28 April 2010

Shoot! TfL create new Superhighways ad

TfL were shooting a new ad for Cycle Superhighways last night outside Kennington Tube.

These are the cycling models you'll see on the lead image in the next campaign trumpeting the arrival of CS3, Barking to Tower Gateway, the first of the Superficial Cycleways to be opened.

We chatted to the friendly and helpful production team, who are shooting in four locations for the campaign. (They called them 'executions', not the most encouraging piece of jargon in a cycle safety context.)

The affable props buyer was responsible for sourcing the bikes. He cheerily admitted he was not a cyclist and had chosen them on the basis of colour coordination rather than, say, the presence of mudguards or racks. Fair enough - it accurately reflects the choice process of the average commuter, I suppose. The bikes came brand-new from a shop but no, before you ask, they go back there after the shoot.

We were requested not to take photographs of the snapper at work. Apparently he's a bit touchy about that sort of thing. Hmm. If he doesn't like the idea of members of the public taking photographs in a public place, then he's in the wrong job. He should be a Met police officer instead.

Talking of police, there were a few on hand to stop and direct the traffic while the shoot was taking place, to give space to the models. If coppers shooing away the traffic is to be a permanent feature of the Superlieways when they arrive later this summer then we're all for it.

We think the production team made the right choices over the models: a fair, slightly aspirational, representation, and good to see half of them weren't wearing helmets and one had a wicker basket.

I've encountered or been part of various meeja shoots (the previous one being the 2009 Doctor Who Christmas Special, shot in Camberwell in July with fake snow) and they're always the same. Most of the time nothing happens. Everyone on the team sits around swopping tales of when they worked with Robbie Williams, while the cameraman frets over an intruding leaf, the soundman complains about a passing jumbo, and the director fumes in the distance on a mobile phone. It takes all day to get three minutes of footage or a handful of usable pictures. It's just the way things are. The production team here were amiable and courteous and I hope they got the result they wanted.

The director (?producer) Zara, who is a cyclist, seemed a bit surprised by my unenthusiasm for the 'safe, direct and continuous' Superhighways though. Um, er, they're a blue stripe on the road, I said. (Hey, TfL, maybe I'd feel different if I was being paid to promote them, instead of just having to ride them.)

Anyway: why did they choose Kennington? Because, even though there's no blue paint here yet (it'll be Photoshopped in later, presumably - that's all they have to change, after all) it's good for shooting, being a long straight road with a clear London feel to it.

Compare that, for instance, to this stretch of the same route a little further south, on Clapham Road, snapped last week. It's got the bluewash already on it - but, you know, it doesn't quite say, 'London' as much, does it? Or, indeed, 'safe' or 'continuous'.


  1. To me that has London written all over it - traffic, cranes, white vans, odd road markings.

    Anyway forgetting for a moment about the drivers getting in some early blocking the cycle lane practice, what's the purpose of the gap in the blue paint behind the lorry?

    Does it indicate that cyclists have to get off and walk over that bit, or are they planning to put in a ramp so we can jump over it?

  2. pedestrian crossing, I'd say.

  3. Are you serious ? They really had the police stop traffic to make the roads look better for cycling ? That's beyond bizarre. Thanks for letting people know.

    It's really time that they got beyond tokenism, and started spending money on actually changing the environment for cycling instead of on models, props, the police and film-crews to attempt to make what is there look more attractive than it actually is.

  4. @David
    yes indeed, even TfL doesn't believe its own propaganda.
    I was at TfL last week, wile looking at their intranet welcome page, I came accross a short article about the cycle rental scheme. They are actually recruiting amount their staff some coordinators for the launch of the cycle rental scheme. Fine so far. As part of the job, people have to travel from docking station to docking station ...by bike. Therefore, on the same nore, the TfL added "people volonteering for this position will need to be confident about cycling in London"

    Clearly cycling in London is not for everyone...

  5. Seems fair enough to me - cycling will never be for everyone.
    But what does 'recruiting amount their staff' mean?

  6. @Tim
    They offered to their staff to "volonteer" as a coordinator during their normal office hours for the launch of the scheme (just one day or two)

    I really think that cycling should be for everyone (nearly everyone). I have seen in Belgium special bikes for disabled people who can hardly walk but are fully mobile on a bike! I have seen in the netherlands old people in their 80s roaming on their bikes dispite their difficulty to walk a fews meters!

  7. ah, amount = among, ok, ta.

  8. Indeed Oldboy, cycling can be for everyone. It's quite normal here for all kids to cycle to school, including those in wheelchairs who ride handcycles. For everyone to be able to get to the supermarket by bike, including pensioners and again people with handcycles.

    In Dutch law, a wheelchair is considered equivalent to a bicycle.

    There are very few people who really can't cycle in any form at all.