Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘bike’

28 MARCH, 2011

Wheels of Change: How The Bicycle Empowered Women

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A visual history of the steed upon which women rode into a new world.

As much as I love bike culture and everything bikes stand for, I, like many, may have underestimated the profound significance of the bicycle as a cultural agent of change. Thanks to a brilliant new book, I no longer do. National Geographic‘s Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way) (public library) tells the riveting story of how the two-wheel wonder pedaled forward the emancipation of women in late-nineteenth-century America and radically redefined the normative conventions of femininity.

To men, the bicycle in the beginning was merely a new toy, another machine added to the long list of devices they knew in their work and play. To women, it was a steed upon which they rode into a new world.” ~ Munsey’s Magazine, 1896

Image: Colorado Historical Society (Cycling West, Vol. 6 April 15, 1897, Scan #30000557) | via Sarah Goodyear / Grist.org

A follow-up to Sue Macy’s excellent Winning Ways: A Photohistory of American Women in Sports, published nearly 15 years ago, the book weaves together fascinating research, rare archival images, and historical quotes that bespeak the era’s near-comic fear of the cycling revolution. (“The bicycle is the devil’s advance agent morally and physically in thousands of instances.”)

Image: History Colorado (Lillybridge Collection, Scan #20000294 | via Sarah Goodyear / Grist.org

From allowing young people to socialize without the chaperoning of clergymen and other merchants of morality to finally liberating women from the constraints of corsets and giant skirts (the “rational dress” pioneered by bike-riding women cut the weight of their undergarments to a “mere” 7 pounds), the velocipede made possible previously unthinkable actions and interactions that we now for granted to the point of forgetting the turbulence they once incited.

Image: (c) Beth Emery Collection | via Sarah Goodyear / Grist.org

“Success in life depends as much upon a vigorous and healthy body as upon a clear and active mind.” ~ Elsa von Blumen, American racer, 1881

Image: (c) Hulton Archive/Getty Images | via Sarah Goodyear / Grist.org

Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel.” ~ Susan B. Anthony, 1896

Image: (c) Norman Batho Collection | via Sarah Goodyear / Grist.org

Many [female cyclists on cigar box labels] were shown as decidedly masculine, with hair cut short or pulled back, and smoking cigars, then an almost exclusively male pursuit. This portrayal reflected the old fears that women in pants would somehow supplement men as breadwinners and decision-makers.” ~ Sue Macy

Poignant and playful, Wheels of Change explores the early history of women in bicycling with equal parts illuminating insight and freewheeling fun.

via Sarah Goodyear / Grist

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07 MARCH, 2011

10 Years of Bicycle Film Festival in 3 Minutes

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We love bike culture and independent film, so we’re big fans of the Bicycle Film Festival, which has been celebrating the bicycle through music, art and film since 2001, pushing the frontlines of the urban bike movement. In less than 3 minutes, this lovely 10th-anniversary compilation captures the spirit of the festival with an inspired remix of footage from the hundreds of films that graced the festival’s roster over the past decade.

To join the movement, submit your cinematic homage to the bike by April 1.

Thanks, Heather

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09 JUNE, 2010

Bike Culture: A Roundup

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How to slam-dunk rubbish, or what abandoned bikes have to do with the economy of war.

By now you likely know that we’re devoted to bikes, to riding them as well as admiring them in all their variety. Today we’d like to steer you to three waypoints in the growing bike culture trend—at least we hope it’s both growing and a trend.

BICYCLE INFRASTRUCTURE

David Byrne’s New York City bike racks (remember those?) double as an editorial in iron—each rack is designed to comment on the character of the neighborhood, its businesses and denizens.

We all know that lots of adults ride bikes in Copenhagen—about 30% of that city’s population regularly commutes by bike. That compares to about .07% of New Yorkers. So it makes sense that the city planners would think of all the little improvements aimed at making the cyclist comfortable, such as this footrest.

David Hembrow documents life on a bike in a country perhaps most deeply associated with practical riding in everyday life, The Netherlands. In his blog, “A view from the cycle path,” David recently showed how civil and green the Dutch can be, all without stepping off their bike — rubbish receptacles for coasting and disposing.

For the big bicycle picture, for advancing its place at the center of US politics, there’s the Bike Caucus, run by congressman Earl Blumenthal who always begins his speeches on behalf of the caucus with a dedication to all those Americans stuck in traffic on the way to the gym to ride a stationary bike.

To chart not only the increase in bike-friendly infrastructure, but also to chart your next ride, use the new Google Maps directions for cyclists. Map it, cycle it, and then give Google your feedback—all ways to do your own two-wheeler activism.

BICYCLE ART & STYLE

Joe Schumacher is a NYC-based photographer who walks a lot and takes pictures of things he finds. His blog, what about the plastic animals?, captures the off-beat and pedestrian, but we’d like to direct you to his haunting and beautiful photos of abandoned bicycles of Gotham.

Those who don’t abandon their bikes can also evoke a striking scene. Perhaps a cousin of steampunk, the Bicycle Tweed movement is rolling through cities across the U.S. Here’s the site dedicated to San Francisans astride their velos and attired in their distinctive and antique wool.

Art and commerce come coasting together at Bertelli Bici in New York City. The site’s photography is simple and gorgeous and these bikes, built from a combination of old and new parts, achieve a kind of sculptural beauty.

BICYCLE ACTIVISM, OF SORTS

We all know about the Critical Mass movement spreading around the world. But devoted cyclists have a nice set of alternatives to express their dreams of making the world a better place. One organization we’ve long admired is Bikes Not Bombs in Boston. It’s an organization that stitches together community, education and employment of the under served, and bicycle culture as an alternative to cars, the oil economy, and war.

And what could be less threatening than a kid on a bike looking for a high five? Well, not so much if that kid happens to be a SCUL pilot steering a ship called Angry Candy and offering a high five from about six or seven feet up, roughly the position of a pilot on a typical SCUL ship. SCUL (Subversive Choppers Urban Legion) is a Massachusetts-based “anti-elite band of pilots testing out experimental ships, exploring the Greater Boston Star systems and occasionally other galaxies” from their “subspace communication broadcast headquarters.”

Finally, we’ve got to give a shout out to our local bike culture faves, the volunteers at Bikerowave. Lots of cities have them, but this LA neighborhood tool library and DIY bike repair hangout has a great vibe and lots of knowledgeable and friendly volunteers.

Andrew Lynch is a refugee from the academy now working in advertising. While he sometimes misses writing heady sentences including words like “teleological”, he’s enjoying his stint decoding the more varied and messy signs and symbols of pop culture, consumer trends, and brand stories.

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