Wednesday, October 13, 2010

'Lycra is killing urban cycling'

Usually I wouldn't scavenge from the same source twice in a day (or even week), but this on Copenhagenize was too good, about getting more Aussies to bike.

Some of my best friends wear lycra. Of course I get why it makes sense for a certain style of riding. But here are few key bits that get to the core of the citizen cycling concept:

"[...] the actions of some people riding bicycles were sometimes seen as negative, and the lycra-clad image of cyclists put some people off because they didn't identify with it or thought it a turn-off."

"A more mainstream image of everyday cycling might appeal to non-riders who can't see themselves wearing lycra or being fit enough to be a cycling athlete."


"Cycling, and especially cycling for transport, is not yet seen as a mainstream activity in Sydney. Encouraging more people to ride bicycles for short trips wearing regular clothes, without the need for specialised clothing or equipment, will improve and normalise the image of cycling."


  1. Bill,

    why focus on the negative aspect of this study. The first thing it says is:

    "Nearly everyone was very positive about cycling and the health and pleasure associated with it."

    and the is followed by statement containing lots of "some people" and "sometimes", which is much less than "Nearly everyone". So it looks like a small number of people where bothered by this, so why focus on that small segment.

    And lycra might or might not be killing urban cycling, but this study (or at least it's press release) does not really seem to actually indicate this. It seems more like personal opinion on the part of the researcher and the copenhagenize dude.

    If they really wanted to know if lycra is indeed killing urban cycling the why dont they simply ask: Are people cycling in lycra the main (or one of the main) reasons for you not commuting to work on a bike? and an interesting follow up question could be: are you not walking to the store because of people running in short jogging shorts or tank tops?

    also, asking people why they do or dont bike commute to work could be an interesting study.

    I was recently in Sydney and i did not bike there because it did not feel like a bike friendly city. Yet I biked all over Melbourne which was very bike friendly and had all types of cyclist. Infrastructure seemed to me the biggest difference, but maybe it was the lycra.

  2. Hey Hector, I don't think I was focusing on the negative.

    I have to admit the post title is glib and pretty over the top. For one thing, urban cycling is growing not dying, so nothing's 'killing' it. I suppose it should have read 'Lycra may or may not be slightly reducing the rate of cycling growth' ;). They weren't my words but I used them, so my bad on that.

    I think getting a lot more people to bike is a complex stew. Infrastructure for safe and comfortable biking is obviously key. The Portland guy a couple posts ago claims 'build it and they will come'.

    Another way is to increase biking to create demand for the infrastructure by having lots more bikers. People in surveys might say biking's great and fun and healthy. So why aren't they doing it?

    I think it's a valid argument that - besides perceptions (often misperceptions) about safety - *one* aspect keeping people off bikes is the sense that it's not for them (lycra a handy and symbolic whipping boy). Hence the citizen cycling idea to make biking seem more accessible and attractive for more people.

    That's what this blog is about. The problem in pushing a particular vision is that it can seem to be at the exclusion of others, or to put down other kinds of bikers. That's not my intent, and that's a balance I'll always have to work on. The idea is to be as inclusive as possible, and to help nurture CC as a part of the overall bikescape.