The Bike as a Tool for Optimism

Today I'm writing questions to Mikael Colville-Andersen for his March interview for WoBSoCal. I am so delighted Mikael will not only join us as a keynote speaker for the upcoming Pro Walk/Pro Bike Conference here in Long Beach in September, but he's agreed to be our honored guest at the "Cycle Chic: Dress for the Destination" urban bike fashion show here on Sept. 13th as well.

For those of you who aren't familiar with him, Mikael is the man who launched a thousand websites. In 2006 he coined the term "Cycle Chic" for his website "Copenhagenizecyclechic" and launched a worldwide movement and sister sites that brought women and the fashion conscious folk into the bicycling conversation as never before. We felt heard and empowered to go forth and well, just be ourselves. The sight has be called one of the top 100 blogs worldwide by The Times.

Colville-Andersen is an urban mobility expert and "bicycle anthropologist" who is often referred to as Denmark's Bicycle Ambassador. He lectures around the world on how cities can - and should - re-establish the bicycle as a respected and accepted transport form. You can find out about his consulting firm dedicated to building better bicycle culture here.

Taking a more anthropological view of bicycling, Colville steps back and looks at the big picture of how bicyclist fit into the bigger picture of the possibilities for vibrant urban living. He's also a marketer, and for me that's key. I don't believe we'll open the minds and hearts to all those here in the U.S. who would consider using a bike for at least part of their transportation needs unless we allow the sex appeal in. Marketing brings tremendous focus and discipline to the art of engaging the audience - and that's what I feel the bicycling advocacy culture in the U.S. needs to learn to embrace.

We are at a crucial moment here. The fashion and youth culture are embracing the bike as a smart and chic urban transit tool. Just yesterday Alexis Lantz of the LACBC forwarded me this link to the fashion site FIDOO that outlines this, and is then a great profile of the Venice based designer friendly Linus bike line (We are excited about working with a Linus bike for our upcoming fashion show photo shoot and will feature Linus bikes in the show). Young urbanites see the bike as a tool for optimism - better health and greater financial freedom can be yours with bicycling. Why spend an easy minimum of $500.00 a month on a car, or a second car, if you don't really need to? And why feel ashamed? Without the bill of a car (or a second car) hanging over our heads many of us are now able to get out and do and enjoy and spend money that had to all go to the car.

I meet young couples weekly here in Long Beach and who share with me how happy they are to live in a city where you can either live car free, or car light. We bond. We recognize that sometimes walking is an even better choice. Please understand, I'm not knocking the car. It's a tremendously valuable tool, but there is more to life. It's time we wake up and recognize the car can work for us - but we don't have to work for the car.

By riding my bike I get out and greet my neighbors, I feel the wind on my face, I enjoy the sunshine and sometimes the rain, and I never have to give a gym membership a thought. I've thought long and hard during my car free living experiment over the past five years and I've realized that I prefer having money to eat out and travel over owning a car. I'd rather have a new fancy Mac to learn to be more dazzling with this website than own a car. I'd rather travel the world to go to interesting conferences with like minded people than own a car. Heck, I'd rather buy new furniture than own a car right now. I am very optimistic these things are in my very near future because I don't have a car payment and car insurance to worry about.

Will I own a car again someday? Yes, probably I will. Or maybe more likely I'll share a car with someone - but what I won't feel riding my bike, or riding the bus, or walking, is that I'm a second class citizen. And what a wonderful sense of optimism that is.