Mikael Colville-Andersen with his kids Felix and Lulu-Sophia.
[This article originally ran in Urban Velo magazine.]
As “The Pope of Urban Cycling,” Mikael Colville-Andersen is one of today’s leading bicycle advocates, but also one of the most controversial. He’s known as the kingpin of the stylish cycling movement via his award-winning photo blog Copenhagen Cycle Chic. The site mostly features candid photographs of attractive, well-dressed women on wheels, for a largely female readership. For his day job as CEO of Copenhagenize, a nine-person transportation consulting firm, he travels to cities around the world, advising politicians, planners and advocates on ways to emulate the success of the bike-friendly Danish capital.
Mikael’s blogs have a global following—Cycle Chic has inspired some 150 spin-offs in other cities. He’s also a sought-after public speaker who gave the keynote address at this year’s Pro Walk Pro Bike Pro Place conference in Long Beach, California. But he’s not without his critics. His outspoken opposition to helmet promotion troubles many North American advocates. And at least two female bike bloggers have critiqued his Cycle Chic aesthetic and rhetoric as being sexist, elitist and counterproductive for encouraging regular folks to ride.
In July I visited Copenhagen for the first time and, as advertised, it’s a biker’s paradise with mellow traffic, grade-separated bike lanes on all major streets and good-looking, stylish people on classy Dutch cycles everywhere you turn. I met up with Mikael, a bright-eyed, energetic man, at his flat in Frederiksberg, a town completely surrounded by Copenhagen. We sipped cans of Carlsberg as his young kids Felix and Lulu-Sophia practiced soccer and picked flowers in their lush back yard. Mikael and I discussed his views on helmets, the differences between Copenhagen and Amsterdam, why he’s underwhelmed by Portland, and why bikes should be marketed more like vacuum cleaners.
Last night I swung by a Chainlink Biking Semester class on biking tips for women, “The Lady and the Bike,” taught by Let’s Go Ride a Bike blogger Dottie Brackett at next Door Café, 659 W. Diversey in Lincoln Park. The Chainlink, a social networking site for Chicago cyclists, is hosting the bike ed series at the café all summer.
Vanessa Buccella, who we interviewed last winter, is teaching “Racing 101” on Tuesday, June 19, from 6:30-7:30 pm. Future Chainlink classes include “Basics To Keep Your Bike Riding Through Summer” on July 10 and “How To Not Get Your Bike Stolen and What You Can Do to Get It Back” on July 24.
Steven and I are fans of Dottie’s blog, co-written with Trisha Ping, a great source of info, especially for women, about getting around by bike without sacrificing your personal style, including great photography and fun stories of the ladies’ two-wheeled adventures. Last year I interviewed Dottie for Newcity magazine and dubbed her “The Martha Stewart of Chicago Cycling.” She didn’t seem to mind.
It’s November and days are getting shorter and colder. If you live in the Upper Midwest or the Northeast, sleet, slush, snow and ice are just around the corner, so maybe you’re thinking about mothballing your bike for the next four months.
Instead, Gin Kilgore suggests you give cold-weather biking a spin. She helped found Bike Winter, a Chicago-based grassroots organization that promotes all-season cycling, with offshoots in St. Louis, Missouri, and Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin. “Winter biking helps you stay active and in the sunshine all year, which is so good for the body and mind,” Kilgore says. “And it sure beats shivering at the bus stop.”
In September, John and I sat down with Dottie Brackett in Logan Square for 90 minutes discussing our personal history of urban biking and opinions on what’s happening now in Chicago with protected bike lanes (among other topics). Thankfully, Dottie cut that down to 27 minutes so you can listen to us converse while you walk the dog this morning.
[This piece also runs in Newcity. All photos courtesy of LGRAB, except where noted.]
Dottie Brackett is the Martha Stewart of the Chicago bike scene. Often spotted cruising the streets on her stately black Dutch bike or sprightly robin’s egg blue Rivendell, elegantly dressed in a skirt and heels, she belies the notion that urban cycling is only for sweaty guys in Lycra or skinny jeans. Since early 2009 her blog Let’s Go Ride a Bike (LGRAB) has shown thousands of people in Chicago and beyond how easy it is to use a bicycle for transportation and look good doing it.
The blog, co-written with Brackett’s Nashville-based friend Trisha Ping, who handles web design and ad sales, follows the women’s everyday adventures on two wheels. LGRAB’s breezy prose, splashy photography, reviews of classy commuter bikes and handy how-to tips have attracted an international readership, drawing about 2,500 pageviews and dozens of comments per day.