Mikael Colville Andersen will be a keynote speaker at the Pro Walk/ Pro Bike: Pro Place 2012 conference in Long Beach California this September, and a special guest at Women on Bikes SoCal’s urban bike fashion show Cycle Chic: Past, Present & Future….a Celebration of Dressing for the Destination on September 13th. In 2006, Colville-Andersen coined the phrase “Cycle Chic” and launched a world-wide phenomenon of “Cycle Chic” blogs when he began his Copenhaganize.com blog showcasing his beautiful bicycle friendly hometown.
By using his photography savvy, design eye, keen sense of irony, and knowledge of the bicycle’s place in history, Colville-Andersen (whose tagline is “hold my bike while I kiss your girlfriend”) is reminding the world that the bike can easily be a part of everyday life. In his role as a “Bicycle Anthropologist” he focuses on the penitential of the Citizen Cyclist with his keynote “Bicycle Culture by Design.” I hope you’ll enjoy his thoughtful and thought provoking answers as much as I did.
Women on Bikes SoCal: As a professional marketer did you have some kind of sixth sense that you’d be launching something so big when you started Copenhagenize and coined the term Cycle Chic?
Mikael Colville-Andersen: It all happened quite by coincidence. I wish I could say that it was a carefully coordinated Master Plan to re-launch the bicycle on the public consciousness, but that wasn’t the case. Once the interest in photos of cycling Copenhageners started to generate so much interest I did, however, realize that something was happening and what was happening was good. I had no idea that it would grow as big as it has, but that recognition of the potential was the key and I started to develop it from there. It was a long, organic process at the beginning, spurred on by my readers and the amazing, positive reactions I received every day. Coining and launching memes like Cycle Chic, Copenhagenize, Slow Bicycle Movement, Citizen Cyclists, and so on, have helped bring the message out to a broader audience.
WoBSoCal: Help us understand why stepping back and taking bicycling in from a anthropological stance has such tremendous power in helping bicycling gain new fans and understanding.
MCA: There are many misconceptions about urban cycling that are the result of 40 years of marketing cycling as a sport or recreation and not much else, in many regions. The societal mirror that potential bicycle users look into only reflects hobby cyclists who are into gear and fancy bicycles. This sends a message that in order to ride a bicycle, you have to subscribe to some sort of sub-culture, which very few people want to do. When we go bowling, we don’t equip ourselves with all manner of avid bowler gear, we just slide on some crappy old shoes and bowl with our friends.
In many ways, Citizen Cyclists use bicycles differently than avid cyclists. They’re not out to break land-speed records, train for triathlons or track speed, burned calories and muscle mass via onboard computers fixed to their carbon fiber wonderbikes. They just want to go from A to B quickly and enjoyably, buy groceries, drop kids off at kindergartens and schools, go to restaurants, etc. Looking at urban cycling from an anthropological and sociological viewpoint helps us understand how Citizen Cyclists regard the bicycle and how they will use it. My keynote is called Bicycle Culture by Design and it will highlight how planning for bicycle traffic should feature less traffic engineering and planning and a lot more focus on design principles. When you design something, you consider the end user from the very beginning of the process – and all the way through. When you design a toaster or a vacuum cleaner, you think about the men and women who you hope will buy them and make it as simple and attractive as possible.