On Wednesday morning, a crowd of sixty huddled in the parking lot of Malcolm X College, 1900 W. Jackson Blvd., clutching free hot cocoa and waiting for ex-Bears defensive end Richard Lamar Dent to cut the ribbon of the new protected bicycle lane on Jackson. What had drawn the crowd was not just the free hot cocoa or Mr. Dent’s willingness to pose for pictures, but fifty free, Advil-branded Citizen Gotham1 folding bikes to be raffled off.
Advil also gave the City of Chicago a snow removal and salt truck that fits in the new protected bike lanes. These donations are part of the drug company’s Congestion Relief Project marketing campaign to provide “the right relief for the real problem” for cities across the country. As part of the promotion Advil has also donated classroom space to an overcrowded New York City school. The company will select future projects out of proposals solicited from communities.
Considering the City of Chicago’s bleak financial outlook, it’s no surprise that City Hall accepted a free addition to its snow removal fleet with open arms. Speaking at the ribbon cutting, Chicago Department of Transportation Deputy Commissioner Luann Hamilton thanked Advil for the truck, which will help bicyclists get around Chicago’s snowy streets better this winter.
It was great that Advil was giving away free bicycles, including helmets, but it was too bad that the tires of the bikes weren’t properly inflated and quick-release levers were open, and that no one was on hand to demonstrate how to safely fold and assemble the cycles. One woman who received a bike got a crash course on safe riding from West Town Bikes instructor and J.C. Lind Bike Co. employee, Nathan Kemphues (full disclosure: we’re married).
After that, a small line formed behind Kemphues as the Advil staff referred bike recipients to the only professional mechanic in sight. While Advil’s generosity is great, giving away bikes in this condition was certainly shortsighted on the safety front. Riding a folding bicycle with improperly locked quick-release skewers is a significant danger. No wonder Advil had release forms on hand.
As communities struggle to close budget gaps, will more city services become branded by major corporations? The Advil Congestion Project snow removal truck is not likely to make me switch from store brand ibuprofen anytime soon. Considering the issues bicyclists face every winter, specifically bike lanes that are often full of snow plowed off the rest of the street, one can only hope that the attention paid to snow removal in protected bicycle lanes will eventually be paid to the humble painted bike lane as well.
Safety and branding concerns aside, the pure joy on the faces of some of the recipients of bicycles was unmistakable. “This is my Christmas present!” shouted one person to the crowd as he rolled away on slightly flat, Advil-yellow tires.