A day to promote riding a motorcycle to work. How did a simple campaign idea quickly become an international phenomenon? We look at 30 years history of promoting a simple message from its birth in the US to its current form in the UK.
Dawn of a campaign
It all started in the US of A on the 22nd July 1992. This was the first Ride To Work Day event known to man. But the genesis of this event actually traces back to a 1989 T-shirt design created by the Aero Design and Manufacturing Company. Aero Design, a Minnesota based manufacturer of motorcycle riders clothing, came up with a slogan – “Work to Ride – Ride to Work”
The T-shirt design triggered the idea for a ride to work day in the mind of one Bob Carpenter. Bob wrote a column for Road Rider magazine. He commented in his column how neat he thought it would be if there was one day a year when everyone who owned a motorcycle used it to ride to work. The magazine’s editor commented in his editorial for May 1992 that “everyone seemed to think that a national ‘Ride To Work’ day was one heck of a good idea.” The campaign was officially born.
For eight years various motorcycle businesses informally promoted every third Wednesday in July as Ride To Work Day. The event continued to grow as an informal grass roots demonstration each year.
In 2000 a non-profit organisation – Ride to Work – was formed to help organise and promote Ride to Work Day. The first Ride to Work Day event led by this group took place on the third Wednesday in July of 2001.
By 2008, timings had changed to the third Monday in June, due to the weather. The campaign became truly international and a June date better accommodated riders worldwide, giving more opportunity to participate.
MAG’s US import
MAG met the US Ride To Work and ‘May is Motorcycle Month’ team during an international riders rights convention in 1994. Thinking it was a jolly good idea, the MAG delegation brought the concept back to ‘dear old blighty’. We got straight to work (by motorcycle of course) and organised early UK Ride To Work Day events.
By the time the 1990s were consigned to the history books, the UK campaign had grown into a cross-community initiative. The industry was funding headline events organised by MAG, the MCIA and other groups. Over a period of years, the popularity and style of the campaign evolved.
The underlying purpose of the campaign for MAG was about creating support for commuter motorcycling. MAG has always endeavoured to get policy makers to recognise and embrace the benefits of motorcycling and campaigners created a buzz through local radio and national media interviews.
The MCIA extended the campaign to a Ride To Work Week. Focus increased on riders’ breakfasts at motorcycle dealerships. Journey time surveys helped promote the underlying purpose of the campaign. In 2019 the MCIA discontinued Ride To Work Week, so MAG decided to revive the Ride To Work Day campaign.
We weren’t expecting a global pandemic at that point, and it certainly created interesting challenges for reviving the campaign. But the disruption and impact on motorcycling has created the perfect set of circumstances for us to focus wholeheartedly on the fun aspect of riding this year.
Here endeth the lesson
We shall waste no more time in this history lesson. You are getting restless. I can hear you flicking rulers and throwing paper darts in the back row.
The key things to remember are that riding to work is nothing new, but it certainly is fun. We haven’t been campaigning for 30 years to make life dull. Let’s get out there and have some fun. Everyone is welcome to join us!