July 24th, 2011

Dream on, you cheesy old fools

Who among you can say driving is cooler than cycling? Come forward and tell us then, what makes your BMW or Lambo, or whatever you own, cooler than the gals in this clip below? You're kinda like Taiwan or Dubai, trying to build the world's tallest building, when those you are striving to emulate have abandoned that race and moved on. Wake up! The race is for the greenest, healthiest building, not the tallest, you dill. And this new snobbery pervades choices pertaining to vehicles. It rapidly overlooks hybrid cars, brushes off metro riding, and arrives within a few moments at bicycles. The generation who have blown off any kind of car as just plain embarrassing, are not asking whether to ride, but what they should ride. And watch how bicycle manufacturers are lining up to be chosen.

And you cheesy old fools have the nerve to think we're impressed by your cars, and your weekenders on the coast, that you drive to some weekends. A few years ago, a famous TV presenter invited a friend and I to go visit his architect designed house way way up near some hippie town in Northern NSW. And how was I to get there, without being tainted by his geriatric view of the good life?

Reader of the Week: Vicki from bicyclesinnewcastle.com

Newcastle is the city you get when a few dozen coal mining villages grow into each other. It can also be viewed as a network of coal skip lines making tracks to a harbour, many of those now turned into "rail trails", although we call them "cycleways". Incidental photos of Newcastle from the interwar period, show bikes were as common as shoes. This was, after all, a blue collar town, where folks don't don't take kindly to clothes too fancy to ride in. There may be fewer bikes now, but really, not much has changed.

I'm not being sarcastic. There really are artists right now, trying to capture banality. Can I recommend Newcastle?

To my mind, bicycling Newcastle Style is something worthy of celebration. Vicki—who won the chance to be noticed by my 200 readers today, by suggesting EEG probes in our helmets replace our brake levers (wtf!?)—is the person behind bicyclesinnewcastle.com, a photo journal documenting all that is derivative, banal, opportunistic, folksy and, for all those reasons, down right fricking fascinating, about bicycling in this off-the-map city of ours. (In fairness, she's spotted a few cool things as well. You'll have to go check her blog).

Vicki's story strikes me as a common enough tale of cycling in sprawling cities. It starts with a mid life comeback to sports cycling, a few triathlon podium honors, and through this, a realization that bikes can actually be transportation. Then (and don't we athletes all know about this) she goes off the boil, and maintains her pride by stylin' it honey: riding the Dutch style bikes with the heels and the dresses. Before long, she's bike-chic bloggin', though in a city where everyone wears helmets from K-mart.
Out of shameless self interest, Vicki, I have  request. Could you maybe get out there taking more photos? I stepped out today with my camera, in the knowledge that Australia actually has no privacy laws preventing me photographing people out on the street on their bikes. Is it unethical? Not to my mind! People only object to being photographed in moments of shame. Cycling is proud. Like surfing.

In fact, no less esteemed a body than the Danish Foreign Ministry's Public Diplomacy Office is about to recognize the merits of photographs shot without people's permission, with an exhibition of paparazzi photos, all showing people on the street in Copenhagen, riding their bikes. So come on Vicki, why be so circumspect? I think Newcastle needs the kind of active slice-of-(cycling)-life blog yours is about to become!