Written by Kristin Tieche
The bicycle attracts all types of riders. You’ve got your hard-core Lycra crowd. You’ve got your chipped-tooth, tattooed bike messenger crowd. You’ve got your militant Critical Mass bike activist crowd. You’ve got your Sunday ride in the park crowd. And you have a crowd that follows a movement dubbed Cycle Chic — a movement uniting bicycles with fashion that has inspired many women to not only ride a bike for everyday transportation, but to also photograph what they’re wearing, where they’re going and then share those images and stories with kindred spirits through social media.
The numerous bike fashion blogs that exploded in cyberspace illustrated to many urban and suburban women that you can wear whatever you want on a bicycle. Suddenly, biking was seen not only as a sport for Lycra-clad men, but also as an easy and enjoyable way for any woman to go to work, run an errand or socialize with friends. Fashion-minded women saw the photos of stylish cyclists on bike blogs and actually saw women that looked like them and felt solidarity with them. They finally found a niche in the bicycle culture where they, too, fit in.
What is remarkable about this movement is that it emerged not from the marketing offices of haute couture designers, but from the street, when in 2007, photographer Mikael Colville-Andersen began snapping shots of stylish women on sturdy European bicycles in the streets of his native Copenhagen. His Cycle Chic blog spawned many copycat blogs around the world. So it has become a movement pushing off from city streets and picking up speed in cyberspace — normal people who enjoy expressing their individuality through style, color and patterns when they put their bodies on a bike. I can’t help but be thrilled that these fashion-minded women decide to parade their unique style while riding bikes for everyone to see and take notice. This movement has made the female cyclist more visible both on the streets and in mainstream media.
A fashionable cyclist is not necessarily the same woman who attends a Critical Mass. But now as a result of the cycle chic movement, she has more options. She may join a Tweed Ride, a Bike Party or a Cycle Chic Sunday group ride. She may even be a member of her city’s bicycle coalition. She is a bicycle advocate in her own right, simply by choosing to put her high-heeled foot on her pedal and push off the curb.
There is no way of proving if the bike fashion movement inspired the greater number of cyclists in cities around the world. I would argue, however, that it hasn’t turned women off to cycling. Increasingly in the bike lane, I see not only hipster guys in skinny jeans with Vans on their feet and a U-lock in their belt loop, but also women in dresses and high heels, and men in pinstriped suits and loafers.
We all ride side-by-side in the same bike lane, and through the cycle chic movement, a female cyclist can now demonstrate her own sense of empowerment, liberation and freedom of movement.
Kristin Tieche is the founder of the influential bicycle lifestyle blog, Vélo Vogue: www.velovogue.com
"Where the bike lane meets the runway"
This column originally ran in Momentum Magazine.