Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bike Culture

The following is from the Copenhagen Bicycle Blog, and is a tongue-in-cheek list of "18 Ways of Knowing that You Have Bike Culture". Copenhagen has a lot of bike culture with a lot of cyclists and an infrastructure that is centered around bicycles. Plus, Copenhagen is flat, making the city easy to get around on 2 wheels. Seattle, by comparison, is hilly, with an infrastructure centered around cars and, as such, we are slowly catching up to places like Copenhagen and even Portland.

Here is the list of 18 Ways, followed by my commentary as they relate to Seattle.

1. "Fixed gear" is something than happens after you take your old Raleigh down to one of the 20-30 bike shops in your neighbourhood to have them look at "broken gear".

Fixed gears are ridden by hipsters who don't wear helmets and by cyclists who desire simplicity in a bicycle. Plus, they all must have good knees, since they have no granny gears for climbing hills.

2. If a car honks at you in traffic, you hardly notice. Instead it makes you think that it's been a while since you took your kids to the park to feed the ducks... Hmmm... maybe this Sunday?

Cars do sometimes honk and they are either saying they disapprove of something we are doing on our bicycles or they are saying "hello" or "nice ass".

3. You think nothing of riding home in 35 degree heat, with your four year-old on the bike seat, two bags of groceries dangling on your handlebars, talking to your partner on the phone about dinner - all the while heading up a steep hill and STILL being able to growl "Stay on the right!" in three languages at the weaving, gasping tourists on their rental bikes whom you just flew past as though they were carved in stone.

Oh, those crazy summer touristas! They wander along on the Fremont bridge, gawking at the boats, while unknowingly blocking the bike path where a steady stream of cyclists are headed.

4. When you feel yourself start sweating on the bike lanes on your way to work... you just ride slower. And if the forecast is for hot weather, you leave for work a bit earlier so you don't have to ride so fast and get too sweaty.

Lucky for me, we have a shower at work.

5. The only place you ever see Lycra or spandex is in old Jane Fonda workout videos or on joggers in the parks.

I wear Lycra, spandex, wool, polyester, all kinds of fabrics. The hipsters on fixies (see #1) tend to avoid Lycra.

6. And you're quite sure that Gortex is that guy who plays midfield for Bayern M√ľnchen.

Gore is a guy, named W.L., indeed (little known fact: he did his research at the Evergreen State College using their SEM).

7. When your bike breaks down and is in for repairs you take your other bike, or you take the train or bus. Even though your car is parked out front.

Yes, this is true for me, but not for a lot of people. I ride because I love to ride, whether it's on the weekend in the country or in the city to work or to do errands. But a lot of cyclists do not see cycling as a true means of transportation and they only ride in the country and drive around the city.

8. The only time you see more than three cyclists in one place wearing helmets is every July - on the television during the Tour de France.

Although I don't agree with having a helmet law (only you can save yourself from yourself), I do believe in wearing helmets. They really do save lives.

9. The odd-person out in your circle of friends is the one who has never fallen off their bike while riding home drunk. You mock him/her regularly.

This brings back memories!

10. You have, at one time or another, checked to see if your clothes match your bike.

No, never thought about it, though I do tend to accessorize my bike with color-coordinated gear like tires and seat bags. Where does one find yellow cycling shoes?

11. You and your friends have repeated discussions about which bike repair shop in your neighbourhood is the best for price and service.

I would love to hear this debated, as I don't have a shop to call my own.

12. When you see somebody with rolled up trouser legs you think, "what a shame that fellow can't afford a chain guard". You consider rolling up next to him at the next light to give him some money.

Or you could tell them to participate in Cascade's Bike to Work Day in May so they could pick up their very own pants elastic band. It's free.

13. You don't even know that you live in a "bike culture" and have never used the expression. You just ride.


14. You use your time waiting at a red light in bicycle rush hour with over 100 other cyclists to check out new fashions. "Wonder where she got those shoes? Cool sunglasses on that guy... must be Prada."


15. Your entire wardrobe can be classified as "cycle wear". Espeically those stilettos from Christian Louboutin or your new double-breasted trenchcoast from Tiger of Sweden.

My mom was visiting one time and, upon seeing my closet, remarked that she was surprised how much clothing I had, until she realized half of it was cycling garb.

16. When the odd motorist cuts you off you fix him with an icy stare and shake your head in pity before riding off and forgetting the whole episode 50 metres farther down the bike lane.

We cyclists are smarter, happier and richer (in spirit, of course). That's satisfaction enough. Though I will admit they are a little odd.

17. You find rust on bicycles to be charming and aesthetic. Shiny new bikes are somehow gaudy.


18. It takes you over fifteen minutes to find your parked bike at the train station.

What train station? We are so far behind...

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