A unique event has been the center of attention in Bucharest last weekend. Called SkirtBike, its purpose was to show that each woman’s style should in no way be impaired by the fact she is riding a bike. It challenged women to show up for a bike meet wearing skirts, dresses or whatever suited their mood and personal approach to fashion. Organized by local NGO promoting bicycles and cyclists rights and their blogging project VeloBello, the event reached quite powerful sponsors and media partners: Avon, Garanti Bank, Ideal Bikes, Veloteca, Raid Extrem, and the media support of Radio Guerrilla, One, Hotcity.ro, MBike, bicla.ro and others.
VeloBello and the NGO behind it (Bate saua sa priceapa iapa – unfortunately only native Romanian speakers can properly appreciate the name, literally ‘hit the saddle for the mare to get it’) chose a full flavored online approach for their event promotion. Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, they lined up their best efforts to reach those interested and get them to show up for the bike ride. And I have to admit it was quite a big success, given that a few hundred ladies proudly wearing amazing outfits (often including high heels) showed up on their bikes in spite of the heavy rain. And a fairly numerous team of gentlemen accompanied them :)
The event was greeted with quite a lot of photo and video coverage from both professionals and amateurs. Plus the obvious coverage of event attendees, quite a few having their own blogs or online magazines, or displaying photos on their Facebook accounts. To further capitalize the interest in the event, VeloBello launched a photo contest, encouraging all participants to show off their snapshots of the event.
SkirtBike was exactly as it should have been: fun, colorful, friendly, but most of all encouraging. In a city where bike riding in general is not always a bliss and where women would not have chosen skirts as proper outfit, many of them will turn to this Eco-friendly vehicle more often than before. And as the main purpose was to raise awareness, I honestly think they have succeeded, reaching the participants, their friends and families, the local Facebook and blogging communities, and the passing by drivers seeing the long line of bikes in their journey.
As a participant and a PR professional I admit being impressed by SkirtBike and the urban cycling community in general. They seem to be mastering the online, they know how to build relationships and how to raise awareness among those who they can actually rely on. Many events get the initial coverage they desire, but few survive a downside such as heavy rain even if they don’t imply a few kilometers of riding a bike in said bad weather.