A Kelowna B.C. cycling advocate says a fitness studio's guerilla marketing campaign using bright, orange bicycles chained to bike racks is insensitive to the tradition of remembering cycling deaths with white "ghost bikes."

The orange-painted bicycles started appearing around Kelowna about two weeks ago.

The bikes are spray painted bright orange — similar to the colour of safety vests — and often chained to City of Kelowna bike racks.

Cycling advocate Landon Bradshaw noticed one of the bicycles and wondered who was responsible for placing them around Kelowna. 

"It's definitely something to talk about," he said.

Confusion with 'ghost bike' memorials

Bradshaw and other members of the Kelowna Area Cycling Coalition put up white-painted bicycles commonly called 'ghost bikes' at two locations in Kelowna last year.

Kelowna ghost bike

Landon Bradshaw (left) and the Kelowna Area Cycling Coalition install a 'ghost bike' at the spot where a cyclist was killed in traffic in 2015. (Landon Bradshaw)

Ghost bikes have appeared in cities around the world as a memorial for a cyclist killed in traffic.

"They serve to remind people about what can happen when bikes and cars come into conflict," according to Bradshaw.

Bradshaw and other members of the cycling coalition hoped the orange bikes were put in place by somebody to draw attention to cyclist safety.

"Sort of like a caution bike campaign that was started down in Kansas City," he said. "So that is what we were thinking — that some other group had gone ahead and put up some bikes around areas where other cyclists had gotten injured, or they felt was a place to call out safety for cyclists."

Guerilla marketing

But it turns out the orange bicycles in Kelowna have nothing to do with cyclist safety.

The bicycles are being used by Orangetheory Fitness as a guerilla marketing campaign in advance of a studio opening in Kelowna this spring.

"It's a fun marketing promotion," said operations manager Ryan Williams. "People associate the colour with our brand. We rotate (the bikes) around town for a few weeks and we've got a good response from it so far."

Williams and his partner have six orange bikes they rotate around to different locations in Kelowna.

Orangetheory Fitness

Oangetheory Fitness has used orange bicycles as a guerilla marketing tool in cities around North American and Europe whenever it opens a new location. (Brady Strachan)

The fitness studio was aware of the idea of ghost bikes, but didn't think their bikes would be confused with memorial bikes, according to Williams.

"To be honest we didn't really relate the two, and from our experience talking to people, it hasn't really come up," he said. "I would hope someone wouldn't associate (our orange bikes) with that. It's obviously a very serious thing,"  he said.

Bradshaw thinks the fitness studio's campaign wasn't properly thought out. 

"It feels a bit disrespectful for the people that the current ghost bikes represent," he said.

A spokesperson for the City of Kelowna said a bylaw officer is looking into the situation, as the city's bike racks aren't meant to be used for advertising purposes.