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“Advocacy in a blazer”

October 1, 2012

“Towards a Slower, Simpler, More Civilized Bicycle Culture,” via Vancouver’s Hush Magazine:

In choosing not to participate in the needless consumption and fear-mongering that typifies militant cycling, it is also just as important to avoid the riding style it encourages. Not only does that protective gear imply that cycling is inherently dangerous and complicated (actively discouraging the average by-stander from giving it a try), it also leads to risk compensation, causing the wearer to ride faster and more recklessly than they otherwise would. In choosing style over speed, and elegance over exertion, you are a completely predictable vehicle on the road, travelling at a jogging pace, yielding to pedestrians and cars, and following all traffic laws. Think of yourself as walking with wheels; you are Mary Poppins, not Bradley Wiggins. You’re likely riding a few leisurely blocks to the grocery store, not zooming through a construction site or a war zone.

Once you discover the simple comforts and pleasures of civil cycling, you won’t look back. There are few things in life as enjoyable as cruising half-speed in the sunshine, watching all the other motorists and “avid cyclists” racing for the prize. My daily ride to work on my three-speed, Dutch-style bicycle is an absolute dream: dressed for the office, sitting up straight, never breaking a sweat, and turning plenty of heads. In doing the same, your mere presence in the urban landscape inspires others, without being labeled an activist. If the bicycle is ever to move past the dismal 5% mode-share it enjoys in Vancouver, it will have to be with more than just the middle-class, middle-aged road-warriors who currently dominate the bikeways, seawalls and separated lanes of our city. Every citizen will consider cycling a feasible mode of transportation, irrespective of age, sex, ethnicity, fitness, politics or financial means. That is the basis for the new bicycle culture: advocacy in a blazer, dress shirt, and pinstriped trousers.

  1. Jesse permalink
    October 1, 2012 1:53 pm

    “In doing the same, your mere presence in the urban landscape inspires others, without being labeled an activist.” This is from the Cycle Chic Manifesto: ” I am aware that my mere prescence in said urban landscape will inspire others without me being labelled as a ‘bicycle activist’.”

    It’s all well and good and making cycling less like dangerous work is certainly what must happen in North America if we are to ever have any kind of bike culture. But let’s not shut out the “road-warriors.” When you read Mikael Colville-Andersen you get a sense that he’s almost proud of how joyless and mundane cycling is in Copenhagen. And riding slowly is fine for some distances, but sometimes you want to cover more ground and do it in a reasonable amount of time.

    What I mean by “shutting road warriors out” is really this: every time a new bike lane appears it’s a wonderful thing. However, it means that now you can get a ticket for not riding in that bike lane which usually isn’t an appropriate place to ride fast. There often isn’t much room to pass when you’re in the bike lane so speeding there makes slower riders uncomfortable. So a fast rider should at least have the option of riding in the car lane. That would be one solution. Another one would be to just create lanes that are wide enough to accommodate fast and slow riders (e.g., Prospect Park and soon Central Park too).

    However this issue is approached I think it shouldn’t be forgotten. If we are going to accommodate cars traveling at 30mph we should do the same for bikes. We can’t have separate speed limits for the two — which is effectively what we’re doing by requiring cyclists to stay in their pens. I read so much advocacy that focuses on making cycling normal and unathletic but, to be honest, I didn’t really start riding for that reason. And many people who currently ride in NYC feel the same way (which I admit is partly why cyclists have the reputation for being reckless).

    I’m not trying to start a flame war about vehicular cycling vs. slow cycling. I think the safest way to ride, and the best way to encourage people to ride, is with dedicated bike lanes that separate bikes from cars. All I want is for vehicular cyclists to be accommodated as well.

    • October 1, 2012 8:45 pm

      I think if you divide cycling into one of two options (either you bike slowly in a bike lane or get to go quickly wherever) then, yes, utility cycling will seem joyless and mundane.

      But even if cycling in Copenhagen seems that way to some, there are ways in which “joyless” cycling can add joy to other areas of one’s life. If riding is common place but you live in a city where cycling allows you to get out the door, drop your kids off at school and be at work in less than 30 minutes, that ultimately bring more joy to your life than the way we live in the US, with long distances between multiple parts of our lives. If cycling is boring but it gets you home relatively quickly so that you can have dinner with your family every night, then there’s more joy that’s added to your life right there.

      I don’t think Mikael depicts joyless cycling. On the contrary, I think he portrays the ways in which normalized cycling creates joy in other forms.

      But, yes, I believe the ultimate solution is to have bike lanes that accommodate multiple speeds and different styles of riders.

  2. J.D. permalink
    October 1, 2012 6:43 pm


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