A clever public health campaign in Malmö, Sweden, is getting people onto bikes by making them feel silly for driving short distances when they could bike instead.

The campaign, called “No Ridiculous Car Trips,” was launched four years ago with the goal of getting people to stop using their cars for journeys of less than 5 kilometers, or about 3 miles. This video does a nice job of explaining how it works:

(Thanks to Copenhagenize, as always a great source for ideas about how to make bicycling look sexy and fun, for bringing it to our attention.)

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Malmö, home to nearly 700,000 people, was named on a list of 15 green cities by Grist back in 2007. The city’s planners have been improving bike infrastructure for years. They’ve built protected bike paths, installed railings for cyclists to hold on to at red lights (a surprisingly popular feature), and erected bike traffic counters.

But infrastructure alone won’t change ingrained habits, like hopping in the car to get a loaf of bread and some milk at the store just down the street. Malmö’s planners wanted to give people a friendly push to leave the two-ton metal boxes at home for shorter trips that could easily be biked.

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So they used humor, urging people to answer the question, “What is a ridiculous car trip?” and to share their own examples. The people with the most absurd entries won bicycles.

“It was almost like a confessional,” one of the city officials involved says in the video. “If you confess to a ridiculous car trip, then you’re done with it, and can switch to cycling instead.”

“We think a tongue-in-cheek approach will get us far,” says another person involved with the campaign.

The city also demonstrated the ease and speed of biking by having cyclists wearing distinctive orange vests and silver helmets ride typical routes and time their journeys.

The number of people in Malmö using bicycles for transportation has increased from 20 percent in 1995 to 30 percent today. One of the city’s traffic engineers said that he dreams of boosting that number to 50 percent one day.

“If the motorists tried cycling for just one day, I don’t think they’d go back to using the car,” says a Malmo official in the video. “It’s just so much quicker than the car. No queues, no stress. You travel independently of everyone else, and that’s a good feeling.”

In the United States, 72 percent of all trips of less than 3 miles are made in cars. For trips of less than 1 mile, the figure is 20 percent.

Ridiculous, right?

So do you have a ridiculous car trip story? Confess in the comments.