Saturday 13 September 2014

Cycle chic "style over speed" riding can unlock only a small part of your city

Summary: Mikael Colville-Andersen has been incredibly effective in spreading the everyday cycling philosophy in developing cycling cities. However, two of his most popular ideas - "Cycle Chic" (style over speed) and the "Slow Bicycle Movement" - have a major weakness: a lighter/faster bike and a higher average cycling speed actually enables people to unlock many more of their city destinations. Cycling speed is critical for longer trips because of Marchetti's constant - the finding that almost everyone has a limited daily travel time budget (typically 50-75min per day), which means most one way trips are generally constrained to less than 30 minutes. This post explains why Marchetti's constant matters and why cyclists who want to maximise the potential of cycling for transport should prioritise the capacity to get around cities quickly, efficiently and reliably. This doesn't mean you have to race around for short or leisure trips!

Cycle Chic
Flickr CC by 2.0 - Dodo

Related Posts:
Actual trips demonstrate the factors that enable cycling to maximise access and opportunity
Safer cycling infrastructure needs to be fast, convenient and comprehensive
The distance of your common trips does matter or you need good connections with public transport

1. About abundant access and urban freedom and why it's important
Abundant access is Jarrett Walker's concept of desirable city life where "as many people as possible are able to reach as many destinations as possible as quickly as possible so they have as many real choices as possible and are therefore truly free.”
Abundant access means the greatest possible number of jobs and other destinations are located within 30 minutes one way travel time of the greatest possible number of residents. Why 30 minutes? Because humans throughout history have tolerated about one hour of daily travel time.
Human Transit: "abundant access": a map of a community's transit choices, and a possible goal of transit
- For further details see: Actual trips demonstrate the factors that enable cycling to maximise access and opportunity

2. Marchetti's constant, daily travel time budgets and the importance of trip time in choice of mode
- Marchetti's constant is explained in the article below:
Zahavi had found that regardless of culture, class, creed or access to advanced technology, the mean amount of time people all over the world spend in everyday transit is about an hour. The Japanese salaryman on the Shinkansen bullet train, the Amazonian hunter-gatherer, the Canadian suburbanite stuck in rush-hour traffic: all of them, left to their own devices (or lack thereof), will aim to spend about an hour commuting each day. Marchetti looked at the historical record and determined that the mean held true all the way back to neolithic cave sites.
CityLab: For Pedestrians, Cities Have Become the Wilderness
- However, the exact value of Marchetti's constant (~1hr) or the extent to which it applies to all individuals, circumstances and cities today is not really critical. The essential learning is simply that average daily transport times have been quite stable as people and businesses (job locations) respond to traffic congestion, increasing housing costs, increasing work commute times and the availability of public transport. Despite what "cycle chic" suggests, people do care about minimising the total time they spend getting around. The affordability of short work commutes is under serious pressure and many people are being forced to limit their non-work trips as a result (thus also constrain their opportunities and urban freedom). See:
CityLab: Why Commute Times Don't Change Much Even as a City Grows
The Breakthrough: The Need for Speed - Four Basic Instincts Have Determined Human Mobility
Freakonomics: The Travel Time Budget

- For those who can and are most inclined, cycling as your primary means of transport is extremely advantageous compared to other modes (see the average work commute times in the U.S. below) but only if your cycling travel time for routine trips (like your work commute) can be reduced where necessary.

CityLab: Why Commute Times Don't Change Much Even as a City Grows

3. Slogans, manifestos and stylish photos have a role in influencing mainstream culture but should only be followed if most beneficial or suitable for you and your trips
- Below are some excerpts from the Copenhagen Cycle Chic blog and Slow Bicycle Movement Facebook group:
She needed a bike. He owned a bike shop. It was over in 20 minutes. She doesn't know how much it weighs. Nobody she knows or has ever met could tell you how much their bike weighs. Likewise, she doesn't know how far she rides each day. It isn't interesting. She rides at a good pace, not too fast to cause a sweat, and the ride is nice enough. She doesn't wake up and make a decision to "commute by bike to work today". It's just a part of her day. She just walks out of her flat and gets on her bike. If it has a puncture, she'll walk it down to the local bike shop to get it repaired and then take the bus or train to work. Picking it up in the afternoon.
Copenhagen Cycle Chic: Terminology Folly
We figure the Slow Bicycle Movement is all about the journey, not the destination. The destination is, invariably, a fixed geographical point which isn't going anywhere... so you're going to get there eventually, anyway. It's about riding your bicycle. To work, to play. Casually, in a relaxed manner. With time to enjoy the self-propelled movement that you and you alone generate. And, of course, to look around and see the landscape - urban or not - that you pass by at your leisurely pace.
Slow Bicycle Movement Facebook group
- From the above sources and the The Cycle Chic Manifesto, I've abstracted the main ideas below and explained why following them will likely prevent you maximising your destination access by bike, at least in cities like Melbourne. (In the compact areas of developed cycling cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam, which are crowded with bikes, the trip distances are lower and potential cycling speeds are constrained.)

Cycle Chic / Slow Bike IdeaWhy people interested in maximising their bikeable access should ignore it
Prefer style over speed and a leisurely paceStyle contributes nothing to access while increasing your average speed (when appropriate) can open up most of your city destinations.
Travel time isn't criticalActually everyone has a daily travel time budget and having sufficient time is the difference between taking many opportunities and missing them.
The weight of the bike doesn't matterLight bikes are much easier and more enjoyable to ride on trips over 5km and up hills. Light bikes also can be easily carried onto public transport and up stairs.
Bikes should be chosen simply to fit your personality and styleThere are much more important considerations to suit your usage and types of trips. See: Designing a better utility bike in developing cycling cities
Bike frame, handlebars and seat should be designed for an upright positionUpright is great for short trips but a frame, handlebar and seat that flexibly allows you to use a more aerodynamic position for longer trips is even better.
Your bike should have a chain guard, kickstand, skirt guard, fenders, bell and basketYou'll use your bike for longer trips if you equip it with only the things you really need and choose removeable or lightweight options.
You should refrain from wearing and owning any form of 'cycle wear'- Everyday clothes are fine for short trips. However, people's preferences vary as to the extent of cycling-specific clothes they use for longer trips.
- Just do what works for you so that you actually use your bike for longer or more challenging trips.
It's about the journey not the destinationOften it's not about the journey at all and optimising the efficiency and convenience of getting to your destination by bike is what really matters.
No unfashionable helmet or safety gearUse common sense as sometimes you'll be riding faster, at night or in slippery conditions and will prefer some protective equipment. See: When should urban cyclists wear a helmet?
Your style should contribute to an aesthetically pleasing urban landscapeAt best, worrying about your style contributions is an irrelevant, extra burden most people don't want. At worst, it detracts from maximising your usage of bikes for all types of trips.
The total value of your clothes should exceed that of your bicycleThis idea does nothing to improve your access or the usefulness of your bike. Regarding bikes, you should buy value-for-money utility not fashion pieces (e.g. Brooks saddles).
Riding with grace, elegance and dignity is importantFiltering, weaving, taking shortcuts, leapfrogging slower vehicles and accelerating to make green lights are all methods to optimise bikeable access. See: Bikes are faster door-to-door than cars or public transport within 5-10km
You shouldn't get sweaty or mess up your looks (hair, etc)- For most practical, routine trips (e.g. commuting to work, grocery shopping) many people have no issue with getting a bit sweaty or messed up.
- They wear suitable clothing, get changed afterwards, freshen up in the bathroom or simply don't care if they aren't looking their finest.
Punctures and maintenance issues are to be expectedBy eliminating punctures you can have completely reliable transport and this dependability will induce you to use a bike for many more trips around town. See: Puncture-proof tyres are the key to reliable transport

4. What is the average moving speed of cycle chic cyclists?
- Mikael Colville-Andersen advises in Copenhagen the average speed is around 15-16km/hr. I believe this is likely the average cruising speed not moving speed (which includes all motion) as the green wave (synced green traffic lights for peak hour cyclists) is set for 20km/hr and Mikael notes that the average cyclist has to speed up to keep up with the green wave.
The Green Waves of Copenhagen
Pick Your Speed

- I'm not sure what the average cruising speed for "cycle chic" riding is but it follows that it must be less than 16km/hr. Also, the average moving speed of leisurely, graceful cycling (not avoiding stops or actively weaving and filtering) must be even slower. I am estimating around 12km/hr.

5. How differences in average moving speed significantly change your bikeable trip range (thus likelihood of cycling or going at all)
- Assuming commuting by bike is feasible the only key constraint on access is travel time. See: Actual trips demonstrate the factors that enable cycling to maximise access and opportunity. In that post I used the How Far Can I Travel mapping tool to show the estimated area I can cover within 30min from home given my average moving speed of 21km/hr (calculated from over 7,000km riding). It is a very large area that covers a large proportion of my common trips.

How Far Can I Travel - From home (Rae St); 21km/hr; 30min; Bike mode

- Now as a comparison, if we adjust the average moving speed to 12km/hr and recalculate the bikeable area for "cycle chic" cruising speeds and style we get the below much smaller bikeable area within 30 minutes. This is the reality of slow bicycle movements and "style over speed" - it's fine for short, easy trips but is often impractical for all of the other destinations and types of trips that are longer, harder (hills) or more challenging (winter commuting, heavy loads).

How Far Can I Travel - From home (Rae St); 12km/hr; 30min; Bike mode

- This shrunken area of 4-7km range may seem like an exaggeration of the limitations of "cycle chic" riding but Copenhagen's cycling statistics reflect that around 90% of trips are 7km or less and Mikael acknowledges this himself. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to see the contradiction between that 7km limit and his "style over speed" philosophy:
Decades of experience in Denmark and the Netherlands has determined that the majority of bicycle users will cycle up to seven kilometres. The number of bicycle users drops dramatically in the 8-15 km zone. Indeed, under 10% of bicycle commuters entering the City of Copenhagen are coming from the 8-15 km zone. The Bicycle Superhighway project in Copenhagen, aimed at upgrading existing infrastructure in this zone in order to encourage more to cycle from this zone is a great idea, but they are only expecting an increase of about 10,000 cyclists when it's completed.
Copenhagenize: The Ridiculous Sky Cycle by Norman Foster
- Personally, I've conscientiously chosen to make cycling my primary means of transport for all trips I can make feasible. The "cycle chic" philosophy is entirely counterproductive for this goal. Instead I've carefully chosen and equipped a lightweight, low maintenance bike I can flexibly and reliably use for all types of trips. And I vary the way I ride based on my needs - sometimes leisurely (e.g. when cruising to a cafe 2km away with my girlfriend) and sometimes fast and impatient (e.g. when heading to a destination 10km away on a boring route with nothing to look at except cars).

- Unsurprisingly then my actual average moving speed is higher for the longer trips as I take efficient arterial routes, ride faster and try and stop as little as possible. Based on my actual experience of how far I've been able to ride from home in 30 minutes, I recalculated the map with an average moving speed of 24km/hr and the result is below. Now this is what I call abundant access and urban freedom by bike! It's why I am happy to cycle to any likely destination in Melbourne and why limited time is never a major issue for my destinations under 15km.

How Far Can I Travel - From home (Rae St); 24km/hr; 30min; Bike mode

6. Does riding to optimise access to destinations detract from the enjoyment?
- Yes, it's certainly possible to get caught up racing around trying to save every minute and beat every light but I don't do that anymore. For all of my short trips I ride efficiently but not at maximum pace. It doesn't matter whether I get to work in 12min or 15min. Indeed, in riding around my local area, I find that generally having a light and efficient bike that I ride at a good pace (~25km/hr) means I don't mind stopping for all pedestrians, obeying all red lights and taking time to give way to others.

- For longer trips the higher pace may mean I'm missing some of the scenery but the reality is that I wouldn't be riding them at all if I wasn't doing so in a reasonable time. Ultimately, the fact that I get almost everywhere by bike (that I don't walk) means that I get a lot more enjoyment from my transport time than those who are limited to only short or leisurely trips.

7. Cycle chic is about rebranding bicycle culture; Your own cycling decisions should primarily be about transport
- The Cycle Chic blog is primarily a cycling rebranding and marketing campaign so don't get too concerned with applying the manifesto or figuring out its contradictions. It's more descriptive than prescriptive:
Being a Cycle Chic Metropolis requires, basically, two elements. A high fashion bar among the population and... bicycles. It requires that a city has a developed bicycle culture, meaning that the bicycle is an important and respected transport option that is used by regular citizens. ...we're going with Copenhagen at #1. The reason, apart from the fact that bicycles are an integral part of life in the world's cycling capital, is that the fashion bar is frightfully high in Copenhagen.
Cycle Chic's Top 5 Cycle Chic Cities
- Mikael Colville-Andersen has written about cycling's primary importance being about quick, feasible and effective transport:
When the City of Copenhagen asks its cycling citizens what their main reason for cycling is - and they ask every two years - the majority reply that it is because a bicycle is the quickest and easiest way to get around town. 56% of them say that.
If we want large numbers of citizens to choose the bicycle, the main way to do that is what I call A2Bism. People on bicycles are no different than people on foot, on trains, planes and automobiles. They want to get there quick. Homo sapiens are like rivers - we'll always take the quickest route. People in established bicycle cultures ride because it's quick. Easy. Convenient. If you make that possible in emerging bicycle cultures, you have half the battle won. 
When the Safety bicycle was invented, however, the bicycle went mainstream. Every corner of society embraced it. It was all about mobility and effective transport. It was A2Bism. Sure, it liberated the working classes and women and no other transport form has transformed society so quickly and so effectively as the bicycle. But the workers could merely extend their mobility radius in their search for work. Women could get from A to B without being dependent on their husbands. And so on. And so on.
The bicycle went mainstream because it was quick and easy... Make the bicycle the quickest way to get around a city or town. THAT'S what people want. THAT'S what will make them choose the bicycle. THAT'S how we will mainstream urban cycling and work effectively towards liveable cities, healthier populations and The Common Good.
Copenhagenize: Cycling Isn't 'Fun', It's Transport

8. What do women in developing cycling cities think about cycle chic?
- Most women seem to be inspired by the images of other women riding freely in their preferred clothes including very stylish ones. However, some women (often the one's who use their bikes for transport the most) find cycle chic an undesired stereotype that is a burden. Bekka Wright, who creates brilliant transport cyclist story illustrations on the blog Bikeyface, has elucidated this perspective best. I've published a few choice snippets of her thoughts below but I would encourage you to read them in full at the source.

So Ladies
Flickr - Bikeyface from Bikeyface - So Ladies...
…Let’s talk about fashion. Or not. Because I’m not much of a fashionista. And never have been. I have gotten a little better since then. But my life doesn’t revolve around clothes. I really enjoy looking looking like crap some days... However when I started biking I didn’t know what to do about clothes. Or bikes. Or anything. I just wanted to try it... So when I came across a certain European street-style blog of stylishly dressed women riding bicycles I signed right up. I went and bought the Dutchiest bike I could find in Los Angeles (which was actually made in China) and a bunch of flouncy dresses from H&M and promptly started biking up and down Sunset Boulevard leaving a trail of bolts and washers behind me. 
But as I got more confident about with bicycle commuting, I realized something bothered me about this bike sheek culture. It was just another stereotype. So I moved on. I agree about wearing ordinary clothes when I bike. But now I wear my ordinary clothes which don’t happen to be dresses or heels or terribly stylish most of the time– my biking does not revolve around fashion.
Bikeyface - So Ladies...
See also these fabulous posts and illustrations by Bekka:
> Bikeyface - Not Asking For It
> Bikeyface - Real Women

- Elly Blue, who writes the Taking The Lane blog, has also provided a very thoughtful discussion that is worth reading here: Taking The Lane: A critique of Cycle Chic

- If you ask women who ride why they do so you'll get a variety of responses but "cycle chic" principles are often a barrier rather than a facilitator. A great pictorial about real women cyclists is: 21 Photos of Women Who Shatter the Stereotype of What a Real Biker Looks Like. The diversity of women, bikes, clothing and priorities is noteworthy.

Further Info:
The Breakthrough: The Need for Speed - Four Basic Instincts Have Determined Human Mobility

CityLab: Why Commute Times Don't Change Much Even as a City Grows

CityLab: For Pedestrians, Cities Have Become the Wilderness

The Urbanist
Do we spend too much time commuting?
How much time do Melburnians spend commuting?

The Age/SMH
Mikael Colville-Andersen: Australian cycling is 'the farthest behind in this conversation'

Freakonomics: The Travel Time Budget

Freakonomics: Do Mysterious Forces Dictate Our Travel Patterns? 21 Photos of Women Who Shatter the Stereotype of What a Real Biker Looks Like

Wikipedia: Marchetti's Constant

Peter Newman: Re-imagining the Australian Suburb Seminar 2005 (pdf)

Copenhagen Cycle Chic
Terminology Folly
The Cycle Chic Manifesto
Cycle Chic Guide to Bike Commuting - #1 Choosing a Bike
The Good News and the Bad News About the Cycle Chic Movement
> Pick Your Speed
> Flickr Group: Cycle Chic

Copenhagenize blog
The Slow Bicycle Movement
Slow Bicycle Movement Facebook group
The Ridiculous Sky Cycle by Norman Foster
The Green Waves of Copenhagen
Cycling Isn't 'Fun', It's Transport

Taking The Lane: A critique of Cycle Chic

SFGate: Slow Bike Movement: Not all cyclists in a hurry

Radio National: By Design - Cycle Chic

New York Times: Bicycle Chic Gains Speed

Huffington Post: In Praise Of The Upright Bike