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Bicycling – Fashion Friend or Foe?

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Bicycle commuting is on the rise. Tough economic times may be a factor, though in anthropological terms, I have a feeling style and the times have a lot more to do with it.

And what about style and biking? Is it possible to combine the two? Not much hope if you’re an actual cyclist. They definitely deserve our awed admiration as they move along – 50 miles at a stretch – at speeds higher than my town’s speed limit. But in all their aerodynamic sleekness, I would not call them stylish (I know because I’ve been there and I felt a lot of things while breezing along those country roads, but stylish was not one of them.)

So what happens to those of us who happen not to be a “cyclists”, but a normal person who happens to ride a bike? As I’ve mentioned here, somewhere along the line – consciously or not – I made the shift from cycling to bicycling, finally pawning off my lycra shirts and shorts on Craig’s List. And it’s much more part of my identity than it was in my past life. As a result, I prefer not to look like a geek on my bike, but like, well, my Fashionable Self.

Take a look at this video of riders in Copenhagen, where “there is no bike culture – all culture includes the bike.” And it shows, not just by the fact that 36% of the population rides daily, but because they look damn normal to me – normal enough that I can see myself as one of them. If you think of this same scene in the U.S., it is most likely not as inviting to the average plumber (I mean, person).

Will gearing up for the ride become a thing of the past? Will enough of us ride through our fair cities that bike paths and shelters will pop up everywhere? Will we embrace a sort of slow bike movement that will allow us to be more safe as well as stylish? (Notice that the riders in Copenhagen don’t feel the need for helmets.) Writer, David Colman explores those possibilities in this article and finds out how we can solve the tricky questions faced by 2-wheeled city commuters who want to look like they still “mean business” in no-other than our own NYC. (Interesting article and photos introducing the latest NYC “It Object”, the Dutch bicycle.)

That helmet thing – ? I realize I’m playing with fire here, but it may be the clincher that shifts the mainstream consciousness into a whole new gear.

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2 Responses to “Bicycling – Fashion Friend or Foe?”

  1. Roger Hartsell Says:

    I see 2 big sub-cultures at work here. The culture of safety, and the culture of insurance(medical & liability.) Every activity has iits degree of risk, and the threat of lawsuits. This has given the the insurance industry a great market. From Bike helmets, to baby strollers, to firearms, to food, every entity in the design, manufacture, and sale of consumer goods has to CYA, on the off chance of a lawsuit. To the labeling of coffee cups, “Contents may be HOT.”
    I imagine you’re being seen riding without protection is setting a bad example for the little kiddies, and letting them play in the dirt exposes them to all sorts of deadly bacteria, of course decreasing natural immunity. Eventually someone will try sue the dirt.
    No doubt some of these safety measures have saved lives, and decreased number and severity of injury. I just hope it doesn’t come to getting sued for having too much fun.

    thanks, Jolly ROger

  2. tao Says:

    You’re right on all points, Roger. Thanks for your comments. Watch for the next couple posts – food for lively debate !

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