Why Chic Matters to Growing the Bicycling Culture

How very appropos for IBM to launch it's new "Birth of a Trend" online report on 9/19 by focusing on the growth of the Cycle Chic movement! Talk about media relations gold! The timing couldn't have been better - right on the heels of Mikael Colville-Andersen's (the founder of the Cycle Chic movement) role as a keynote speaker at the national Pro Walk/Pro Bike: Pro Place 2012 conference in Long Beach from 9/10-9/13 to the opening of the Intertrend bicycle retail conference on from 9/19 - 9/21 in Las Vegas. The report takes you through the birth of the movement in 2007 through 2012 and shows visually how the trend begins slowly but then blossoms quickly as connection and interest grows.

What the report illustrates so clearly is the power not only of style and fashion to help engage an audience and thereby helps to grow movements, but also how powerful a celebratory and empowering approach is. Cycle Chic isn't about shoulds, instead Mikael has used his creative skills as a photographer and journalist to share in an aesthetically appealing way what is already going on in the bicycle culture of his chosen hometown of Copenhagen, as well as the bicycle friendly culture of the cities he visits around the world. But perhaps his most masterful step was in allowing others to create their own "Cycle Chic' blogs (there are over 200 of them around the world) to illustrate and celebrate the growth of bicycling in their own cities.

On a spur of the moment Charlie Gandy and I decided to rent a car and go to the Interbike trade show in Vegas and catch up with our friends from the Pro Walk/Pro Bike Conference. It was a heady experience. Where Pro Bike had 850+ attendees, Interbike hosted about 30,000. I was most curious about what was going on with the display of city bike lines and what sort of visual presence women would have at the show. On that note I certainly appreciated the Bikes Belong sign above that was obviously paying homage to both the Cycle Chic movement and the positive impact that Momentum Magazine is having on the bicycling movement by making us aware that yes, women are out there riding too - and not just in lycra! I'm very curious to find out who won the $1,000.

Above: a model Tanya shows off a sleek style at the Interbike/Momentum Magazine fashion show, below on another section of the stage signage lets us know who she is and what she's riding/wearing.

I was also very happy to attend one of Momentum Magazine's terrific fashion shows. I so appreciated not only the organization of all of the different forms of riding, but the branding and signage that clearly let everyone know who was riding and wearing what. But I was bummed to see that both the fashion and technical apparel fashion shows happened in a sort of side alcove and were not nearly as well as attended, nor promoted as I imagined they'd be. Now I understand why the Momentum team envied our long wide Long Beach catwalk for our 9/13 Past, Present & Future fashion show!

I can only imagine the work that goes into hosting Interbike and I certainly applaud the superb job that is done, but I do wish that women could be made to feel even more welcome. The fashion shows ran at 10:00 am and noon. I think they should be at 12:30 and say, 4:00 - and they should have a nice long catwalk so that the models can really ride. We had over 300 people at our 9/13 fashion show - I know that Interbike could easily draw 1,000++ if the fashion shows were in the right location and properly promoted (and perhaps they could draw their own sponsorship from companies that normally don't attend Interbike...). The Momentum creative group, the apparel companies, the bike lines and the models that put their heart and soul into the shows certainly deserve this.

My very favorite booth section was something similar to what was done when I was in the gift industry - a section was organized specifically for bike related products hand made in the U.S.  I felt a tremendous sense of pride seeing all of the products that are being manufactured here. I know it's not easy to do. Imagine how powerful it would be if next year Interbike also had a section for companies that specialize in bike lines that appeal to women and/or city bike riding? Certainly there were beautiful booths full of city bikes like Electra Bicycle Company and Nirve, and companies such as Specialized showcased their Globe line, but imagine if there was a whole row/rows of female-family-friendly city bikes at Intertrend?

If we want to attract the number of riders we need in order to fully and successfully address such issues as sedentary diseases, traffic congestion, successful mobility independence and the overall health of our communities, the bike is key. It really is a tool for urban optimism. But we won't attract and engage those needed numbers unless we make both sexes and people of all ages, races and walks of life feel welcome. Frankly we need to take a page from the great style marketers like Coca Cola, Target, Levi's, Kate Spade, Missoni, Banana Republic just to rattle off a few.  There will be no invitation to ride a bike that fits all, but rather many invitations that illustrate how there is a bike and style of riding available for just about everyone.

And here is another important truth that I've learned personally and several women echoed to me back at both Pro Bike and Interbike - the better dressed you are while riding your bike the better people in cars treat you. As advocates this is something we really need to keep in top of mind awareness.