Bike in Style

August 25, 2010

In a recent talk at SFU to present their book, Carjacked, Catherine Lutz and Anne Lutz fernandez were mentioning as a myth the assertion:

“Cars make me an individual”.

Yes, people will drive a car they believe will enhance their image, but that statement is true for every visible action we accomplish as a customer: that is the real reason why we are not driving the cheapest car around, but also wear more or less expensive clothes which we believe express our personality as well, and I am not sure that is because we are brainwashed by ads.

The question arise:

how to attract those “image conscious” people to cycling?

could it be with the ad campaign recently ran in Vancouver?

An ad for the bike month campaign in Vancouver, June 2010: Is it really the cyclist image you would like to be associated with?

Naturally, with such negative ads campaigns, basically the only ones ran on cycling, carmaker doesn’t need to put lot of effort to convey the message that “car are safe” and associate the autombile with a more positive image

The counter-productivity of such campaigns, is well recognized by some studies [4], recommending instead to promote cycling by putting a positive spin on it and foremost on the bike users themselves.

That could be the aim of the chic cyclists movement which seems to address the concerns of the image conscious people, by letting them know: you don’t need to wear a sci-fi helmet and lycra outfit, to bike: Your every day dress are right enough…and, stylish and fashion they can be.

The movement started with Copenhagen Cycle chic initiated by Mikael Colville-Andersen, which got an echo on the blog of the VancouverSun columnist, Tod Douglas [2], seems to have found an audience. Toronto, is in the wheel, with Toronto Bike Chic or 416cyclestyle, while Paris, city where its finest hotels provide complimentary bikes [5], has eventually been credited by nothing else than a full book on the topic [3].

A Chic torontonian cyclist (left) (credit photo [1]).The former L.A. prosecutor Garcetti, reconverted as a Photograph, has become the main advocate of Parisan cycling chic (right) (credit photo [3])

New York City’s efforts to promote cycling, has even been complimented by luxury brand LVMH which has involved students at the Fashion Institute of Technology in a bike in style challenge [6]. While that could be a departure of the cycle chic movement manifesto, it is also a departure of the biking seen only for the wanna-be athlete and other treehugger people.

In Vancouver BC, where cycling is considered as a dangerous activity, biking in style can be more challenging due to the local anti-cycle chic law, but the cycling chic movement got some traction here too, with VancouverCycleChic, albeit, by eventually taking a civil disobedience stand, as have done the oppressed cyclists of Melbourne

Vancouver Mayor, Gregor Robertson, is biking a cycle apparently without bell and with footstrapped pedal: eventually an unsafe proposition in a urban environment: could it be the reason why this BC cyclist needs an helmet?

All that movement in fact is not without reminding us what has made the success of the bicycle a century ago:

Not unlike a century ago, the “cycle chic” movement doesn’t promote cycling by triggering an ecologic sensitive cord, neither explain it make financially sense or it is good for you health, but because it is good for your image: elegance, seduction and desire elements become core of the message…it is something the car advertiser already knews.


[2] Danish Women on bikes, Todd Douglas, Feb 2, 2010.

[3] Paris, Women and bicycles, Gil Garcetti, Balcony Press, 2010. you can see some picture at the author’s website

[4] Vers une pratique quotidienne du velo en ville, ADEME, July 2004

[5] it is noticably the case of the Plaza Athénée. While, numerous hotel in Vancouver offer similar service like the Fairmont hotel, some other like the Wedgwood hotel seems to see biking only as an exercise, to practice preferably in the comfort of their fitness room, and have consequently a different take on cycling.

[6] Luxury Leader LVMH to Be a Main Sponsor of NYC’s 2009 Summer Streets, Businesswire, June 29, 2009


2 Responses to “Bike in Style”

  1. xander Says:

    great blog, i’m glad to have stumbled upon it. Thanks for the plug, i’m glad you’ve touched on the history aspect of the bicycle… cycle chic isn’t new its been around for ages…

  2. […] as well as promotional material for bucolic cycling and pacified living style, when not used on cycle chic websites like Vancouver cycle […]

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