There were glamorous girls kicking back in cargo bikes from Velorution, hot young guys on tricked out bikes looking dapper in spats. The latest on offer from those fleuro-weavers Dashing Tweeds graced the catwalk as did some nice-but-a-bit-expensive panniers from Michaud. A great range of town bikes suitable for city exploring were on view; Viva made a great impression, whilst Moulton showed off two of their very latest designs, with the stripped-down belt-driven TSR-2 especially popular with those taking test rides after the event. All set against the iconic/ironic back drop of a couple of gleaming red London buses parked under the beautifully lit Smithfield market hall roof.
I've written before how cycling in the UK has a major PR problem surrounding the wider public's perception of people who choose to get about by two wheels. The vast majority of people who don't choose to cycle just can't see themselves riding because they don't subscribe to the current dominant image of cyclists; that 'Lance Armstrong look'. Perhaps events like last Friday's can go some way towards showing that you don't necessarily have to armour up in lycra, day-glow and helmets in order just to ride a bike to the shops and back.
Mikael Colville-Andersen, of Copenhagen Cycle Chic would probably be quite perplexed by there even being the need to hold such a show. He is as equally dismissive of those who would try to set cycling's stall out as purely the reserve of sports riders as he is of people who seek to sell you 'urban cycling clothing'. His thinking (from this blog post) is quite clear on the subject; "You have a closet filled with clothes, don't you? If you're walking about town, you'll wear them. You have clothes for hot weather and clothes for cold weather. Whatever clothes you wear as a pedestrian are suitable for riding a bicycle. You KNOW this. You were young once. You did it then.... ..If you want to ride a bicycle to work or the supermarket over short distances, you do not need 'gear'. Just open your closet."
David Hembrow, from A View from the Cycle Path, takes a different view. Commenting on a previous post of mine about 'What's stopping women from cycling', he explained that he thinks 'cycle chic' (if you want to call normal, everyday and ordinary utilitarian cycling that) comes not from a desire by cyclists to be stylish but as a consequence of cyclists no longer being under stress. "The hats and hi-vis come from the conditions. They're a symptom of cyclists under stress. Once cycling becomes subjectively safer, these things disappear. I don't think you can force it." He writes eloquently on his blog what he thinks the steps are that the authorities ought to be taking to make cycling a less stressful and subjectively safe activity for all: it starts, of course, with providing top class decent cycling infrastructure everywhere, and then building on that.
Me? I take a view somewhere in the middle. There's no doubt that there is a sense that the bourgeois are early adopters of 'chic cycling' here in the UK. But the idea that it somehow costs money and you have to buy another form of expensive gear to subscribe to everyday and ordinary cycling doesn't sit easily with me either. In the same breath there is no doubt that the wider public view of cycling as being a physical, sporty activity is unhelpful and events like Friday's can help to dispel that view. All in all, Friday night's bikes and fashion show was a great showcase of the potential and opportunity that lies in cycling in the urban environment and shows that perhaps, one day, the streets of London could be filled with effortlessly cool cyclists just like Copenhagen. Part of that will come from how people choose to present themselves as cyclists, much more will come from 'non-cyclists' taking up riding as a consequence of how our roads provide for those who do so. Perhaps events like Friday's can be a useful stepping stone towards that path?