ZipCar wants it both ways. On the one hand, they’re trying to get people on board with a Low Car Diet by encouraging them to walk, bike, take public transportation, or rent a ZipCar, instead of using their personal vehicles. It’s a great idea, because it helps people realize that they don’t need to drive as much as they do. But on the other hand, they’re running this ad:

If only there were some sort of carrying device for our papers…

Why do these people need a car? Because they’re carrying papers? Seems like they need backpacks or panniers or maybe a bike trailer (if they’ve got something really big); Copenhagenize shows us the full array of possibilities. Do they need a car because business people can’t ride in their suits and fancy shoes? Hardly. People ride to work in business attire (even heels) every day –if you give yourself enough time to get wherever you’re going, you won’t even be sweaty (just because you’re riding doesn’t mean you have to ride as fast as you can. Think of it like walking, but with wheels).

Finally, a direct counterexample to the ZipCar ad (although I don’t have a picture to prove it and you’ll just have to take my word for it). My sister is an architect in Brooklyn, and sometimes she has to go to meetings at the Buildings Department in Manhattan. Much like the people in this ZipCar ad, she gets on her bike in her work clothes with her blueprints and her papers, and whatever else she needs, and – guess what? She does not need a car. She gets there on her bike just fine.

So what is this ZipCar campaign all about? Is it really about the Low Car Diet and using cars less? Or is it about using ZipCars more? It’s too bad that ZipCar has decided to go this direction, and promote unnecessary car use instead of the Low Car Diet they initially propose. Because the truth is, they’re right – sometimes you just need a car, but getting to work or to a meeting isn’t necessarily one of those times. And while ZipCar might cost you less than owning a car, driving one isn’t doing the environment any favours; it’s extra wear on the roads; and it contributes to a sedentary lifestyle – especially if you could be riding a bike instead.

So how about we do ZipCar one better? Instead of a Low Car Diet, how about a No Car Diet?

The pannier holds all those papers after all…

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