Creating the Bike-Friendly Tipping Point

Pippa Middleton in a screenshot in July's Vanity Fair. Image by Norman Jean Roy.

The past two weeks have been absolutely fascinating from a "Bike Minded Market Watch" point of view. Last week a story happened that I simply could not have made up. Charlie Gandy and I live across the street from each other in a part of Long Beach called "Alamitos Beach" just East of downtown. It's an older neighborhood with one way streets, lots of apartments, some cool Craftsmen houses, and very little parking but nice wide quiet bike lanes.

If you stand on my corner you can watch a very diverse and dynamic melange of bicyclists go by at almost any time of the day. Apparently GT Bikes thought it was a fascinating enough setting because as Charlie was making the arduous trek across the street to hang out for dinner he realized a professional photo shoot was happening - starring bikes. We, being the curious Georges of all things bikes, of course had to meander across the street and find out what the heck was going on. Yep, it was GT Bikes doing part of their photo shoot for their 2014 promos in Long Beach because, and I quote, "we think it's just so cool what you guys have been doing here about bike-friendliness."

Imagine how that made our week!I can't wait to see the images!

But ok, you say that's a bike company so hey we're happy for you Long Beach but it's not the world at large loving bikes more. You're right. So above I bring you an image that greeted me in the new July issue of Vanity Fair. Pippa Middleton advising readers it was smart to ride your bike to Wimbleton to avoid the crowded car situation. Will the sister of the future queen of England be the reason we'll hit the tipping point in bike-friendliness in our world?

No, but she's an excellent step in the right direction and I say well done.

There are those who like to try and make bicycling about class war fare, saying it's only a sport and only something the rich in lycra can afford. That's an argument going on here in L.A. right now over bike lanes. But I wonder who these critics are really kidding? Have they noticed the price of gas? Have they taken a look at how much of their income their car payment and insurance takes up?

The City Bike movement is gaining so much traction with the Lycra crowd that Bicycling Magazine's July issue has a woman riding one on the cover. Yes, I was as stunned and thrilled as you are. They don't seem to have the new cover image online yet or I'd certainly be sharing it with you.

I personally gave up my car because I simply couldn't afford it anymore and like many I started taking public transit, and walking walking walking. We have very good public transit in Long Beach, but it still only takes you so far - and a bike beautifully closes the gap. Do we need to do more for those who can't afford the price of a bike? Yes, certainly, but those who are calling bikes elitist aren't looking at the facts they're looking at fear at a changing way of life.

If we're smart in bike advocacy we won't make bike advocacy about the bike vs. the car, or even the bike about advanced athleticism. Instead we'll focus our energy on the bike as a tool for urban optimism. Here in Southern California many people have a commute to work that simply isn't feasible for them by bike. But what people here could far more easily do is replace many of their local car trips by bike. They can save substantial money riding their bikes for errands, exercise and fun. Fun is the key here. Getting people out to discover anew where they live, supporting their local economy. This is something almost anyone can do.

And this is how Kellie Morris and I will be marketing our "Street Savvy" novice adult bicycle education classes.

Standing on my corner I see people of all ages and races ride by on bikes. I see women in their 50's in conservative clothing ride by on folding bicycles coming from the train from LA. I see beautiful hipsters of both sexes I want to run after and invite to our next photo shoot. I see men who now proudly sport baskets and carry groceries home. I see families with children heading for the beach, and yep I see men and women in lycra. But not as much as I see bikes that have utility to help people get things done (and save money and their heart while they're at it).

Recently I had the great pleasure of finally meeting Lynette Carpiet, the editor of Bicycle Retailer, who just happens to live in Long Beach. She gave me much food for thought on how to better connect bike advocacy to the bike industry, something that is one of our new goals here. She also admitted that she and her husband were both looking for new bikes - bikes to ride around Long Beach so they don't have to hassle with parking. She loved the idea of vintage bikes so I told her about Evan Whitener and Nicole Maltz of The Bicycle Stand (in my own neighborhood!) and their amazing service. That weekend Lynette and her husband added two new members to their bike family.

To everyone who loves to wear lycra for their long hard rides who also wants to ride a city bike in their street clothes too I say welcome and thank you! Which is why young women like our "Athletic by Bike" columnist Jennifer Tetrick is such an important role model.

Each new person who rides a bike in everyday clothing is a pedaling advertisement - for the good or for the ill of bicycling. Each one of us is a possible ambassador for creating new ridership if we behave well and follow the traffic laws. Bicycles in T.V. ads for everything from Dove soap to Viagra, and chic ads magazine print ads from top fashion designer from Marc Jacobs to Hermes absolutely help, but it's really each new person who rides and does so proudly with a smile on their face that is the very best way to move us to the true tipping point.

 

Why Style Matters

The First Lady on the Cover of April's Vogue Magazine

I have learned something fascinating about our readers and our outreach network since we've been doing our spring survey - our largest, and most active readership group is in the 25 to 35 year old age bracket. An age group still very open to new ideas, and new ways of presenting themselves, as they're discovering exactly who they want to be in the world. I have to say that I'm very proud of our own representation of this group with our three latest columnists Maria Sipin, Machiko Yasuda and Shelby Sanchez - and we'll be adding a forth with Jennifer Tetrick coming on very soon!

That's not to say that the rest of us (both older and younger!) can't continue to grow and change and be open to new ideas as well (and happily we have readers in all age categories!). Who could represent iconic change in this country right now better than President and Mrs. Obama? How proud and thrilled I was to see Michelle on the cover of Vogue for April with her stylish new bangs! And how it filled me with pride, and laughter that we have a First Lady who can get up and shake her groove thing on national television with Jimmy Fallon to promote her Let's Move campaign.

Keep up the vision and goal with me if you will of seeing Michelle on the cover of next year's May 2014 Vogue Magazine on a bike for Bike Month won't you?

Yes style matters in the active living conversation. Why? Style = thought. Style is not about mindlessly mimicking the latest fashion, style is about discovering who you are, what works best for you, and visually having a conversation with the world by how you present yourself. The First Lady not only exemplifies this with tremendous grace, she expresses her own journey to finding the right clothes in which she is completely comfortable and completely herself in the new Vogue article

Which is exactly what we're striving to do here at Women on Bikes as well by how we present ourselves, and of course what we say. Obviously we are a work in progress, and a labor of love (with a new spring fundraising campaign coming up!) working to find the right mix to have the most appealing and engaging conversation with you about how a bike can fit into your everyday life.

I was also very excited to read in this month's Vogue about the new bike line Martone Cycling Co., created by Lorenzo Martone who has a background in public relations and advertising. I expect Martone to not only bring a new sense of style to bicycle marketing and advertising outreach, but some of the very focused discipline a fashion mindset brings to getting the word out in the most appealing way to the broadest audience possible. From my research on Martone I found the gorgeous website Style of Sport and am thrilled to share that I'll be doing an interview next week for an upcoming Bike Minded Market Watch with founder Claudia Lebenthal.

From Right: Bernard Serrano of Cyclone Coasters and his dance partner Kitty Marie Wyman

And here's more news of exciting things on the horizon - I'll be coordinating a vintage bike exhibit and vintage bike + fashion show for Long Beach's downtown Bikefest on May 11th. Both are in honor of May as Bike Month and Long Beach's rich and vibrant vintage bicycling heritage and community. None of which would be complete without also honoring and showcasing the life of Bernard Serrano of Cyclone Coaster - one of the largest monthly vintage rides in the country now with 250+ people showing up to ride!

I met Bernard again through my bicycle advocacy work here in Long Beach about four years ago, but I knew I'd met him before. He seemed oh so familiar, and then it struck me - he had been one of my sister Michelle's good friends during her 1980's Rockabilly passion and the talented dance partner of one of her best friends Rose Apodaca of La Vie En Rose and A + R (If you love vintage Hollywood glamour as much as I do make sure to read Rose's article from La Vie En Rose and Hollywood 7 here).

The image above of Bernard and his latest dance partner the lovely FIDM student and vintage passionista Kitty Marie Wyman was taken in Long Beach's scenic East Village on Monday with yours truly playing photo assistant and sittings editor. We had so much fun. Aren't they gorgeous? Stay tuned for more images from this shoot and details about the vintage bike exhibit and vintage bike + fashion show!