There are fundamental forces behind the recent world wide increase in bicycle transport. A sharp increase in oil prices helped us in 2007. Crippling congestion has helped us in cities that have crippling congestion. Those cities also tend to set trends for smaller cities to follow. Which leads me to the issue of fashion. London, New York, and to some extent Copenhagen, have increased their cycling out of necessity, and in so doing have made cycling trendy, in smaller and more sprawling cities where driving still works.
The cities I have mentioned have the requisite density and urban morphology, that will ensure cars keep getting pushed out forever, and bikes remain in. Most of the world’s cities though, aren’t so dense that cars simply won’t fit. It’s as likely these cities will get abundant nuclear power, and electric cars will be the new fashion.
The photos in this post are from around Byron Bay, and were taken by my ol’ buddy Scoop while he was there for their recent Boozefest. Everyone, he tells me, is riding around on old upright bikes with no helmets, up there at Byron. Yes: for now. What about next year, when cycling is old? People with weekenders in the holiday town of Byron Bay are notorious for hiding the German cars they drove up from Sydney, then spending their weekends in costume. One year it will be the Hippy Trail look, with sandals and detachable dreadlocks. The next they will all be disguising themselves as legends of surfing. This year, apparently, they have all taken style notes from cycle-chic.
In anticipation of the day when the bike craze is tired, it would seem prudent to ask why people cycled before cycling got cool. People who have been cycling as their main form of transport for the past 20 years, tend either to be poor and therefore with no options, or else sports cyclists like me. Add to that a small number of bike nerds, who for some reason became fascinated with Rohloff hubs back in the 80s, perhaps a handful of commendable greenies, who traded their combies for bikes, and lastly staunch protestant types, who cycle to prove to themselves they’re made of tough stuff.
In dense cities that are now building bike infrastructure, none of these old motivations will matter. Cycling will be the quickest way of getting to work. In regional towns we need to think of ways to either keep the bike fashion alive (with new types of bikes, and new bicycling outfits), or else awaken fashionistas to some of cycling’s more lasting rewards.