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Feminism, Women Only Rides, & Critical Lass

Feminism, Women Only Rides, & Critical Lass

An image from 2 Wheels and Heels in Columbus, Ohio, via the Momentum Magazine article (click photo to read) on Women-Only Rides.

As an organizer of social bike rides for women, I have mixed feelings about the way they are perceived by nonparticipants. I’ve commented on the unhelpfulness of some critiques of cycle chic before, pointing out that the cycle chic movement itself isn’t sexist, so much as that it’s vulnerable to being co-opted by the sexism and commercialism of our society. The latest post from bike blog land that has me thinking about this, is instead critiquing the emphasis on a particular version of femininity in social rides for women. I think this is more about perception than the way the rides are actually organized, but let’s explore the ideas behind social rides a bit, and talk about our goals for Critical Lass.

The perception that you can’t wear street clothes (whether they’re business-casual or date-night-pretty) on a bike is part of the reason there aren’t more women on bikes in North America, according to surveys, and that’s part of what motivates the creators of rides and bike blogs like ours. (The other part of the equation is safe infrastructure, and most bike bloggers of both genders are also involved with bicycle infrastructure advocacy.)

Our intent was always that the Critical Lass Edmonton rides were the equivalent of going for brunch with your friends, and our food stops were meant to provide participants with an opportunity to chat and build community. We chose routes that would let us explore more of the city, and destinations that would make it feel like a special occasion. We wanted the fun of a Tweed Ride without the anachronism or cos-play. We wanted to make new friends and support local businesses (some of whom are bakeries). We wanted to make it approachable to novices, and we didn’t want bike-snob guys patronizing us or hitting on us. (Not that we’ve ever had that problem on rides in Edmonton. The cycling community here is awesome like that. But these are the preconceptions that keep newbies away from big rides like Critical Mass.)

Some of our participants ride in their skirts and dressy shoes, with their children or on their own, on every type of bike, to work or grad school or the grocery store, every single day, because that’s how they would dress whether they were on a bike or not. They should be able to get on their bikes and do their thing without being sneered at as tools of the patriarchy, the same way that women who race or mountain bike wearing appropriate attire for those types of cycling should be able to do their thing without being ridiculed, and the same way any of us should be able to walk into a bike shop without being talked down to by a sales dude who knows less about what we need than we do.

But. I think we do need to take care in the way we describe and promote social rides for women. All women should feel welcome to participate, not just girly girls. We also need to take care that, if our goal is to create equality for cyclists, that we aren’t accidentally playing into stereotypes that are being used to marginalize us.

To some feminists, cupcakes and high heels aren’t just dessert and clothing, they’re symbolic of the infantalization and objectification of women by society. As I’ve pointed out before, friction between second- and third-generation feminists is playing a role in these conversations; third-gen feminists also see high heels as a symbol of power. However, if names like “Cupcake Ride” or an emphasis on fashion in our photos are attracting criticism, we need to listen with an open mind, and perhaps adjust our plans.

We also need to think about what our goals and our target demographic actually are, design our events accordingly, and find ways to measure our progress toward those goals. If our goal is to attract novice riders and build the community, then our events will look different from ones that are designed as socials for an existing cycling community of experienced riders.

In the case of Critical Lass Edmonton, we think that explicitly restating our goals will help us with our planning. So, let’s reiterate:

  • Critical Lass is an inclusive ride for female cyclists of all levels of experience. We often have moms with young kids join us. (We will be planning our first family ride / Kidical Mass this summer too.)
  • We ride in street clothes, and sometimes we dress up. Our focus is on fun, not fashion.
  • Vintage bike? Mixte? Mountain bike? Hybrid? Racer? Dutch city bike? Folder? Longtail? Bakfiets? We think they’re all fabulous. We might ask to give it a test ride or take loving closeup photos of parts.
  • Our route is suitable for novice cyclists. Mostly residential streets and bike paths, no tricky high-traffic areas, usually pretty flat.
  • Our destination is a place where we can rehydrate, grab coffee and a snack, and socialize. We prioritize locally-owned businesses that are vegan- and allergy-friendly.

We haven’t actually been keeping track previously, but we will poll our participants this year and see what proportion of them are experienced riders and what proportion are novices. Maybe then, for fun, we can do an actual cupcake ride (in, say, October?) with super-girliness and a fashion emphasis, and see how those proportions change. It won’t be terribly scientific, but maybe it will give an idea whether these things actually do bring more newbies out. I have a feeling that if we compare those proportions for Critical Lass, a special cupcake ride, and Kidical Mass, we might be surprised by the results.

30 Days of Biking – Things Fall Apart

30 Days of Biking – Things Fall Apart

#30 Days of Biking has now ended. I did quite well for the first 2 weeks, but the number of days that I rode dropped significantly after that. First the chart:

Week 3

Day 15:  Sunday 4/15  Distance:  0 miles
And on the 15th day, she gardened.

Day 16:  Monday 4/16  Distance:  12 miles
Regular commute. Rainy commute, but at least my new plants got some water. ‘Cause I forgot to do that after planing them.

Day 17:  Tuesday 4/17  Distance:  12 miles
Regular commute. Seattle Survival tip #2:  Always bring your rain pants.

Day 18:  Wednesday 4/18  Distance:  12 miles
Regular commute. Sun. Bike. Good.

Day 19:  Thursday 4/19  Distance:  6 miles
Half a commute. Discovered my front tire was flat just as I was about to head home on my evening commute. Had evening events and just didn’t have time to change it, so I called for back up. As in, calling Mr. Jen and whining for a ride.

Day 20:  Friday 4/20  Distance:  0 miles
Vacation day. Took the train to Portland!

Day 21:  Saturday 4/21  Distance:  3.5 miles
Rented a family tandem bike from Clever Cycles and rode to a nearby park and coffee shop. It was hardly an extensive tour of Portland, but fun never the less.

Week 3 Total:  45.5 miles

Week 4


Day 22:  Sunday 4/22  Distance:  0 miles
Portland is exactly as bike-crazy as people say, but I was just an observer, not a participant.

Day 23:  Monday 4/23  Distance:  0 miles
Had a neighborhood greenways event in an unfamiliar neighborhood after work, so I took the bus. Oh, the irony.

Day 24:  Tuesday 4/24  Distance:  0 miles
Took the bus to work. Eventually fixed the flat tire, with the help of a kind co-worker. Then discovered that the back tire had a scary-looking bulge in it. By this point, I’d had enough, so I took the bus home.

Day 25:  Wednesday 4/25  Distance: 12 miles
Regular commute. Took the city bike to work. Getting caught in the rain doesn’t take away from the fun of riding after so many days away.

Day 26:  Thursday 4/26  Distance:  12 miles
Regular commute. City bike!

Day 27:  Friday  4/27  Distance:  0 miles
Telecommuted. Good lunch time plans, but they didn’t involve my bike.

Day 28:  Saturday 4/28  Distance:  5 miles
Took my son to tee ball via the Piccolo. It was a fun trip, but my shifter broke on the way home. This has just not been my month.

Day 29:  Sunday 4/29  Distance:  0 miles
Errands by car, including fetching and fixing bikes.

Day 30:  Monday 4/30  Distance:  12 miles
Regular commute. And the month ends with a tail wind!

Week 4 Total:  41 miles

Monthly total:  218 miles

Sometimes schedules, life and mechanical problems keep me off my bike. I miss a few days every month for one reason or another, but this was unusual to have so many issues in a two month period. In retrospect, I’m surprised, but not disappointed. When I decided to participate in 30 Days of biking, I decided to document how I use bikes for transportation & fun, but not to make a special effort. That meant no rides around the block to meet an arbitrary standard*. Are there any lessons? Well, sometimes you need to be flexible. It really helps to have back up transportation options – being able to take the bus home or get a ride with someone else can make difficult days go much more smoothly. Even if every trip can’t be made by bike, far more trips can be than I ever imagined a couple of years ago.   Finally, though I need to get better at changing flat tires, I hope I don’t have the occasion to do so very often.

*See? That was a guiding principle, not laziness. Honestly.

Cycle chic, personal style, and feminism

Cycle chic, personal style, and feminism

(Forgive me, folks, I’m a couple of months behind on my blog reading, but I had to share my thoughts on this…)

So. Wanting to wear stylish clothing on my bicycle makes me a tool of the patriarchy?

*Eyeroll*

Heaven knows there are lots of sexualized ‘cycle chic’ photos that have been circulated that have almost nothing to do with bicycles and everything to do with the male gaze – for amazing commentary on that see Sweet Georgia Brown – and lots of other ‘cycle chic’ photos that have everything to do with selling us stuff we don’t need. The criticism that the cycle chic movement is vulnerable to being co-opted by sexism and consumerism is a valid one. However. That doesn’t mean the movement itself is sexist and consumerist.

On a continent where girls stop using their bikes sometime in their teens because they think it makes them look dorky, and where the idea that bicycling is a fringe activity is used to justify rolling back funding of much-needed bike infrastructure, I believe that photos of women and men (of all ages, sizes, and shapes) enjoying bicycle rides to go places and do things help to make cycling more accessible.

As for the perception that cycle chic prescribes a particular, exclusive, commercial version of fashionable: I do not believe that expensive clothes, or expensive bikes, are a prerequisite for cycle chic. That line about your clothes being more valuable than your bike in the Cycle Chic Manifesto? I think its author is talking about using the bike as a tool for living – along the lines of his post about your bike being like a vacuum cleaner. I stand with Velouria on that topic, and think emotional attachment to bikes we’ve customized to our tastes is part of what makes bicycling appealing – but the point is that perhaps he’s using ‘value’ (not expense) as a stand-in for relative importance. He’s saying it’s not about the bike, it’s about your personal style and your needs, and that your bike should suit you, not the other way around.

I don’t believe that youth and a standard definition of beauty are requirements of cycle chic, either.

It doesn’t matter if you wear something you’ve made, something you’ve thrifted, something you found in a big-box bargain bin or something you had to get on a haute couture wait-list to buy. It doesn’t matter if you’re twenty or forty or eighty. What matters – with both personal style, and cycle chic – is that you feel great about yourself, and that you’re having fun. To me, the most attractive thing about any photo of a bicyclist is the sense that they’re having fun on their bike. They look great because they feel great, no matter what they’re wearing.

I’m a 40-year-old plus-size mother of two who lives in the suburbs. I ride relatively inexpensive workhorse 3-speeds, for fun and the occasional grocery run, and I stop riding when the snow flies (icy roads plus drivers not expecting to see cyclists in outer-ring subdivisions is a bad combination). I have a closet full of jeans and t-shirts and thrift-shop finds and handmade jewelry. I rarely wear makeup, and I don’t do designer labels (Well, I have this one scarf, but it’s not an obvious status piece.). I am a chic cyclist, and a feminist, and an advocate for better bicycle infrastructure and more sustainable living.

None of these facts preclude any of the others.

What a shame that some bicycle advocates don’t see it that way. I guess they’re just not listening.

(PS: Yes, I know there’s an issue with the Disqus comments right now – I am waiting on their support people to tell me how to fix it. Apparently they upgraded their back end and broke the CSS somehow. Meanwhile, you can read the white-text-on-white-background if you highlight the comments.)

Gender Gap?

Gender Gap?

There’s a fascinating discussion going on in bike-blog-land as a result of Elly Blue’s Bicycling’s Gender Gap post at Grist. She makes an interesting argument that the gender disparity in ridership figures could be a result of economic disparity and additional caregiving and household duties, in addition to the ‘fear and fashion’ theories – and points out that both cycling infrastructure and appropriate, affordable bikes for carrying kids and cargo are missing in most North American cities. The lively comment section is well worth a read, with additional points about racism, class-ism, street harassment, and public perceptions of cyclists being made. It’s also well worth going back and reading the rest of the series of articles, which includes some especially salient points about political pressure to keep the status quo and the actual costs of freeways. The author also followed up on her own blog. Meanwhile the discussion has spun off onto one of our favourite bicycle blogs, Velo Vogue. Go read the links and meet me back here, mmkay?

You’ve read it now? Good stuff, right? If a bit counter-intuitive based on the explosion in lady-bike availability and number of women writing fantastic bicycle blogs.

So, instead of debating which is the most important, let’s say that all those factors are at play in preventing women from riding at the same rate as men do in North America – which they probably are, to some extent. How can we fix that? How do we encourage more ladies to get on their bikes? Can bike blogs like ours, and the social rides and bikey events organized by blogs like ours, actually make a difference?

Angel (my Loop-Frame Love coblogger) and I probably aren’t typical cycling activists (if such a person exists). We’re moms with 2 young kids each and minivans and small budgets who live in the suburbs – and we’d love for this blog to (eventually) demonstrate that it’s possible to live car-light under those circumstances, if not completely car-free – like our blogging heroes at Carfree With Kids, Car Free DaysChicargobike, full hands, mamafiets, and Totcycle are already doing on their blogs for their circumstances. So let’s be honest about the barriers we face to doing that, and how they relate to the factors mentioned above.

(Our coblogger Jen’s situation differs from ours in that she’s living in a more central neighborhood in a different city, has one child, and is still commuting to full-time work instead of staying home or working part-time… so we hope she’ll chime in in the comment section.)

My favourite current setup for easy kid-hauling is the Bobike Junior seat on a Raleigh-built 3-speed (Ms. Trudy Phillips),
but my 8-year-old is a bit too big for the seat and the pretty wicker basket will only hold a small bag of groceries.

We’re pretty lucky in a lot of ways. We’re middle-class white Canadians, so our experiences are fairly sheltered. Our husbands are not themselves cyclists, but are happy to support our interest in cycling. We’re part of a bigger local community of cyclists, advocates, and bike bloggers who are demonstrating through their daily lives and organized rides just how much fun life on two wheels can be. We’re social creatures, so it’s probably important in helping us stay motivated that we have that support system.

We live in a city with progressive urban planners who are in the process of improving the infrastructure for public transit and active transport, and we live in neighborhoods that have multi-user paths and/or sharrowed bike lanes that we can safely ride to useful destinations. However, we also live in the closest big city to the Oilsands, in a politically conservative part of Canada, in a place where a large proportion of the automotive vehicles using the roads are pick-up trucks and sports utility vehicles. So, when we venture outside the MUPs and sharrows, we don’t always encounter drivers who are predisposed to be kind to bicycle users. We have been buzzed and yelled at. We totally understand when our friends who haven’t ridden since their teens ask hesitantly about traffic on the route for the next Critical Lass. That said, the infrastructure in our neighborhoods has made that a pretty minor concern for our day-to-day rides.

We’re also really lucky to be part of a community with an amazing not-for-profit (EBC) that makes it possible to buy a low-cost vintage bike and turn it into a safe, reliable ride we can wear our regular clothes on; but turning it into a grocery-getter and a good way to get young children from A to B can be a bit of a challenge. We still wish we could get our hands on a longtail or cargo bike without having to blow our budgets. Going car-free so we can increase our bicycle budgets is not in the cards for our families, and we’re both still figuring out how we can run bike errands with two kids in tow, since neither of our eldest children are strong solo cyclists yet, despite being too big to be passengers. We’ll be actively working on that during the summer holiday from school.

We can testify that how busy our day is and how pressed for time we feel does directly affect how much (or how little) we ride. A quick run to the grocery store without children for a few items is easily managed by bike, but multiple errands with the kids becomes an all-day adventure when you’re not properly set up to do it by bike. A longtail or cargo bike would make that much easier, but ferrying the kids to extracurricular activities in other parts of the city immediately after school still would require a car because of the distances involved. If we were commuting for work, public transit would probably be more time-efficient than cycling, because we both live walking distance from major suburban transit hubs (As it happens, my husband has found that taking the LRT downtown is usually quicker than driving, and more pleasant.). So, ability to use our bikes while caring for our children and living our busy lives has been our single biggest barrier to riding more.

Your turn, my friends. What’s your single biggest barrier to riding more? Which barriers do you feel apply to your friends (of either gender) who don’t use their bikes? How can bike bloggers and cycling advocates help remove those barriers?

Update: I’ve just been reading Velouria’s post on Lovely Bicycle about the different kinds of bicycle commuting, and I wonder how the study that’s being discussed accounted for office-job commuters versus freelancers and errand-runners, and how gender might skew which category you fall into?


Update 2: You need to also check out LGRAB’s new series of guest posts on commuting by novice cyclists, the first of which was just posted – they’ll be talking about their barriers and how they surmounted them, too! I love the ideas from the current post of learning to bike commute in steps, and seeking out social ties to the activity so you have friends and role models. 


3rd July, Update 3: We’ve been invited to crosspost this piece on the perfectly wonderful blog Lindsay’s List, which has necessitated a slight rewrite and the addition of a shout-out to a few of our car-free-and-car-light family blog heroes. I’ll also be adding a photo that wasn’t originally included, of my current setup, once it’s been taken.


10 July, Update 4: http://lindsayslist.org/2011/07/gender-gap/ It’s up!

Running on Sky

Running on Sky

Hi folks, my name is Jennifer and I’m a friend of Deborah’s from our U of A days. I grew up on the Canadian Prairies, but have had a rather nomadic life as an adult, moving back and forth across North America for the past 10 years. My family and I have been in Seattle for a few years now and we’re starting to call it home.

Now…on to the bicycles! I’ve enjoyed riding bicycles since I was a kid and bought a mountain bike for recreational use throughout college. This was mostly moderate weekend rides of about 5-6 miles on protected bike paths. A couple of years ago, I bought a road bike which I use for my commute to work (about 6 miles) and occasional week end rides. I still have a place for my mountain bike, though, as it’s more stable for pulling my kid on a trail-a-bike. I also plan to use it more this year for short errands and outings around the neighbourhood.

Unlike the other LFL bloggers, I don’t have a vintage bicycle and I’m not really interested in restoring them as a hobby, though I do admire their style and design. My initial interest in cycling centered on practical questions of choosing a bicycle, finding routes, and figuring out the logistics of commuting. However, I’ve become steadily more interested in cycling advocacy and urban planning, particularly with respect to cycling and public transportation. Of course, I always like photos of happy people on their bicycles!

I ride a bike for several reasons – it’s great exercise and I find it much easier to stick with cycling than going to the gym. It’s cheaper than driving my car and paying for parking every day and vastly cheaper than buying a second car. Riding my bike reduces my contribution to the pollution and congestion of city streets. All of these reasons are true and they do have some motivation. However, the truth is that I ride my bike because it’s fun. There’s a greater sense of speed and control with a bicycle than a car. I see much more of the city and the seasons on my bike. And, in the end, it’s fun to go fast.

A couple of weeks ago, I hooked up the trail-a-bike and took my son, who’s five, to one of the local parks. He loves riding it – it’s faster than a little bike with training wheels and he gets to ride on the street. That night at supper, he turned to me and said “Mommy, riding a bike is so funny! It’s like your feet are running, but they’re running on sky!”

That’s why I love riding my bike.

Everything Looks Better With Bicycles

Everything Looks Better With Bicycles

It seems like I have been seeing bicycles in every second magazine I open.
Okay, I get that bikes are being treated as this year’s must-have accessory, 
but I think it’s more than that: tastemakers have discovered that 
everything looks cooler when it’s photographed with a bicycle.
Ironic dust-collecting sculptures of wild animals.
{The otherwise covetable apartment of editor Kevin Sharkey 
in the September 2010 issue of Martha Stewart Living.}
Ridiculously unwearable floor-length skirts.
(Love the cloche though!)
{Promotional email sent 13 Oct 2010 by Anthropologie.}
Huge padded eighties-style shoulders.
{Jean-Paul Gaultier via Fashionising, from July 2010}
Fur.
{Saks Fifth Avenue print ad campaign from Sept 2010 via Benepe’s Bike Blog}
Shorts as office wear.
{Anna Kendrick in ELLE’s October 2010 issue.}
Beauty is a state of mind, but please buy our skin cream.
{Marcelle cosmetics print advertisement in ELLE Canada, March 2009}
Seventies-style chunky-heeled boots and a Relic toque on a hyper-skinny model.
Of course, this bike is a vintage Raleigh-built Robin Hood,
so it naturally has the power to make things alluring enough to make out with.
{Print advertisement is from the October 2010 issue of In Style.}
Wait, the guy you were just snogging with has a bike with rod brakes and a double top bar?
Is that a Brooks B-33 saddle?
…Carry on, then.
{Print advertisement from ELLE Canada, September 2010}
…Powerless to resist …the allure of ….vintage rod brakes
…combined with mothering instincts
…must …buy …cashmere …scarves
Why I DIY

Why I DIY

I just wanted to recommend the recent post about when doing bicycle DIY is worthwhile, from Lovely Bicycle!, and its comment thread to our readers.

I’ve written before about why I’m learning to do my own bicycle maintenance tasks:

So why is this old bike worth so much effort? Well, first of all, there’s having a bombproof bike at the end of the process that will serve me and my family well, and likely survive another 40 years or more. These old three-speed steel bikes were built to last with minimal maintenance. There’s also the satisfaction and self-confidence that comes with making or fixing something with your own hands, and the practical skills your learn in the process. However, I also have more philosophical reasons to fix up my bikes myself: knowing how my bike works will make me enjoy riding it even more, and I’m teaching my kids by example that it is better to repair and reuse things than replace them. That’s surely worth the trouble!

… So for me, DIY has little to do with saving money or time. (Anyone who has followed my bicycle projects realizes that I have many started, and few finished, at this point – in large part because the life of my young family doesn’t mesh well with my local coop’s hours.) I’m also doing any specialized DIY under the supervision of talented mechanics at my local co-op and using their specialized tools, so the costs and risks associated with my newbie status are significantly mitigated.

I describe DIY projects here because I think they’re neat, and they may be helpful to someone else who is trying to do something similar. I also want to demonstrate that mechanical work on vintage bicycles is not rocket science or something to be intimidated by – if I can figure it out, anyone can. Furthermore, I am gaining enough understanding and vocabulary from these projects that I feel more comfortable talking to bike-shop staffers and people at the co-op – which can only be a good thing, especially when (right or wrong) we girls too often feel intimidated or talked down to by bike guys.

However. I’m coming to the conclusion that I don’t get nearly enough time at EBC to do all the projects I have lined up, and I’m getting impatient to see some of them finished – so I’m going to be taking some of them in to the talented mechanics at my favourite LBSs. Their hourly rates are surprisingly reasonable, and I’d really rather be spending my free time during the fleeting days of fall riding my bike instead of working on it. (It’s supposed to be an early & brutal winter this year, if the almanac people are to be believed, and I’m not outfitted for full-on winter riding, so I’ll have more time for such projects while it’s cold.)

Furthermore, I agree with Lovely Bicycle on one crucial point: nobody should feel like they need to be able to fix their bike themselves in order to start riding it. Just go enjoy your bike, guilt-free. As long as you have a great LBS with bike mechanics you trust to maintain your bike for you, you don’t need to take classes from the local bike kitchen, or hoard (ahem) collect parts from the same decade as your vintage bike(s) (All the more for me. I mean what?). But the flip side of that is: don’t be intimidated by basic bike maintenance tasks. Part of the beauty of bicycles is their intuitive design and simplicity.

If I Ride

If I Ride

Very simple post tonight, apologies for my personal absence lately, wedding & now a major sick to fight off = no time for blogging (barely fit in biking!)

This video though, says enough!

Enjoy!!

(PS: bear with us as we mess around with a redesign for easier readability around here!)

They Missed The Point Of Bicycle Chic

They Missed The Point Of Bicycle Chic

This evening I read a story entitled “Bicycle Chic Gains Speed” on the New York Times website.

Then I got very, very angry.

Here is what I tweeted:
Gee, NYT, sexist much? Trivializing rise in female ridership, bicycles as fad fashion accessory, ‘dangerous woman driver’ stereotypes? WTF.

I suppose I should be grateful that the fashion pages of the vaunted New York Times are taking note of, and I quote one of their interviewees, “that whole sort of blog style.” I should be delighted that they are bringing mainstream attention to practical urban bicyclists who are choosing to ride in the fashionable clothes they already own, at a pace of their choosing, and that they are celebrating that there are more women using bicycles in Manhattan. This should be wonderful news, especially since I am that whole sort of blogger they theoretically were talking about.

Let me take my highlighter to a few of the phrases that left me so irked by the end of only the third paragraph:

Ms. Page-Green, who runs a nonprofit group that provides meals to needy children, likes to charge around town on her bike. Sometimes she’s done up in sparkly necklaces and towering heels; other times she coasts to appointments, sans helmet, in a blazer and fresh-pressed jeans. “I get sweaty a little, but it doesn’t bother me,” she said. Her bike, after all, is a stylish appendage, “a kind of rustic enhancement,” she said.

The subtext: reckless woman, charging around town sans helmet. This is an article about  “style-obsessed” “women, mostly young,” “whooshing along the green-painted bike-lanes”. (I’m not cherry-picking to find those snippets to string together.). One interviewee laughs off “speeding around on the sidewalk” while “canes waved at me in the distance,” and a critic admonishes that, “Fixing your makeup or sending a text message could have catastrophic results.”

I object to the emphasis on verbs denoting speed, particularly when talking about vintage (read: heavy steel) bikes with a limited number of gears, and to the stress placed on how many of these riders are not wearing helmets (tsk).


I object to the emphasis on bicycles as no more than a stylish accessory, like this season’s must-have bag or shoe. Is Lela Rose’s custom-built bakfiets-tricycle-hybrid, which she uses for commuting safely around the city with her children and dog and likens to a popular SUV brand, really just an accessory to her? I doubt it. What about the female clients of Hudson Urban Bikes, who the owner says insist on fenders (for staying clean), baskets (for carrying their purses and groceries safely), bells (which should be a standard safety item, along with lights), and things for carrying their children and pets (in a city where otherwise taking your dog to the vet must be a colossal pain for the carless)? Are their bikes just accessories, merely because they wish to ride in their everyday (stylish) clothes? These sound like purely practical considerations to me, not things added just as whims of fashion.

I think the writer missed the point of three-quarters of what was said to her by her interviewees, and emphasized all the wrong things. The story here isn’t really about empty-headed young women who speed recklessly around town on bicycles because they’re this season’s accessory. The story here is the emergence of a new demographic of bicycle riders in North America who are choosing a style of bicycle, and a style of cycling, that is commonplace in other parts of the world – and that allows fashion and function to coexist. 

I think this is an incredibly tone-deaf article. What do you think? Am I overreacting?