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Defining Bike Culture

A friend told me he had used the Rock The Bike web site to help a co-worker understand what bike culture is. That got me thinking, what is bike culture? I looked on Wikipedia and was unsatisfied by the old Bike Culture entry, so I wrote a description and updated the Wikipedia entry. What do you think? Comment here or update the Wikipedia entry.

Bicycle culture

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Bike culture is a set of art, music, and community events offered by passionate bicyclists seeking to inspire beginners, rally the faithful, and express their love of bicycling as a life choice.

Those who have made bicycling a lifestyle choice, not a mere recreational habit, often see see bicycling as a movement they want to help grow. There are several paths people use to convince others to try biking: Practical improvements, Logic and Facts, and Bike Culture.

Practical Improvements include measures at the level of local government, such as bike lanes , improved parking facilities, and access to public transportation, as a well as products that improve the bicycling experience, such as flat-resistant tires and simple, effective safety products. These techniques help address the common objections to bicycling: “I don’t feel safe”, “my tires are flat”, “what if my bike gets stolen?”

The path of Logic and Facts seeks to convince and ground the decision to ride bikes at the logic level. Examples of Facts include: “Bicycling helps you integrate exercise into your daily life, which is something you need anyway,” “Bicycling is an important way to reduce your personal impact on Global Warming,” and “Bicycling makes our cities more liveable by reducing traffic and improving community interactions.”

Facts, strong as they may be, enter the brain and park themselves in the repository of facts. And while we may call facts to ground and rationalize decisions, only our emotions can bring us the point of making changes in our daily habits and lives. Bike Culture accesses these feelings directly, through music and art and through group rides and events.

Recognizing that bicycling for transportation represents a significant departure from a more established automobile-centered how-to-live archetype, and therefore requires a strong emotional basis, Bike Culture artists, musicians, and organizers seeks to use their offerings and events to embolden these emotions, and push people farther along in their own personal transformations.

Bike culture consists of:

  • Bike Music
  • Bike Film
  • Bike Rides, often noncompetitive in nature. Includes Critical Mass, Midnight Ridazz (more info below).
  • Art Bikes, often impractical for transportation purposes or fantastical, such as tall bikes, choppers, unusual multi-person human-powered vehicles, and human powered floats.
  • Printed word: Blogs, haikus, zines and magazines, stickers, spoke cards. Books include: Thomas Stevens with his narrative “Around the World on a Bicycle,” Mark Twain with his essay “Taming the Bicycle” and H. G. Wells with his novel The Wheels of Chance were early contributors to bicycle culture.
  • Spoken word: Slang, rap, poetry
  • Arts and Crafts (both handmade and mass manufactured): An example of visual art is Mona Caron‘s Bike Mural.