Smile at the Bicycles

Today there were so many bicyclists along my route, everywhere, becoming a real force in the movement of the city – it was beautiful. I found myself smiling the whole way home.

There are many more bicyclists this summer than last summer, and especially more people dressed in regular clothes. I’m bad at numbers, but I must have seen nearly 100 other bicyclists during my commute. On the way home I rode behind a guy in a suit (jackpot!), a woman in a skirt and another woman in stylish khakis and a button-down with pink flowers on her basket.

I hope people who don’t ride notice all of the bicycles, too. They must! Seems impossible to miss such a dynamic new part of the cityscape. I’m pretty sure I saw some smiles on the faces of pedestrians. Who can resist a smile at the bicycles? Especially those with wicker baskets, flowers, skirts and suits? :)

Have you noticed more bicyclists where you live? Or is it your first summer riding a bike? I’m really curious to hear what others’ experiences have been.

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61 thoughts on “Smile at the Bicycles

  1. Evie says:

    Madison has always been full of bicyclists, but they are usually the hip fixie crowd or the Lycra-clad types. This summer, I have been noticing more utilitarian bikes in the downtown area and more women in regular(ish) clothes on step-through bikes. Suits are still a very rare sight, though, which is a shame. All in due time!

    • David says:

      I’m in Madison too. I too have noticed more women in step-through and vintage bikes. Easy to notice, such a beautiful site: girl with long hair (never a helmet of course), skirt, tattoos (my favorite), on old bike.

      I have seen a suit, but is rare. Dutch bikes are very rare, but I’ve seen a couple, people with them seem snobby or something.

      • Jennifer says:

        Interesting. To my knowledge I am not regarded as snobby when I ride my Dutch bike but I get the feeling, based on a few recent exchanges with passers-by that the Dutch bike / suit / heels combo makes me seem eccentric to some. I think also that people who are willing to make individual choices that are not the ‘norm’, whether in their personal style, bike choice or otherwise, can sometimes give off a kind of quiet self-containment which can be regarded by some as aloof or snobby. I’m all for individual choices but would equally be delighted to see a ‘biking in work attire’ trend take off in my part of the world!

        • David says:

          Just an exeperience I had with a guy riding a dutch bike. I asked him about it. He seemed to look at my bike (a lowly Raleigh hybrid) and literally stuck his nose up in the air.

          I know I shouldn’t generalize based on just that, but it’s fun.

  2. anna says:

    That’s one of these nice cycling experiences. I did notice a kind of a “bicycle spring” too, where suddenly a lot more people where cycling everywhere. But not just in the summer the number of cyclists increases, it has also significantly increased over the past few years, both in winter and summer :). I see myself smiling when I see guys cycling in suits. It was not _that common a few years back, but it’s almost normal now…

  3. dave says:

    it feels to me like there have been a ton of people out the last week or two. was just planning to post about that too, actually :)

    • Dave says:

      Tuesday on my way home from work, I was in a wave of cyclists crossing the Hawthorne bridge that filled up the side path and was a couple blocks long once leaving the bridge. http://www.flickr.com/photos/poetas/4747247073/

      After crossing the bridge, I stopped and watched, and two more similar groups passed by after.

      Yesterday on the way home from work, this Hispanic guy on a bike passed me and then turned around and came back up to me and was cursing up and down about how beautiful my bike was and in what great condition it was, and how he wanted to get a Batavus Personal Bike, but was thinking about the Torker because it was way cheaper and what not. He rode probably half to three quarters of a mile out of his way to chat and then turned back around :)

      After that, Trina and I met another friend for wine and appetizers happy hour at a really good Italian place near us. We got there before they opened, so we were just sitting outside, and there was considerably more bike traffic on the street than car traffic (SE Ankeny for anyone in Portland). Just constantly people going by on bikes.

      I felt like all Winter and Spring there were more people out than last year, but now it’s really even going a step beyond that. I’ve felt like when I’m riding around lately, no matter which way I look I see somebody on a bicycle. Not always in groups, but almost always somebody.

      • Jeanette says:

        I stopped by a bicycle shop this evening on my way home from work, in the East Village of NY….the owner’s unsolicited comment was that his business is extremely busy. He feels that there is pent-up demand for purchasing bicycles, not just because the slow economy made people put off purchases last year, but also because (at least on the East Coast) Summer never quite happened last year. He felt that people are making up for lost time this year, and taking advantage of being outside as much as he’s ever seen.

        I thought it was an interesting take….certainly a logical contributing factor to (I hope) is a growing trend.

      • Dottie says:

        Cool picture! That’s how Chicago looked the other day. At a couple of points, bikes stretched in a line all the way down the block.

  4. mooie fietsen says:

    This is such encouraging news! It just makes it so much safer to ride when there are many of us and drivers start to get accustomed to seeing us.

    Anyone from Houston have a report? I’m curious to see if cycling has picked up in the two years since we left and moved to Holland. We’re moving back in a few weeks and I’m trying to prepare for cycling culture shock.;-)

  5. Steve A says:

    Out in the wilds of North Fort Worth, bikes are few and far between. I’m envious!

  6. Kyla says:

    I’m cycle commuting in DC this summer on an old 3-speed in my “business casual” clothes and just this morning I got so many smiles and chats at lights – I love it. I think people are especially surprised by shoes – I wore my red espadrilles yesterday and got lots of comments but actually, it’s WAY easier to bike in flimsy shoes than walk in them.
    DC is FULL of men in suits riding bikes. I heart it.

  7. Cherilyn says:

    I live in a college town, so there have always been a lot of 20-something bikers, though most are still on mountain bikes. Last summer, one of the LBS started carrying Electra cruisers, and suddenly, there were tons of step-throughs all over the place. Antique/resale shops were carrying vintage 3-speeds like Raleighs and such. It was quite a revolution.

    At the downtown street events last summer, they were chained to every immovable object near the streets. Very fun.

    Gorgeous picture of you, by the way!

  8. spacemodular says:

    My bike to work attire is Dickies w/Keen shoes. Being a bike mechanic, I find wanting to wear expensive, easily destroyed clothes impractical. I used to work in the loop (downtown Chicago) for a financial institution and I biked to work. I always wore shorts and a T-shirt during the warmer seasons and changed into the suit and tie when I arrived. Less money spent on the cleaners.

    So Dottie – have you every fixed a rear flat tire on your Dutch bike on the way to work?

    Schwalbe Marathon + won’t stop nails or drywall screws…

    ;-)

    • Dottie says:

      I have not changed a tire on my way to work and I never would. Likewise, I never changed a flat tire when I drove a car, either. That’s what mechanics are for ;) I reject the notion that one must learn mechanic skills and constantly carry tools in order to ride a bike to work.

      • There are noticeably more bicycles this summer both in Boston and in Vienna than a year ago, especially more classic and vintage bicycles. It is really nice to watch this gain momentum.

        On a separate note, those flowers on your basket are so, so beautiful!

        • Susie says:

          Hi Dottie and Trisha. I love your blog and have been a long time reader (first comment though). I live in San Francisco. The other day I decided to take a break from my bus commute and walk home and counted bikes as I went. In a 2 mile stretch I counted 103 bikes that were being ridden, walked or mounted on the bus. This did not include bikes that were locked up. I feel like there has definitely been an increase in the number of cyclists here since I moved to the city 2 years ago.

          • Dottie says:

            Thanks for commenting, Susie! That’s an amazing amount of bikes in two miles. I would like to count bikes along my ride, but it’s hard to remember. Maybe I should walk instead of ride one day :)

    • Mr. Dottie says:

      When dealing with my internally geared hub, I would remove a section of the tire from the rim such that the punctured tube is exposed and patch it with superglue and a piece of old tube. I would only need tire levers with a small width tire; the larger tire widths are easily removed by hand. A puncture from a serious nail or other large object is easily noticeable and I wouldn’t need soap and water (air bubbles) to find the puncture. The tube could be completely replaced at a later time, if desired, in a more relaxing location than on the side of the road.

    • Scott says:

      I used to carry dress clothes and change at the gym at work. It was a real pain, especially when I wanted to go to a post work event with coworkers. They were all dressed nicely, and I was in dirty bike clothes.

      My problem turned out to be that I was riding the wrong bike, a track bike. Once I started riding the dutch bike, I have had no problems riding in nice clothes. In the winter, especially, it is far more comfortable. After several years of daily riding, I have seen no evidence of any damage to my nice clothes.

      Some people say this bike is too slow, but my door-to-door time decreased after I eliminated all the clothes-folding and changing time. And now I won’t have to relive the time I showed up for an important client meeting with no socks because I forgot to pack them.

  9. neighbourtease says:

    Total bike explosion in NYC. Really just exponentially more people this summer than last. It’s great. I don’t just see more people with bikes, I know more people who are cycling.

    • cycler says:

      wow-
      I was just in NYC and was kind of shocked at how few bikes I saw compared to Boston/Cambridge. Maybe I was just in the wrong place/ wrong time, but damn, if that’s a lot more bikers, I’d hate to see the before picture!

      • neighbourtease says:

        The before picture was pretty bad, I think. I’ve only been cycling in NYC for five years but I think the difference is dramatic. I never used to have other people next to me at intersections. The changes in infrastructure have helped make it safer. I think there are probably more bikes in most of Brooklyn and downtown Manhattan than in midtown or upper Manhattan so it probably does depend on where you were and also on how hot it was. I definitely see fewer people when it’s really hot or rainy because the subway *is* good.

        I definitely do think there are more cyclists in Boston/Cambridge and also it probably seems like there are many more because Boston is a small city. After spending lots of time with an ex-bf when he lived in Somerville and had classes at Harvard, I particularly cannot imagine getting around Cambridge/Somerville without a bike or car. It takes forever to walk and it’s so damn freezing and the public transportation is really bad. I have three friends in Cambridge and they all ride bikes. Not so here in NYC.

  10. Eli says:

    I recently started a new temp gig in a second-ring suburb with *no* bicycle infrastructure whatsoever. Yet I think I’ve seen as many bicycles (maybe more) on those suburban streets and sidewalks as I do in my bike-lane and -trail crazy part of “the big city”. Does my heart proud.

  11. Amy says:

    I haven’t seen any other cyclists of any sort in WEEKS! I don’t know what’s going on. I did see one bike strapped to the back of a car a few days ago. :( Oh well, I guess it’ll have to be just lil ol’ me then.

  12. Melissa S. says:

    I have seen a few more cyclists albeit they are the Lycra guys (and girls) or people that are just riding for fitness, not to go somewhere in particular. But even more of them are good for everyone’s safety.

  13. I bike and run on a bike path in my city, and it is always chock full of cyclists in the summer, but I’ve noticed even more people than normal riding on the path and in the city itself the past few weeks. It’s great to see.

    I absolutely love that baby blue skirt you’re wearing and those shoes!

  14. Mandy says:

    Although *I’ve* started to notice the classier “round” style of helmet (e.g. Nutcase) all over the place now (30-40%, maybe? I’m in Vancouver) I still get questions about mine from people who think they’ve never seen one before. “Is that a skateboard helmet?” is the most common. So I fear that when we aren’t looking, we aren’t seeing … and think that slightly more ‘eccentric’ bikes and behavior (i.e. less common but on the upswing: like dutch bikes and ‘normal’ clothes) are all the more important to help people really SEE the possibilities.

  15. Megan says:

    I was one of them out there yesterday in Chicago. Inspired by this site I decided to bike in a dress for the first time. When my friends asked if I was concerned about the dress blowing up I told them that if and when it did I exposed less leg than the hipster short shorts many of the girls were wearing.

    • dukiebiddle says:

      Are hipster girls wearing short shorts nowadays? Jeez, I must be getting old. I live in a hipsterhood and I hadn’t even noticed.

      There are definitely more cyclists out there. We just a 10 or so day stretch of near 100 weather with HIGH humidity, so other cyclists did disappear for a bit; but when the dry air moved in yesterday the streets were packed.

      Speaking of hipsters and bikes, I have noticed one trend that I’m ambivalent about. Lately, there has been a massive proliferation of vintage Raleighs, Hurricanes and Schwinns locked to poles on the street. What I have not seen are these really nice old bikes actually being ridden. I fear the art school kids have all dug them out of their grandparents basements and are letting them rot out in the elements without being cared for. Kids today. Get off my lawn.

  16. David says:

    I wish all women would ride step-throughs and wear skirts when riding them. How can this be accomplished?

  17. Nicola says:

    Pedestrians often smile at me when I’m riding my step through (with wicker basket). My hairdresser commented today that she’s seen me cycling past her shop with a skirt on and thinks it’s a lovely summery sight. It’s funny that I’m being noticed for doing something that feels completely normal to me!

  18. Anne Hawley says:

    Three or four times in the last couple of weeks I’ve had people on the street (and in cars, at stop lights) ask me how I like my electric bike.

    Trouble is, I’m not riding an electric bike. It’s a Dutch Workcycles Omafiets. I think the chain cover, the clothing guard, and maybe the enclosed gear hub give the impression that there’s some mysterious motor thing going on, but I also fear that the sight of a heavy woman in street clothes going up an incline makes people jump to the “electric assist” conclusion.

    It kind of bugs me, to be honest.

    • Anne Hawley says:

      And I realize on rereading my comment that it doesn’t really address your wonderful post, Dottie–which I totally meant to do: there are LOTS more people not only riding bikes, but noticing bikes in the streets this summer, and I do see more and more women like myself riding upright and step-through bikes in nicer street clothes.

      Oh, and my conversations with the electric-bike inquirers have all been quite cheery.

    • Sean says:

      I don’t think the reason is your physical size. I’m thin and have been asked several times too if my Workcycles Dutch bike is electric. From where the people were pointing, I think the reason is the large, internally geared hub.

  19. Jeanette says:

    As soon as I pick up my bicycle from the shop, I’ll be one of those people riding in business clothes….for now, this is the first summer I’ve paid attention, so I can’t really tell if there’s an increase. I’ll take Neighborteases’s word for it!
    Until I get my bicycle, my daily commute includes a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s hard to make assumptions about who is on their bicycles for getting to work, but I bet in the morning at that hour it’s a solid majority. (In the afternoon, one sees many many tourists on bikes). Of that majority, I’d say 10% are in business clothes (white shirt/dark pants or khakis for men; dresses or businessy top/skirt-or-pants combo for women).

    The other fun thing is to see what they are riding. Lots of TREKs (one reliable couple on his-and-hers beige TREKs); lots of road bikes; many many folding bikes (mostly Dahon, occasionally Brompton); lots of beaters with the requisite rattling sound effects; and some lovely vintage Swchinns and Raleighs. Very occasionally I’ll see a Velorbis, and I saw one Abici. I’ve seen one Dutch bike so far, though I saw a Flying Pigeon at a stop light. The other day, I saw two people (I assumed a couple, though who knows?) on matching recumbants, both in business suits. Oh, and occasionally I’ll see someone on a tandem, with a child….love that. Another interesting thing is to see a good number of men on mixte frames.

    In mid-town where I work, though, it’s still rare to see bicycles ridden by anyone except messengers and delivery people. I was bemoaning that sad fact this morning crossing the intersection at Park and 52nd when a very smartly dressed woman pulled up to the stop sign. It made me smile.

    • neighbourtease says:

      Jeanette, are you going to ride over the Brooklyn Bridge or Manhattan? I’ve only ridden over the BB once because the tourist traffic was SO insane. People will literally just walk right into your bike. I imagine that it’s not so bad in the morning before the tourists come out. I like riding over the Manhattan Bridge because it’s so flat, though I live in Williamsburg and thus rarely do. Totally agree with your bike-sighting observations. I see the same.

      The type of bike I have seen the most of lately is the Linus. There are SO many of them all of a sudden!

      • Jeanette says:

        I think in the am I’m riding over the Brooklyn Bridge (I live in BHeights, near Atlantic Ave). In the afternoons, I’m not sure yet. The tourist traffic is nuts, but it does seem manageable.

        The Manhattan bridge just gets a bit hairy on the Manhattan end by Canal St…..it’s also a bit further to get to the East River or West Side bikepaths from there.

    • Dottie says:

      I’m visiting NYC for the first time next month. I can’t wait to see it all for myself!

  20. welshcyclist says:

    The weather here has been fabulous for several weeks now, add to that petrol prices have been rising, plus the credit crunch, and hey presto there are loads more cyclists on my commute route. Car drivers aren’t impressed by this fact though. The real test is yet to come, when the weather changes, like today when I had a good soaking. My cycle ride was still awesome in the rain, but I only saw a few other riders, progress is slow over here. I just wish we had some good looking advocates like yourselves, in these parts. Cheers.

  21. ridon says:

    i thought i had a dottie sighting in the depaul area last monday. same pink helmet, large wicker basket, dutch bike. but she breezed by so fast (along with 2 or 3 other cyclists), i didn’t really get a look! if that was you, i wish i said hi!

    still seeing a lot of guys on my commute. i saw one chick last week, but that was at the local bike shop. this is my first time bike commuting, but it doesn’t seem like a lot

    • Dottie says:

      If it was by Depaul on Lincoln, that was me! Cool.

      Some days I see lots of women, especially lately, but some days mostly guys (more so in the winter).

  22. katie says:

    True story! I definitely are seeing more too… in my area (the suburbs) things are rather far apart and riding a bicycle just simply isn’t considered. But my area has graduated from zero bicycles, to me seeing maybe a couple every week… it’s not much at all, but at least its a start! Hopefully as more bikers come on the road, more drivers will be aware of them, and drive appropriately.

  23. Carolyn I. says:

    I have noticed more and more bicylists each year in Prince George, which is a good thing!

  24. Annie says:

    In London there has been a huge increase over the last few years. A lot of people wearing high vis vests and jackets racing to get work on hybrids and racing bikes. However with the summer months there is some wonderful sights with dutch bikes and people personalising their bromptons. Pity that this rush rush culture is being transferred from the motor traffic to the cyclists giving them the ‘hunted’ look at traffic lights. I cycle through Hyde Park taking the time before I do battle with white van drivers!

    • Dottie says:

      I agree about the rush rush culture unfortunately transferring to bike riding. I see lots of ridiculousness everyday with people on regular commuter bikes or old mountain bikes spinning furiously, wasting energy, getting sweaty and stressing themselves out on the way to work. That’s not how I roll.

  25. NancyB says:

    When I read this post on Thursday I saw one cyclist on the way home. Saw another one this morning on the way in. That’s a 100% increase for this summer! Cyclists should emulate Harley riders and have a secret signal.

  26. Curly Suze says:

    Hi :)

    Lurker chiming in. Dottie, love your blog .. I’ve been reading for a couple weeks now while trying to pick out the right bike. In the end I opted for a Batavus Entrada Spirit that Fourth Floor had in stock. Batavus seems to be the only company that makes the ladies step-through frame in the size I need .. 61cm (yeah, I’m tall). It arrived earlier this week. Wednesday night after work I rode a couple miles around town, and today I rode it to work and back.

    Riding is some 9000x more pleasant than driving. I hadn’t ridden since my early 20s and had forgotten what a feast it is to the senses.

    Commuting is going to be challenging. I live out in the suburbs some 40 miles west of Boston. Few places around here have got any kind of bike rack. The roads don’t have bike lanes, and many of the roads have got those blind turns that the car drivers tend to speed through. Nevertheless, today’s commute was quite pleasant. The weather was perfectly gorgeous. The car drivers behaved much better than I thought they would. Saw a few other people out bicycling and waved and said hi.

    I’m sore today, but regular riding will cure that! :)

    Kudos to you Dottie for a great blog and to everyone for the comments here.

    • Dottie says:

      Curly Suze, so glad you chimed in! Feel free to do so anytime :) We love hearing about people’s new experiences riding. Sounds like your bike commuting is off to a lovely start.

      • Curly Suze says:

        Good morning to you Dottie & thanks.

        This coming week is going to be hot, so after yesterday’s experience I’m rethinking how to dress for the ride. There are enough hills between here and the office to make me get warm. But it is just less than 3 miles so I haven’t got any real excuse for not riding.

        From age 10 to around 25 I never owned a car, and biked everywhere, but that was years ago and in rural upstate NY, and things have changed a lot between then and now. I gave up riding when I moved to Boston, but things there are different too, because Boston now has a bike czar and is taking green transportation more seriously.

        I would love dearly to follow your footsteps and go car-free, but doing so would mean being unable to get to a lot of friends’ places and the occasional necessary trips here ‘n’ there. Perhaps it’s possible to do it in stages, so that eventually the car sits there unused for weeks or months at a time.

        Love the idea of cycling as a fashion statement. I make all my own clothing anyway (the curse of being tall) so this weekend I’m thinking of whipping up some cutoff shorts lookalikes and maybe some cropped tank tops. The bicycle itself has a lot of nice opportunities there too, especially for colorful saddlebags or handlebar-carried clutch purses. A few dresses in lightweight stretch prints might work too.

        Some of the other ladies at work live within 5 miles of the office, and a few of them were checking out the Batavus and asking good questions, so who knows, maybe others will try the same?

  27. Doug says:

    I have definitely seen an increase in numbers this year around my town. Last week I was stopped on one of our few bike trails near downtown talking to another cycling blogger friend when I stopped mid-sentence and said, “Man there’s a lot of bicycle commuters today”. The majority of them were dressed in work clothes with backpacks, messenger bags or panniers.

    I also commented to my friend how only a few years ago it felt like we were the only ones out there riding to work. He reminded me how they all disappear as soon as the sun stops shining.

    When I moved to Duluth in 2001, I hardly ever saw another bike commuter. Maybe half a dozen over a year’s time. Now I see as many as 20 a day in the summer.

    The busiest year was 2008 when gas hit $4/gallon. Last year, when gas prices came down, they all seemed to fade away. This year the numbers are back up again.

  28. Scott says:

    Dottie, I think you are responsible for inspiring some of those new Chicago cyclists through this blog.

  29. E A says:

    Yep – definitely more riders and I’m seeing lots more riders in everyday clothes (including more skirts and dresses) along Lincoln. :-) Awesome! Seeing all the bikes out makes me smile ear-to-ear. But seeing many of them running lights does not and get in near misses with cars. :-(

  30. Dottie says:

    Yes, I wish they would slow down and stop running lights. One moment I’ll be flowing along with a group of 10 cyclists, and the next moment I’ll be waiting at a light with only 1. I selfishly would prefer riding in a group for fun and safety, but I’m not going to turn my commute into a race and run lights in order to keep up with the crowd.

  31. Dottie says:

    That would be a nice thought, but no one ever says anything to me out there, so I don’t know.

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