Can a Reality TV Show Sell You a $2,298 Electric Bike?

In Stockholm, Daniel and Ludo follow the beacon to a group of apartment buildings. As they question the residents, Daniel absorbs “super-tense” energy from a man who runs away before they can approach him. Searching the area, they discover a telltale VanMoof handlebar sticking out of a balcony. Daniel uses a digital signal to verify that it is Ludo’s bike and then calls the police, who help with the recovery. Overjoyed, Ludo jumps up and rides off.

“Bike Hunters” takes a product category with massive potential to increase community good, and then talks about it in a surprisingly goofy way: via reality TV-tinged short videos about young people sometimes conducting terribly inefficient home rescue operations. (In two early episodes, several VanMoof employees flew from the Netherlands to Ukraine and Romania, spending days and considerable amounts of carbon on the trails of bikes they never found.) The show can be a bit goofy. This is exactly why it feels incredibly important.

Think of cars, the heart of the problem that e-bikes promise to solve. Much of the dominance of automobiles in the transit culture of the United States stems from the accumulated power of a century of political decisions. But the great success of the car in infiltrating every corner of our culture also needs to be acknowledged. We encounter cars in advertisements, in films, in song lyrics; They’re strong, they’re sexy, they’re fun.

‘Bike Hunters’ doesn’t exist to make you feel guilty, but to make you want a fancy bike.

Bicycles, on the other hand – the everyday type that gets from A to B – are offered as a vegetable with a steak in the car. Prudent and responsible perhaps. Powerful and sexy, definitely not. Ditto for public transit and walkable neighborhoods, options often presented in the sober register of a nonprofit report. There is talk of safety, public health and the negative aspects that we could avoid: death and injury numbers, pollutant emissions, congestion statistics. We only hear about fun and enjoyment, if at all, in footnotes and marginal notes. This dynamic applies far beyond the transit. Eating less meat, buying less clothing, wearing masks indoors during a disease outbreak: Too often, interventions that have been proven to be good come over scathing admonitions to eat our vegetables, both real and metaphorical. Not because the veggies are delicious, but because eating steak is bad for the planet and we should know better. Can a Reality TV Show Sell You a $2,298 Electric Bike?

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