heard of Alibi before, never gonna buy it now." Matthew Dartford criticised Alibi's use of the statistic that 14 cyclists were killed in London in 2013. He wrote: "This is dangerous territory. Most of those cyclists ... didn't die from head trauma, they died from internal injuries due to being hit by cars or being crushed by HGVs."
He added: "What you are doing here is insinuating the issue is lack of cycle helmets, which is factually wrong and potentially extremely dangerous. I would ask you to reconsider this campaign, perhaps you should campaign for real issues like speed limits or infrastructure?"
Clive Andrews agreed with this, telling the company "if you really want to improve the safety of riding in London, you'll need to do something to change the habits and dominance of drivers. But then, that makes it harder to leave branded swag lying around, I suppose."
Olly Bolton, co-founder of Alibi, said: “We left the bike helmets around London Boris bike stations as part of our strategy to promote healthy living in the capital city. There’s nothing better than jumping on a bike on a cold autumn morning, burning up to 650 calories per hour but the roads are often wet and the road traffic is a constant threat to cyclist safety."