American Graffiti

I think it started last year but it’s back for 2010: the Livestrong foundation is painting the roads of France with various message. Using a giant version of an inkjet printer, a “paintjet” if you like, “people from everywhere can spread messages of hope and cancer survival to an entire world, on the streets” according to this promotional video. In simpler terms people can leave messages on a website which are then painted at points along the route of each stage.

Maybe it’s a noble idea but I worry it’s just a cheap stunt. Why? Well two things stand out. First the messages are near-impossible to read. TV images just show a blur and even a passing cyclist at 25km/h finds their speed means the text is illegible. Second, painting the roads of France with English-language messages just leaves the locals perplexed.

I remember seeing this last year near the Ventoux and local cyclists thought it was viral marketing from Nike. Worse, the painting seems to happen in odd places, it’s traditional to paint names on the climbs but Livestrong have been daubing villages with yellow paint. I did fear this paint was inappropriate, leaving paint all over France.

But it turns out the messages of hope are eradicated the next day. A reader has been in touch:

Saw your tweet about the Livestrong chalkbot. Don’t worry, turns out they wash the paint away. The day after the Tour rolled through I saw a big yellow truck cleaning the road with a high pressure hose and a brush. I thought the local authorities were forced to clean up but a closer look and all the staff were wearing Livestrong hats.

Thanks for the information and the same reader has supplied the photos as proof.

The clean up in progress

Note the Livestrong logo

Ironically the images were painted all over the stretch of road just after Lance Armstrong crashed on a roundabout. Maybe they provided too much motivation for him to get back to the bunch as he blew soon after the words ended.

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