Melbourne’s plague of advertising covered bikes

Earlier this year local newspaper The Age ran a piece titled Have bike, will bend the rules to peddle, detailing the plague of advertising covered bicycles that have appeared on bike racks around the Melbourne CBD:

Businesses in the CBD are using public bicycle racks as free outdoor advertising space to get around the council’s sandwich board permit laws.

Dozens of bikes fitted with advertising signage are being parked in bike racks on busy footpaths around the city, including Swanston, Elizabeth and Collins streets and Flinders Lane, promoting various businesses and enterprises, from theatre shows to cafes.

Business owners say it is the “only way” they can advertise to passing traffic because of the council’s “restrictive” street signage regulations.

So is it legal?

The City of Melbourne has confirmed it has received two complaints in the past two months about the practice and says it could be in breach of local laws.

“It’s often a question of degree. For example, if a normal, operating, commuter bicycle has a business name painted on the body of it, it wouldn’t be considered to be a portable advertising sign,” a Melbourne City Council spokeswoman said in a statement. “If, however, a reference to a business on a bicycle is considered to be a portable advertising sign, then a permit is required.”

She said such a breach would typically incur a warning in the first instance, but could incur a fine.

Some shops just tape a flyer to the back of any old bike they find.

'VCE study centre' advertising tied to a parked bike on Collins Street

Using an a-frame might be a bit more sturdy.

Another bicycle parked on Swanston Street, positioned for advertising purposes

But jerry rigging it to a milk crate is much easier.

'OM Vegetarian' advertisement tied to a parked bike on Swanston Street

Others build a fancy wooden board and choose a bicycle that is colour coordinated with their brand.

Seven parked bikes, three of them there for advertising purposes.

Fake flowers are a decorative touch.

Fake flowers tied around a parked bike advertising a clothes shop on Bourke Street

Building the sign into the frame of the bike is another way to advertise.

Bike covered with advertising, chained to a bike rack

Adding a bike trailer is one way to increase the advertising real estate you have available.

Bike with an advertising trailer, chained up to a bike rack

But you get a much bigger impact by attaching a massive banner to where the seat used to be.

Advertising banner attached to a chained up bike

You don’t need to have a low advertising budget to settle for a parked bike – how about a fancy printed sign attached to a parked electric scooter?

Wedding gown advertising tied to a parked electric bike on Collins Street

And it isn’t just businesses wanting to get their message across – religious evangelists have also discovered what a parked bike can do for them.

'Jesus died for our sins' poster tied to a parked bike at Federation Square

And finally – you don’t need to settle for a static advertisment – just pay someone to ride your new bike down Swanston Street.

Cyclists towing advertisements behind their bikes

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11 Responses to “Melbourne’s plague of advertising covered bikes”

  1. Mrk says:

    I love the ingenuity of this. I’d imagine business owners prefer it because they don’t need to pay people to hold the ‘golf sale’ signs all day long.

    People are always going to find a way of getting around whatever restrictions are put on them I guess.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      The newspaper article I linked to says that the Melbourne City Council permit for handing out flyers is $10 per day – it makes parking a bike outside your shop look even cheaper!

  2. […] Melbourne’s plague of advertising covered bikes * […]

  3. Jaxnemesis says:

    LOVE this post! I’m about to do a post on bike advertising and this is exactly what I need to link to, so thanks for already doing a lot of the hard work for me!


  4. […] have worked this out. On the excellent Waking up in Geelong

  5. Melanie Burge says:

    I just saw your post after writing to Melbourne City Council to complain that non-functional, unrideable, scrap metal bikes are taking up valuable bike parking space, depriving people who actually use them as transportation.

    The response:

    “Bikes being used for advertising purposes are not deemed to be abandoned – Local Laws Officers on routine patrols will confirm if the business is still operating and if it is still operating the bike is not deemed to be abandoned, so therefore council cannot act to remove the bike.

    If the business is no longer operating Local Laws Officers will arrange for the removal of the bike.

    Bike with Religious messages are covered by the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 and hence Council officers cannot act to remove these bikes either.”

    • Marcus Wong says:

      An interesting thing to compare would be how long it takes the council to remove a non-functional, unrideable, scrap metal bike that doesn’t have any advertising on it.

      It would be hard to tell if a random bike is abandoned, but a bike with signage on it has an obvious way to find the owner.

      The council could rule that “you can’t advertise on a bike” to clear them away, but that raises another quandary – what happens to someone who uses a bike to ride to work, then uses it to advertise their business during the day?

      • Melanie Burge says:

        “what happens to someone who uses a bike to ride to work, then uses it to advertise their business during the day?”

        – in that case the bike is evidently rideable. I’m talking about a bike with a chain rusted solid and the tyres perishing off the rims. That bike isn’t going anywhere, it’s just taking up rack space being an ugly billboard – it may not be ‘abandoned’ but for practical purposes it’s not a bike!

  6. […] I guess we should count ourselves lucky that these bike hoops were never noticed by business owners – advertising bikes are even worse. […]

  7. […] advertising towed around by pedal power are the cleanest […]

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