One of the keynote speeches at this years Colorado Bike Summit was by Andy Clarke, the leader of the League of American Bicyclist (LAB) and he spoke about why cycling (as a whole) took such a beating with funding in Washington the past few years. And one of the reasons was the image non-cyclists have with cyclists.
The example he gave was of an older gentlemen on a bike that had probably 3x the amount of stuff needed to accomplish his ride, with a orange vest, multiple lights and reflectors, panniers with possible enough stuff to rebuild their bottom bracket if the need came up. The rider, probably a well seasoned cyclist with many bike experiences to justify every piece of equipment they carried, but was not the kind of rider any non-cyclist wanted to look at and say, "I want to be that person"
Then they flashed a picture of a women in business-ish attire riding a bike share bike to what one could assume given the attire, riding for transport, enjoying the moment in time and not bothered with the dogma that is associated sometimes with cycling. This is new desired image of cycling trying to be shown in Washington DC.
Have we marketed ourselves out of the mainstream Merica?
Whether it is commuting or recreational cycling, has cycling created an image for itself that says, “this activity is extreme, if you want to jump in either get a carbon bike with a team kit or a mad-max style commuter bike with whistles, bells, bags and the lovely orange vest”.
Personally I feel that in Colorado we are falling into that pitfall with recreational cycling. That image of being extreme IS what attracts many outdoor enthusiasts to our sport and the thought of knocking off bucket list rides like the Triple By-Pass, Mt Evans, and such is a strong attraction. But is it also a repellent? Where are the people who just ride with friends in the evening to go to dinner? Or just for transportation? Yes they are there but far fewer than those out in spandex and/or in weekend warrior packs or filling up trailhead parking lots with bikes equal to the cost of the car that brought them there.
Maybe the problem is not that the sportsie/athletic cyclist’s imagine intimidates others into taking up the activity of cycling, but more that we don’t have enough examples, evangelist, role model’s etc out there showing others the way cycling can be more than a sport without the dogma of cycling that sometimes gets associated with it.
Non sport cycling is growing in Colorado but what will it take to accelerate that growth, especially in communities, like Boulder and parts of Denver, that already have good cycling infrastructure?