Making cycling normal: Cycle chic movement

Making Cycling Normal is a three-part series about how to increase the rates of people riding their bikes for everyday trips. Increasing this rate, also called the “modal split” or bicycle’s “mode share,” is a common goal amongst bike plans in major cities around the United States. No city in the United States has a bike mode share higher than 5% of all trips, or even all trips to work, where the rate reaches 40% in some European cities.

Cycle chic is an internet-based movement to promote “normal” cycling. At the root of normal cycling is riding your bike in your everyday work, school, or wherever clothes. No lycra, spandex, or bringing a change of clothes. Some may say it’s bicycling in fashionable or elegant clothes, but the dress up concept is open to individual interpretation.

Cycle chic began with photographer Mikael Colville-Andersen’s website called Copenhagen Cycle Chic, a blog where he posts photos of bicyclists in the capital city of Denmark. The photos tend to be of women dressed in trendy and fashionable clothing. The goals are promoting the city of Copenhagen, and riding one’s bicycle is a completely normal activity and mode of transportation for any trip no matter its purpose (and the Danes ride their bikes in all weather, with the cycling rate apparently only dropping 20% through winter – see Mikael’s photo below).

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Mikael travels around the world promoting cycling culture as part of a company called Copenhagenize Consulting and also as Danish individual. He also writes a blog called Copenhagenize where he discusses the issues prevalent to bicycle and motorist cultures.

The cycle chic blog model has been imitated by bicycling bloggers around the world. Amsterdamize does the job for that Netherlands city. There’s also Los Angeles, Chicago, London, and Moscow. Visit Los Angeles to find a list of plenty more cities. If you find your city, get to know your local Cycle Chic Ambassador. Check out this blog’s author (me) test riding a Dutch bike from a local retailer in some fashionable clothing at a party. A former coworker, Christy, inspired me to start adopting cycle chic.

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I don’t think there’s a cycle chic blogger for Milwaukee, Wisconsin, yet, but I think this guy could start it up (sorry for the blur):

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How will these blogs increase cycling rates?

The blogs and their authors promote cycling as something you can do without gear, special clothes, or a significant lifestyle change. In their own ways, and targeted to readers in their own cities, they discuss how people can incorporate bicycling into their lives where normally a bus, train, or car would transport them. They show that bicycling can be fashionable, popular, and not something that “other” people do.

However, this stylish promotion of cycling will only go so far. Bicycle trip rates will also increase when cycling is safer (part two of the Making Cycling Normal series) or when we educate people about bicycling (part three).

UPDATE: Dottie from Let’s Go Ride a Bike (Chicago’s local cycle chic blogger) has picked up on a similar topic, how to promote cycling (and part two), and Cyclelicious has reblogged the topic and Dottie’s article.

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About Steven Vance

Enthusiast for urbanism, bicycling as transportation, and open data. Building a bicycle culture in Chicago.