Bike Raps for Bike Racks

Originally posted on Active Living By Design.

So you’re sick of pollution and you’re stuck in that congestion? I got one suggestion: use a bike rack!

If the first line of lyrics in this rap video doesn’t reel you in, then maybe the dancing bus drivers in the background will. This bike-centric rap was created by the Transit Authority of River City (TARC) to educate Louisville, Kentucky residents on how to use the bike racks on TARC buses. Nina Walfoort, TARC’s director of marketing, is the mastermind behind TARC’s now locally famous bike rap.

Walfoort was inspired by her daughter’s music collection of mostly rap albums, and penned the song under the pseudonym Mama Jama. The song and accompanying instructional video were created in response to survey findings that young women in town would like to use the bus bike racks but didn’t know how. One focus group participant, a college-aged female, even suggested creating a video to teach people how to use the rack. Walfoort took the idea back to TARC, where she recruited some serious talent to create a bike rack rap video.

Mr. Theo, the rapper in the video, is a bus mechanic by day and musician by night. Walfoort only had to read a couple of lines of her new song before Mr. Theo agreed to take it on as his next project. Another quick and serendipitous event happened on the day of the recording. On the ground floor of the building where the recording studio was located is a salon were Mr. Theo recruited back-up singers. The video was shot in the city’s bus garage on a cold fall evening. After a brief audition, several bus drivers were chosen to be TARCettes, who dance near their buses as Mr. Theo coolly tells viewers how to use the bike racks.

TARC premiered the video internally, serving popcorn to staff while the TARCettes arrived in feather boas. Following external distribution, the video aired locally on television stations and received news coverage on television and in newspapers. However, it has gained the most steam online. “We wanted to experiment with new media. We wanted a completely different approach,” Walfoort explains. “Now it has spread like wildfire on YouTube!,” The video has over 20,000 views on the video sharing Web site, and it has been mentioned on numerous blogs.

Though produced with only $4,000, the bike rack rap’s successes are numerous. Use of the racks spiked when the video launched in February 2008, and ridership records were at all time highs in the subsequent months. The video has been shown at festivals around town, and it continues to gain momentum online. The Public Relations Society of America even honored Walfoort and team with a regional award for the video. In the wake of their successes, Walfoort hopes to conduct post-testing to see if usage among their target demographic of young women has increased since the video’s release.

Curious about what’s next for Mama Jama? Be on the look-out for a viral video called “Act a Fool” intended to raise awareness about loud and disruptive behavior on Louisville’s city buses. In the mean time, how about letting Mr. Theo and the TARCettes teach you how to use those bus bike racks?

Bring it down, pull the bar
Put it on, put it on
Take it off, put it up
Then you’re done, then you’re done!

And if hip-hop ain’t your thing, no worries: the marketing gurus behind TARC recently unveiled a new music video, “That’s the Way I Roll,” written by bus driver Dan Ridener and his friends.

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