Copenhagen’s got it, Amsterdam and the UK, too. It’s cycling chic, those websites devoted to the idea that cycling doesn’t require special clothes (think: Spandex) and anyone can do it. While the underlying message is sorely needed—the more butts on bikes the better—there’s a danger lurking in those glossy photos of (primarily) young, hip urban female cyclists. Such photos celebrate (and ultimately sell) a with-it aesthetic, turning bicycles into consumerist accessories and women, once again, into eye candy.
According to the League of American Cyclists, in the USA only 24% of bicycle trips are made by women, yet most cycling chic blogs or sites feature beautiful women. Women’s lib was about fighting for economic equality and equally, for removing the objectifying male gaze the media favors. But cycling chic puts an old-fashioned focus back on women’s appearance, a global cultural norm we’ve struggled to overcome.
Historically speaking, femininity and biking go extremely well together. Bicycles were an important tool in the suffragette and early feminist movements and even in 2015, I can relate as cycling gives me a degree of freedom other forms of transportation simply don’t. I bike everyday, I bike as a woman, and I sometimes bike in heels. I don’t need to deny my femininity in order to cycle but I don’t need to put on lipstick to bike into town, either.
Here’s an interesting article in which dozens of women weigh in what cycling means to them. It’s a great, complex conversation to have and one that continues to develop.