Saturday, August 15, 2009

De Pigerne Promenade...

..which is Danish for "The Girls Promenade". Which is kind of how I think of the blog Copenhagen Cycle Chic. I have to admit, it's kind of an envy thing. Let me explain.

Firstly, here's the brief on CCC:

Copenhagen Cycle Chic began its bloglife back in June 2007 when journalist, film director and photographer Mikael Colville-Andersen decided to put a growing number of photos about Copenhagen's bicycle culture into one place on the internet.

A series of social documentary photos about Copenhagen started to include a number of shots of life in the World's Cycling Capital, including fashionable Copenhageners on their bicycles. The feedback about these photos was positive and there was clearly a growing interest abroad in seeing how the bicycle was an integral part of life in the Danish capital. Specifically about how Copenhageners have demystified the bicycle and use it without any form of bicycle 'gear'. Just as the bicycle was meant to be ridden when invented.
I love that statement about "how Copenhagers have demystified the bicycle and use it without any form of bicycle 'gear'". Really? Do the good bicycling citizens of Copenhagen not have to carry locks, has bicycle theft become passé in Copenhagen? Hm. I don't think so, although supposedly "convenience theft" has decreased since Copenhagen introduced their City Bike system. Do the Danes not have to use lights after dark? I can't imagine so. And I know for a fact (by looking at some of nice photography on the site) that bike baskets and panniers are widely used. So I suspect the "bicycle gear" that Mikael Colville-Andersen is referring to is bicycle clothes. Which raises the question:

Why are functional bicycling clothes so reviled, especially in Copenhagen?

I mean, look at the Copenhagen Cycling Chic Manifesto. (Here's the desktop version and here is the blog post.) While certainly delivered with tongue firmly planted in cheek, I mean, come on.

I wear:
  • bike shorts (simple black ones, not team-livery) because they don't chafe when I'm cycling at 15-20 mph;
  • a bright fluorescent jersey to be visible in all weather conditions;
  • cycling shoes for more efficient power;
  • gloves to keep my hands from getting lacerated in a spill; and
  • a helmet for safety.
I admit this may be "geeky" (however that's defined) but this is practical cycling, and it is, after all, the name of this blog. The Copenhageners (Copenhagenites?) sniff at this, because they know they have it good, and they want to flaunt it.

Why do I say they "have it good"? I've been giving this some thought, and I've come to the conclusion that this is a "hierarchy of needs" issue. Most readers will be familiar with Abraham Maslow's "Hierarchy of Needs" often expressed as a graphic pyramid from his 1943 paper, "A Theory of Human Motivation". The original hierarchy was expressed as the following levels of need:
  • Physiological (meeting biological needs);
  • Safety (security of body, resources, property);
  • Love/Belonging (friendship, family, intimacy);
  • Esteem (self-esteem, confidence, respect);
  • Self-Actualization (morality, creativity, etc.);
Now, let's think about the environment of practical cycling. There's a hierarchy of needs here, also, if you think about it:
  • Law (I must have the legal right to be on the road!);
  • Safety (Can I make it to my destination without mishap?);
  • Living Density (How far do I have to ride to work?);
  • Physical Ability (How much strength do I need to do it?);
  • Style (Can I look good or be cool doing it?);
The beauty of Copenhagen is that the first three levels of the pyramid are taken care of. Cyclists are legally supported in Denmark, and are numerous enough that they are well respected on the road. Copenhagen, like most European capitals, is very densely settled (and flat to boot) so that rides are short and it doesn't require significant physical stamina to handle the ride. Which gives the Danes the luxury of being able to focus on Style. Good for them, I say. But, as reported earlier, I'm jealous.

Keep up the promenade, girls. And, by all means, keep looking good. But please, try to not rub our noses in it quite so hard!


Anonymous said...

Hats off to Mikael who has made it abundantly clear that cycling doesn't necessarily mean lycra or speed demons. In fact, the more women who learn to ride in style inevitably means more men will follow... and then so will density. Convenience combined with style spells success for man's greatest invention and our world.
Ride on,

Sox said...

I like Mr Colville-Andersen's pictures and love the way cycling is so 'easy' in Europe.
I can't say I appreciate his stance on the wearing of helmets, but then we live in two very different worlds.

Unknown said...

Danish bikers are also helped by their completely fascinating and utterly complete compliance with traffic laws. Not only does no one run lights (car or bike lights, since Copenhagen has separate bike lanes with bike traffic signals timed with automobile signals), pedestrians will not cross any street, no matter how empty, without waiting for the pedestrian signal to change to "Walk". It's a bit off putting to walk across an empty street, and get odd looks from the 20 people waiting for the signal to change.