When most people think of bicycling, they think "helmets" and "ten-speeds." The bicycle has become, in American-think, a tool of sport and exercise. To ride, in other words, one must slide into spandex, throw on a helmet, hunch uncomfortably over the handlebars, and move at a pace fast enough to raise one's heart rate to within 60% of one's lactic-acid threshold so as to burn the premium amount of calories and fat.
This phenomenon is especially intense in Bloomington, Indiana, home of Indiana University's Little 500, and the setting for Breaking Away. Every spring, the roads around here are full of eager and healthy, spandex-clad college age racers training for their big day on the track.
I fear that one of the limitations on building a bike culture in Bloomington is this ingrained belief that a bicycle is left to training and exercise and not to commuting. If our collective image of the proper use of a bicycle involves spandex and helmets and not suits and high heels, then how can we ever form a culture where the average citizen rides to work on an average day?
But this is not the way it has to be. A true bicycle culture--the one of my dreams, where the first choice of transportation is the rusted 5 speed out back--should be one that emphasizes the joy of slow riding and the joy of riding chic. We have no need for shoes that clip to pedals; stilettos are so much more stylish (and ladies, you need not worry about walking in those uncomfortable stilettos, when you can ride right up to your destination).
Out of the fog of the dream comes two sources of inspiration for bike culture day dreamers everywhere. A society has formed out of the ether devoted to riding slowly (so as not to sweat, of course) and chicly. Now, we have the Slow Bicycle Movement and a manifesto to cycling chic. Indulge in the dream!
The Copenhagen 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'. The only exception being a bicycle helmet - if I choose to exercise my freedom of personal choice and wear one.