Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Reno Cycle Chic...and the Fascism of the Cycle Chic Movement



I like bicycles. I like photography. I like pretty girls. So you'd think that I'd be an easy mark for the so-called Cycle Chic movement which has grown from its Copenhagen origin to dozens of other cities throughout the planet. I've even mulled the idea of launching a separate Reno Cycle Chic website at one point.

Unfortunately, over recent years cycle chic has started to rub me the wrong way. For instance, they have the audacity of taking credit for the growing cycling movement all the while expressing disdain for the work of bicycle advocates who created the very urban infrastructure that the cycle chic subjects ride on daily. The fact that these advocates started working in Europe in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, to build a better urban space that provides a safe environment for cyclists years before they provided a back drop for Cycle Chic seems to go unnoticed.


Also troubling is that the socioeconomic status continually represented on the site. I get that the movement is about fashion and looking good on bicycles being used as a utilitarian tool. It is called cycling “chic” after all. But the emphasis does seem to grossly misrepresent the reality of bicycle use around the planet. The subjects represented are almost exclusively young, beautiful, women. Nice to look at but when Cycle Chic starts claiming that they have done more for cycling since the inception of their blog than all of the bicycling advocates than you have to question whether they believe that 95% of cyclists are beautiful 20 something women.

I suppose I could create a website called the Pragmatic Pedaler but that really is not nearly as sexy sounding. But it does more accurately reflect the reality of life on the streets for most urban cyclists. Not just in Reno, but around the world, where millions of people ride their bikes in clothes that look like they are going to work in a factory or in the fields, not in an advertisement for for some high tech industry.

More than that, if you look at their criteria for setting up a “cycle chic” blog for your own city you realize just how tight their vision is for urban cycling. No helmets are to be pictured, …. I'm not out to start a helmet war but it seems to me that if an individual rider decides they feel better wearing a helmet on their commute are they out of hand dismissed from possibly being chic?

It seems to me that adhering to this strict view of what is cycling and what is chic, all the while taking credit for the growing bicycle boom is extraordinarily arrogant. As it is, I'm content to occasionally post photos of cyclists in Reno who are practical and chic in their own ways.


6 comments:

Matt BK said...

Thank you, I agree completely. Being "chic" is just one more barrier to getting people on bicycles. Used to look at the site occasionally, but the continuous rants against helmets (even if I, personally, want to wear a helmet) from one of the contributors got old pretty fast.

Riding in Reno said...

Well said!

Alex said...

I think it's irresponsible to actively advocate against helmet use. I bike commute, wearing a helmet. I also work for a lawyer who specializes in bike collisions. For a lot of these cyclists, if they hadn't been wearing helmets, they'd be dead. Or severely brain damaged at the very least.
In the perfect world, maybe helmets wouldn't be necessary. But until we get to the perfect world, I don't think it's the best idea to pretend we're already there.

Michael said...

You have perfectly put into words what I have thought for some time. Excellent.

Reno Rambler said...

Thanks for the kind comments. This is something that has bugged me for a long time and apparently I'm not alone. This was posted later the same day and is a much more thorough critique that is well-written and worth the read:

http://takingthelane.com/2012/07/24/a-critique-of-cycle-chic-tm/

Erik Griswold said...

Alex, the helmet is not needed when the infrastructure is present as it is in Holland and Denmark. Wear one if you care to, but it shouldn't be force. When it is, it is usually because it is a crutch in place of proper infrastructure.

As for the comment about bicycle advocates in Europe in the 60's 70's and 80's that's the problem: European advocates got segregated infrastructure put in place. UK and USA got zip thanks to the likes of Forester and Franklin.