THE CHALLENGE: GETTING DUTCH BIKES TO CHANGE THE WAY AMERICANS GET AROUND
Urban planning is much more than deciding where the best location for a park is. While that is important, urban planning is fundamentally about improving the quality of life of a city’s residents. NADC is a Dutch urban planning consultancy that operates in New York and Europe, providing Dutch investors with project opportunities.
NADC approached us with the task of bringing Dutch bicycles to New York City. If Dutch bikes and the culture surrounding them become popular, there will be more opportunities for future urban planning projects (and NADC) to help the city embrace the Dutch biking lifestyle. More importantly, could the quality of life of Americans be improved? We quickly realized this wasn’t about selling bikes, but changing people’s lives.
THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS.
The American biking scene, especially in New York City, is focused on speed and “getting there”. Bike messengers dart in and out of traffic, commuters in spandex are trying to get to work on time and trying just as hard to avoid being hit by taxis. Riding a bicycle can be quite intimidating at times and is definitely stressful.
Despite the stress, the number of bike riders in the city has increased although it is barely comparable to Amsterdam. There are over 200,000 bicyclists now, only amounting to 3% of New York City’s population. That being said, there are plenty of places to buy a bike. In New York City alone, there are close to 300 bike shops, carrying hundreds of different bike brands.
This atmosphere of speed and stress is not one conducive to selling Dutch bikes or using them for everyday living. For one, Dutch bikes are for the most part bigger, heavier, and sturdier than the regular bikes found in New York, which are built to be fast and nimble. Secondly, the purpose of selling Dutch bikes is to help with New Yorkers’ quality of life.
The NY bike culture is just a reflection of a greater American focus on crossing the finish line. With this attitude, relationships tend to suffer, quality is sacrificed for efficiency, and missed connections abound. So, we couldn’t infiltrate the existing bike culture but had to create another context within which to sell Dutch bicycles.
AN EQUAL AND OPPOSITE REACTION.
While the majority of Americans are rushing from one meeting to another, running errands, taking phone calls during dinner, multitasking, and not taking vacations, there is a quiet movement that is slowly gaining traction.
It’s a movement grounded in quality over quantity, richness of experiences and relationships over breadth of accomplishments. It’s a movement that values made from scratch, homegrown, acoustic, local, new friends, detours, and all the stories that come from those. It is called the Slow Movement. Slow is not a speed but a way of life, taking time to make connections while respecting process and craft. Slow is appreciating each moment without always having one eye on the future. People work so hard, but to what end if they are not enjoying life?
We realized that this cultural movement was the perfect context to sell Dutch bikes in New York City - the city that never sleeps because it’s going a mile a minute. Slow is also what is at the center of Dutch life and has been for centuries.
Dutch bikes could help New Yorkers slow down and discover a different way of getting around, literally but also metaphorically, coming to the realization that life at a slower speed can be that much more fulfilling.
What if we could create a brand that became the purveyor of a slow lifestyle? A brand that came to represent life as it was meant to be experienced, slowing down to find beauty in nuance and craft.
We named it Rolling Orange.
The gerund “rolling” refers to motion in action, but a very paced, gentle movement. Orange is a very Dutch color, friendly and warm. The name was original and from there we had to create a logo that could become the symbol of a lifestyle, not something generic. This simple yet very expressive logo looks like an orange but also like an abstract representation of a bicycle wheel. To compliment the simplicity of the symbol, we choose a very clean color palate for the brand – orange, white, bronze and grey.
CREATING A COMMUNITY BRAND THROUGH A RETAIL SPACE.
We decided with NADC that the best place to bring this idea to life would be through bike shops. The first location we picked was a community-focused, friendly neighborhood in Brooklyn, called Cobble Hill.
This store had to be more than a place where bicycles were sold. It had to become a center for community, challenging the fast life and becoming a symbol of slowing down. And it had to be the first of many to come, around the country.
With bicycles hanging from the ceiling, a slow manifesto on the wall, and bicycles parked in front, on display, the store gives off a welcoming vibe, inviting people to come in and spend time. There is even a section for children, where they can color and play with blocks.
SPARKING A SLOW REVOLUTION.
A launch party seemed like the perfect way to introduce Rolling Orange to the neighborhood and open its doors for the first time. But first, we had to let everyone know of our existence. We created posters inviting people to our launch party. These were handed out along with sticker branded oranges to neighborhood shops, cafes, as well as farmers markets and fruit stands. The posters were also sent to prominent New York bicycle blogs and local Brooklyn blogs, who in turn blogged about the new store opening and launch party.
We also activated the digital component of Rolling Orange by creating a website. The site, www.rollingorangebikes.com, was designed with the same feeling as the store. It features every bike sold in store, with in-depth descriptions and specs, and similar to the store, the site helps the Rolling Orange community get together. But instead of trying to create a brand-new network, we leveraged the existing power and reach of Facebook. The Facebook page encourages friends to share their “slow” stories, gives event updates and is an easy way for the brand to communicate with its followers.
Rolling Orange opened its doors on June 12th, 2010 to a warm, receptive crowd. There was locally catered food and acoustic music played by a local artist. In a playground a few doors down, people were able to test out various Dutch bikes, getting a feel for the comfortable ride. Back at the store, people were mingling, learning about Dutch culture, exploring the bicycles, and taking in every moment of a lovely Saturday. The party set the stage for what Rolling Orange could offer the neighborhood, a living manifestation of the slow lifestyle.
SLOW IS PICKED UP FAST.
It’s been almost two months since Rolling Orange was launched and the brand is off to an impressive start. It has been warmly embraced by the community, with new visitors coming to the store every day as word spreads. Rolling Orange was featured in various online and print publications, including a NY Times article in the Fashion & Style section. Local blogs posted positive reviews of the opening event. The website , www.rollingorangebikes.com received upwards of 8,000 hits in just the first few days. And in store, more than 75% of the bicycle inventory has already been sold or pre-ordered!
Dutch bikes have officially arrived in New York City. We understood that amidst all the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple, people are searching for ways to stop, take a deep breath, and actually enjoy life at this very moment. Not this weekend, or on vacation, or even at retirement. Today. Now. Rolling Orange gives that to people – a physical space, a way to get around, and a philosophy for life. And this is only the beginning.