Girls on film, and who hates bike chic?

I'm a big fan of the range of cycle chic blogs out there, the most popular of which must be Copenhagen Cycle Chic - not because they make cycling look 'cool' or 'fashionable' but because they make it normal and mainstream again and not the reserve of the sports cyclists (that is to say, cycling as a viable transport alternative as oppose to being just a sport)

All of the websites (Change Your Life, Ride a Bike is also fabulous) show that anyone can ride a bike in any way they like, women included.

One of the key findings of a recent Local Government Information Unit report found that "Women in particular were highlighted as seeing cycling as something that cannot be done as part of a normal day without time for hair styling and a change of clothing.  [But] cycling does not have to be unconventional."

Matching bag & mud guards, Paris

So I was surprised as the next (wo)man to see a cycling blog recently with the title "Bike chic; I hate it".  The post (written by a female cyclist) essentially says that unless you are cycling dressed head to toe in lycra, wrap-around shades and a helmet not only are you throwing all the efforts of feminism out of the window you are also stupid and dangerous because "it is unsafe to bike in high heels".  Now I can't speak from personal experience here but I think you are just as safe cycling in an urban environment in high heels as you are, say, in a pair of running shoes.  What's more, the idea that you are unsafe for not wearing sporting cycling gear is an absolute nonsense, and these ladies from 1899 prove it (and don't they look fabulous as they weave in and out of the traffic cones in unison?)

Cycling being perceived as a normal, everyday and ordinary way of getting around town for all?  Long may it continue!


anna said...

Cycling in high heels is just the same as in any other shoes, it only really depends on the shoe sole how dangerous (if at all) it is. I have a hard time walking in high heels very far, but I can cycle in them for hours. So why not? :-)

Andy in Germany said...

Hmm... I'm of two minds. I wonder how much pressure a woman feels to look 'sexy'. Of course being a guy I won't ever know.

On the other hand 'libby' suggests later in the comments that normal clothes are okay: she feels women in skirt and heels are being exploited, but jeans and sneakers -ie, normal clothes- are fine, transport cycling is fine. Unfortunately that didn't come over in the original post.

ibikelondon said...

I think that whatever people wear on bikes, as long as they are comfortable and not a danger to others it should be fine - I just don't want cycling to ever be only the reserve of sports cyclists.

Thanks for your comments guys, always nice to hear feedback and opinions!

Michael said...

I'm struck by the fact that it's legally impossible to take Bike chic photos in Australia. I mean, that with compulsory helmets, and what they do to a cyclist's look, it can't be done.

No wonder, in issue after issue of our top cycling mags, there are no images of women just looking relaxed and beautiful on bikes. It's all about gearing up in lycra and the message of speed.

This realization of what we don't see, came to me in making a film about Sue Abbott and her fight against those compulsory helmets.

Skippo said...

I'm not sure, you cant get away from the fact that 'sports' cycling gear wicks away sweat and cycling jackets are at the least windproof, often waterproof and high vis.

Personally I wouldnt fancy cycling in my work shirt, it would be ruined by the time I got there! Similarly cycling in a t-shirt is very uncomfortable compared to something that breathes.

ibikelondon said...

Which is all great, Skippo, if you are out sports cycling. But if you are making one of the 80% of road journeys in the UK which are less than 2 miles in length you don't need a change of clothes so long as you don't cycle like a bat out of hell - I agree though that if you have a long (or uphill!) commute then of course it's always nice to be fresh by the time you get to your desk - it's a question of wearing the appropriate kit for the appropriate journey. But I do think we've been somewhat conditioned into perceiving cycling as being something 'other' that you have to dress up especially for and buy special equipment for, as I discussed here:

But each to their own of course!