Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Feminine Cycling For Everybody!

Photo via Sam Polcer's Preferred Mode

As I was writing a rather long comment on this Atlantic Cities article, it occurred to me that I should write a blog on the topic of what femininity means in cycling. I want to look at the big picture so I'll be considering what it is to use bikes the way women use bikes. Anyone can ride a bike the feminine way. It is simply this: riding slowly, in your normal clothes, with the means to carry stuff (or tiny people). A man on his way to work may very well ride in the same manner. Or he may just be concerned about his appearance. In the article, "How to Look Good on A Bike," Sam Polcer offers these tips to Esquire readers
Keep in mind that the vast majority of your fellow cyclists dress purely for comfort or aerodynamics, with fashion taking a backseat, so it’s actually a lot easier for you to impress on a bike.
Pace yourself. Sweat stains are never fashionable.

Dress for where you’re going, not how you’re getting there. If you’re going to the beach, dress for the beach. If you’re going to a cocktail party, wear a suit. Like I said, there are very few rules. Just watch that pant leg.
Outside of fashion concerns, riding the feminine way is about being able to ride with other people whether that means carrying small children or riding with older children, friends, or a partner. Feminine cycling is a widely shared activity, not limited to the fastest with the fastest bikes and most aerodynamic gear. Feminine cycling requires the space (read: infrastructure) to accommodate commuters and recreational cyclists, elders and youngsters. It then returns that space to the public, not just the athlete or the motorist.

Feminine cycling slows city streets down to a livable pace. In order to have widespread cycling in cities, speed limits must be lowered, traffic calming measures implemented, and segregated bike lanes built. All of these changes will make pedestrian, bicycle, and automobile movements more predictable and make everyone safer. If improvements to public transit were also made, automobile traffic might decrease in a real way as drivers would see viable alternatives to getting around the city.

I like framing all of these positive changes in cycling culture as feminine. I like that, for once, there are many voices saying that the masculine standard—in this case, male-dominated athletic cycling culture—isn't the standard at all. I hope that when better cycling infrastructure arrives and all the benefits to society are obvious, a mighty blow will be dealt to this country's miserable lack of political will to do anything that overtly helps women. On every city street there will be concrete evidence that what supports women benefits everyone.


Bike Pretty said...

I was really sick of this debate, but your post has totally turned it around for me. I mean, can I just start accusing anyone that voices a problem against feminine cycling as being a victim of internalized misogyny?

Does that make sense?

Courtnee said...

Ha ha. That sounds a lot deeper than what I suspected the problem to be. So many people have cited how cycle chic subjects are dressed and how they shouldn't be pressured to have a similar appearance. I just figured they weren't confident about the way they dress.

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Maira Gall