I just spent an hour looking at photos of gorgeous women on bicycles. It was all in the name of research.
My interest was prompted by “Joyride: Pedaling Toward a Healthier Planet,” a book co-written by Mia Birk. She’s a transportation consultant and the former bicycle program manager for the City of Portland (Oregon). Portland is a mecca for bicycle commuting.
Part of her job in Portland was to recruit women to biking and bike commuting. She quickly learned how much “the clothing associated with bicycling holds many women back.” Her book is the first I’ve read that addresses bike fashion. An excerpt:
“We’re at a somewhat swanky reception, and I’m sporting a flouncy, knee-length, linen black skirt and lacy pink chemise under a black and white silk-wool cropped V-neck sweater with tiny pearl buttons. Caressing my feet are knee-high black suede boots. And yes, I did ride my bike to the event.”
She didn’t say that caressing her head was a bike helmet.
Houston still ain’t Copenhagen
Most of the women in the photos I found in my research were not wearing helmets. Undoubtedly, some were models. They rode stylish bikes with baskets, which mostly seemed to be carrying flowers. Most of the “real” people were in European cities, where cycling is respected and protected much more than it is here. Hence, fewer helmets.
These images are very appealing. My concern is that they may lead an inexperienced Houston bike rider to put fashion first and safety second. A flouncy outfit will not magically transform the streets of Houston into the cycling nirvana that is Copenhagen.
Biking advocates are in a tough spot, I suspect. Clearly, helmets put off some women and keep them from cycling. Copenhagen cycling chic helps sell cycling to women. It caters to fashion sense, not safety. No biking advocate wants to be the killjoy who pushes so hard on the helmet issue that it keeps a woman from experiencing the health benefits of biking.
Listen to the locals
BikeHouston, our local biking advocacy group, makes its position very clear: “Ride Ready. Leave the earplugs and phone. Always, always wear a helmet.” They don’t say anything about flouncy skirts, chemise and pearl buttons; so, I say, go for it.
Stephanie and I have ridden on several BikeHouston outings, and the ride leaders practice what they preach. I like that. After all, there’s nothing sexier than a woman (or man) with an intact brain.