A recent survey by the Dutch Gazelle bicycle company among 800 people asked what their motives are for cycling. For short trips of around 4 km 88% uses the bike instead of the car. The main reasons: 70% said 'it's good for my health', 40% opt out of the car 'because it's good for the environment' and 35% prefer the bicycle 'because it's faster than by car'. This is common knowledge, it confirms many other surveys and research papers. I'm more interested in what follows:
66% said 'cycling clears my mind', 60% uses their time on the bike 'for deep thoughts' and 44% find it perfect 'for day dreaming'. Good, good. Here comes the kicker: it also revealed that 27% regularly flirt while cycling. Powerful. It speaks volumes on how comfortable it is to cycle in the Netherlands. Based on just this, I can easily back up what I say on a regular basis: here, cycling is like walking, a faster way of walking. It's that accessible & easy. Not just that, it's by far the most sociable mode of transportation. It confirms the fact that, particularly over here, people don't have to change into a different mental mindset when they hop on a bike. And we also know that the particular bikes we use allow us to maintain that posture in a practical sense. 'Upright is right', as it's often coined.
Flashback: Jasmijn Rijcken of Van Moof visited the New Amsterdam Bike Show in NYC almost two months ago, just like I did (on which I'll post soon). We briefly met and talked, a real pleasure. Like me, she got around town on a bike (why change a habit). All good. You'd think. A few weeks later she shared what happened to her on that day (April 30th) with Joanna of New Amsterdam Bike Show. She got stopped by a cop:
Our friend Jasmijn was stopped in SOHO by NYPD for riding in a skirt! The officer said she could distract drivers and cause an accident...and should go home and put pants on.
Outrageous, of course. Hence, this news traveled fast. I mean, real fast & around the world. I read about it first on Lovely Bike. Not surprisingly, New Yorkers on two wheels could relate to this feeling of harassment, as the NYPD has been notoriously cracking down on people on bikes for the most frivolous things, ranging from handing out tickets for having a bag hanging from the handlebar, for speeding in Central Park, to fining people for not riding in the bike lane (which resulted in the video 'Bike lanes' by Casey Neistat, that subsequently went viral worldwide).It's the infamous & flawed 'cheat sheet' at play here. So, back to skirts. Followers of this story quickly started to doubt it, as Jasmijn works for a bicycle company & she's actually responsible for its marketing efforts, viral marketing efforts. Controversy was born. Streetsblog dove into it, and they confirmed what I thought initially: if this was a stunt, it's a pretty bad one when it comes to aiming to sell bikes. It's far too risky to make it up, the backlash would destroy sales. I'd also e-mailed with Jasmijn & couldn't imagine her playing along with it off the record.
Doug Gordon of BrooklynSpoke asked if someone would be willing to organize a protest ride. Liz Patek had already been contemplating organizing 'Fancy Rides' to get more people on bikes in the Broadway bike lane, so she volunteered & combined the two: the 'Short Skirt Celebration Ride/Love The Broadway Bike Lane' for June 15th was born, with a little Facebook & blog help from Copenhagen Cycle Chic.
This is not about teaching NYPD a lesson. This is about normalizing the idea of people on bikes here in NYC. I repeat this is NOT about teaching the NYPD a lesson. If you plan on shouting or carrying protest signs, please do not join us. No silly antics or street theater please. I do welcome my friends in the Broadway community to please join us. I will send you off at 7pm so you can make your call times. This is NOT a protest; this is a Celebration of People on Bikes.
Volume II is happening this evening. Joanna is organizing 'Skirts on BIKES: The Official NYC Ride - Celebrating Freedom and Fashion'. Initially, she had coined it a 'protest' ride, but it's good to see Liz's smarts rubbed off on her ;). The 'official' part, take it as you want. In the end, it's all about the right intentions.
Jasmijn is in NYC right now & she will be participating. I'm looking forward to hearing from her afterwards. Have fun, #BikeNYC, we'll be riding in spirit with you. (Message to #NYPD: people on bikes, get used to them, embrace them...or at least shed those inhibitions; flirt with them. You'll feel so much better.)UPDATE: Julie Hardee, aka @juleskills participated in last night's Skirts On Bikes ride and took great pictures! Looks like they had a great time celebrating. And the pictures of Jasmijn retelling her story 'on stage' are priceless :).UPDATE II: Jasmijn's company Van Moof recorded the ride, here's the result. Lovely.