Apparently there’s a bit of foofa going on about Cycle Chic.
Some are complaining that the “Cycle Chic” movement is too sexist – using imagery of svelte 20-somethings to promote cycling. Now, the line between the “movement” and the person behind the movement is getting a little blurry. And the Twitter insults are flying like fur at a cat fight.
Of course, if you look at the original Cycle Chic website (and companion Copenhagenize website that deals with the nitty gritty of advocacy) – you’ll see a wide range of citizens, both men and women, riding bikes. Not all are 20, blond and wearing short skirts billowing in the breeze. (Although, hey, it makes for nice photos.)
Fashion makes the concept of cycling more accessible – making the bike simply an accessory to an outfit. Let’s be frank. You’re not going to win over every potential new cyclist by throwing out technical jargon about Sturmey-Archer gears, dynamo-whatnots and lugged frames. The fashion angle allows for another entry point to the otherwise unfamiliar world of bikes.
Could I do without one more Momentum magazine cover photo of a perky looking woman with a “see this is so easy” grin on her face? Yes. But I’m already a convert.
Start looking around, you’ll see it. Who is on the cover of Ottawa’s bike map? Who is featured in the Enviro Centre’s bike safety videos? A young woman.
Who sells laundry detergent, dish soap and lunch box snacks? Women.
It’s no surprise that marketers know that winning over women is the key to a bigger market share for their product or service.
But, it’s a narrative that gets stale when women start feeling pigeon-holed into certain roles and behaviours. (Which is why we are starting to see men doing household chores in commercials. But how many decades of fabric softener ads did we all endure before we saw a dude sorting out whites on air? Exactly.)
It’s time to expand the narrative of chicness. Show me the mom who carts her six kids around. Show me a grandparent getting groceries. Show me a group of friends with their bikes at a café.
No one is attacking the Sartorialist for taking photos of beautiful pedestrians. There is no pedestrian chic movement. No one needs to learn how to walk.
Overall, I support the Cycle Chic movement for showing people riding in their regular clothes: men, women, parents. And personally, I don’t care if “regular clothes” means businesswear or yogawear, heels or flats. Some people have the luxury of only riding short distances and can cycle in their work clothes, others prefer to change. Some of us ladies, just don’t like heels. Period.
Personally, I’m more concerned about people choosing reliable bikes that won’t break down or mess up their clothes and bikes that will carry their things in order to make using it fun and practical. Fun enough that they won’t want to stop.
If showing aspirational photos of fashionable people riding bikes gets more people interested in riding – that’s great. Really great.
(Could I have done without the Cycle Chic manifesto item about your outfit costing more than your bike? Yes. Every single outfit I own fails this test. And I don’t care. I love my bikes.) And maybe the city-specific spin-off Cycle-Chic websites could show a bit more variety of cyclists? Yes? Yes.
And no one needs to start getting snippy about other bloggers who have “unattainable” bikes since, in the long haul, a well-made Dutch bike like Dottie’s will save you money. But is anyone going to hold a crank shaft to your wallet and force you to purchase an Oma as your first bike? No.
Did I try biking in a skirt after seeing so many photos of women in Copenhagen doing it? Yes. And most of the time, it works out just fine for me. But just because it works for me, doesn’t mean everyone has to do it all of the time.
Anyway. Long story short.
You can bike in Nike cargo shorts and a helmet. You can bike in a dress. Wear whatever what makes you get on your bike again the next day.
Is this cycle chic? Why not?