Cycle chic is an interesting cultural phenomenon. If you are unfamiliar with the movement that was launched by a blog, Cycle Chic, by a photographer named Mikael Colville-Andersen.
The concept has since been picked up as a buzzword for fashionable people on fashionable bikes, and has spurred the creation of many blogs and websites, most of them aimed at women.
How do you feel about cycle chic? Do you think it is elitist? Sexist? Do you think it empowers women to bike that might have otherwise viewed biking as an activity only for "sporty" types?
Momentum Magazine featured a piece by Elly Blue and Kristin Tieche in which they ultimately disagree about what cycle chic is all about.
(Who wrote the intro to this article?! This was not a catfight where two ladies will "duke it out." This was two intelligent women expressing their opinions.)
Cycle chic combines bicycles and fashion. It has inspired many women to not only ride a bike for everyday transportation, but to also photograph what they're wearing and share those images and stories with kindred spirits through social media.
The numerous bike fashion blogs that have exploded in cyberspace show urban and suburban women that they can wear whatever they want on a bicycle. Suddenly, in their eyes, biking became not only a sport for Lycra-clad men, but an easy and enjoyable way for any woman to go to work, run errands and socialize with friends.
What is remarkable about this movement is that it emerged not from the marketing offices of haute couture designers, but from the streets. Fashion-minded women parade their unique styles while riding bikes for everyone to see and take notice. This movement has made female cyclists more visible both on the streets and in the mainstream media.
A fashionable cyclist is not necessarily the same woman who attends a Critical Mass ride. But, she may join a tweed ride, a bike party and a cycle chic group ride, and may even be a member of her city's bicycle coalition. She is a bicycle advocate in her own right, simply by choosing to put her high-heeled foot on her pedal and push off the curb.
We all ride side-by-side in the same bike lane. So it seems divisive to accuse a stylish cyclist of elitism, as some critics do, when she is simply demonstrating her own sense of empowerment, liberation and freedom of movement.
Kristin Tieche is a film producer and editor who lives in San Francisco, CA. Find out more about her at velovogue.com, kristintieche.com and facebook.com/velovogue.
I just can't get excited about the 'chic' bicycling movement.
Cycle chic is tied inextricably to fashion - particularly to the mainstream idea of fashion - as the realm of leggy Scandinavian blondes who presumably devote themselves to meeting a standard of attractiveness tailored to the whims of a cadre of drooling men. Want more women to bike? Don't tell us we need to dress better and be even more conscious of our body image. That's the problem, not the solution.
Also problematic is the conflation of marketing with advocacy. The founder of cycle chic praises the women he surreptitiously photographs as 'high-heeled bike advocates' while deriding North American activists working for better riding conditions.
But cyclists are flocking to the streets in places like Manhattan not because there is now an $1,100 Kate Spade mixte, but thanks to bold new networks of bike lanes, the attendant awareness and a support system of longtime activists.
There is nothing at all wrong with bicycling while wearing fashionable, expensive clothes - or your work uniform, a clown suit or even Lycra if you're tiny or male enough to find it in your size. But to suggest that doing so is a mark of progress towards widespread, accessible bicycle transportation is a hindrance.
If bike advocates - male and female - listen to women rather than buying into our objectification, then we might just find ourselves in the midst of a truly effective movement.
Elly Blue lives in Portland, OR. She writes about bicycling, including a column about the bicycle economy for grist.org, a regular news roundup for bikeportland.org and a zine called Taking the Lane. She is the cofounder of pdxbybike.com.
After reading those two point of views, I feel that cycle chic is attempting to put me in a fancy box that I don't necessarily want to be be put in. After reading the Cycle Chic Manifesto, I feel even more strongly that there are just too many rules for me to ever desire to be that kind of chic.
What is the Cycle Chic Manifesto, you ask? I'll save you the Googleing, here it is, straight from Copenhagen.
The Cycle Chic Manifesto
- I choose to cycle chic and, at every opportunity, I will choose Style over Speed.
- I embrace my responsibility to contribute visually to a more aesthetically pleasing urban landscape.
- I am aware that my mere prescence in said urban landscape will inspire others without me being labelled as a 'bicycle activist'.
- I will ride with grace, elegance and dignity.
- I will choose a bicycle that reflects my personality and style.
- I will, however, regard my bicycle as transport and as a mere supplement to my own personal style. Allowing my bike to upstage me is unacceptable.
- I will endeavour to ensure that the total value of my clothes always exceeds that of my bicycle.
- I will accessorize in accordance with the standards of a bicycle culture and acquire, where possible, a chain guard, kickstand, skirt guard, fenders, bell and basket.
- I will respect the traffic laws.
- I will refrain from wearing and owning any form of 'cycle wear'.
I think I break all of those rules!