Lately I’ve noticed bicycles popping up all over the place in real estate advertising and promotions, mostly for condo developments. Here are some examples:
I feel conflicted about the use of bicycles and cyclists in Vancouver’s real estate marketing.
On the positive side, I see the message: “You can live here and bike everywhere. You don’t need a car!” The ads are somewhat flattering, too, because they suggest cycling is youthful, hip and sustainable. One-bedroom units in a few of these developments were actually priced within reach of some first-time home buyers who have a strong desire to live in the city in walkable neighbourhoods, near bike routes, and next door to excellent transit. The other message here is that bikes sell and given all the drama over Vancouver’s separated bike lanes, this isn’t a bad message to convey to businesses and the public.
On the other hand, however, I’m skeptical about the use of bike culture in real estate advertising. In my (admittedly narrow) view, bike culture is largely about community. Consider Critical Mass (whatever you think of it), collective bike shops like Our Community Bikes, free grassroots festivals like Velopalooza and Car Free Vancouver Day, the free bike program and Womyn on Wheels fix-your-bike nights organized by PEDAL, bike sharing (hopefully coming soon to Vancouver!), and more. Perhaps the message in the advertising is that you will find a community of like-minded cyclists in Vancouver’s condo developments. The reality, as we all know, is that Vancouver’s housing remains severely unaffordable.
Many Vancouverites, particularly 20- and 30-somethings, can’t afford to stay in this city long-term even though many already belong to communities and neighbourhoods they love. Take Luke Brocki’s Priced Out Series in the Tyee, for example. He says he doesn’t want to leave Vancouver for the suburbs because: “I lament the lack of tool libraries and community bike shops, protests and assemblies, fringe cultural programming, late-night pizza joints and live music options.” Vancouver’s real estate market remains exclusive and it’s probably no surprise that someone scrawled “another fucking condo” on the Bluetree Homes advertisement. We have an affordability crisis in this city that forces young Vancouverites and young families, in particular, to ask themselves whether they will be able to put down roots here as owners or renters. I support dense urban development (not only in the form of towers), but when it is priced beyond the means of most, it threatens communities that already exist.