Capitalizing on Disaster?

There’s been a spate of Tweets and articles circulating in the cycling world about how Tokyo commuters, stranded by a lack of transit due to the recent earthquake, cleaned out bike shops in the city, looking for a way to get home. Frankly, it rubs me the wrong way and you better believe I’m not going to link to them to prove my point.

While I appreciate the utility of a bicycle when other options fail, I’m not sure crowing about it is a great reflection on active transportation. I doubt many bike boosters would disagree with Naomi Klein’s distaste for Disaster Capitalism, but using the actions of desperate people without options to promote increased transportation choices is a questionable move, both for the potential of a PR backlash and the fact that the tragedy-fuelled uptick in sales isn’t really the same as somebody choosing to give up their car or bus pass, for all the reasons typically put forth by the cycling community.

Imagine the outrage from cycling advocates if a car company ran a marketing campaign promoting their vehicles as a solution to a commuter train derailment.  What do you think? Am I being overly sensitive, or is it OK to capitalize on a disaster in this manner?