*Another* Critique of Cycle Chic

Elly Blue at Taking the Lane has already written the feminist takedown of Mikael Colville-Anderson’s Cycle Chic movement that needed to be written—but there are even more Issues with CC than just its inherent sexism and objectification. While I have fewer than no problems with making roads safer for cyclists, I do have problems with Colville-Anderson’s casual classism.

His tagline may be “Urban Cycling for the 99%,” but, to look over the CC photoblog, one would be excused for thinking Copenhagen—and Amsterdam, and Fort Worth, and every other bustling, cosmopolitan, diverse metropolis—was free of cyclists from working class, immigrant, or other non-priviliged backgrounds. All these candid photographs of beautiful people (usually women) on bikes, artfully composed with a narrow depth of field, and never a helmet in sight to mess up that perfectly wind-touseled long hair.

It’s a common stereotype of urban cyclists, one beloved of those who would lump bike infrastructure together with dog parks and cupcake parlors, a waste of community resources on entitled yuppies.

The thing is, though, this image fails to conform to reality.

I work at a bike shop that caters to commuters. Sure, we see a few elegant Dutch-style urban bikes, just as we see a few carbon fiber road bikes—both emblems of different types of stereotypical cyclists—but we see far more Schwinn Rangers brought in by students at the local university and people from working class backgrounds, many of whom are recent immigrants.

I’ve biked and driven the roads they tell me they use to get to work and school. To say the least, they’re not especially bike friendly. I fail to see how improving transportation infrastructure for bicyclists has become associated with only benefiting privileged urbanites, save that we’ve allowed it to happen—and continuing to associate cyclists with a certain type of privilege that thinks it’s the norm isn’t helping matters.

Schlepping cargo by bike may be common in hip and urbane Denmark, but it’s just as common in India and Vietnam. Cycling is for everyone. Effective infrastructure helps everyone.

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