Photo by Andrew Schwartz
Jasmijn Rijcken riding in Skirts on BikesJasmijn Rijcken, the Dutch tourist who was reportedly reprimanded for riding in a short skirt, takes part in the follow-up Skirts on Bikes ride in NYC.
By Susi Wunsch
Controversy erupted in June 2011 when it was reported on Facebook that a New York City Police officer stopped a Dutch tourist to reprimand her for wearing a short skirt while riding a bicycle. What came to be known as "Skirtgate" inspired rides in Manhattan to support bicycling as a stylish form of everyday transportation.
Jasmijn Rijcken, 31, general manager of the Dutch bicycle company VANMOOF, who had traveled to town for the inaugural New Amsterdam Bicycle Show, said that on May 3 a police officer pulled up in a car in Soho and threatened to ticket her.
"He said I was distracting cars and that it was dangerous; I shouldn't wear these clothes on a bike," Rijcken told The Village Voice.
No summons was issued, but Rijcken, who returned to her hotel and put on a pair of pants, said she was left shaken.
Whispers of a publicity ploy circulated when Rijcken's expertise in 'guerilla' marketing surfaced, but died down under subsequent media scrutiny. Immediate Twitter buzz called for a protest ride. But supporters of Rijcken chose to frame their responses positively.
Liz Patek, a New York City cyclist for 22 years and a local advocate, organized a ride from Manhattan's Columbus Circle to Union Square. "This was about the notion that it is normal to ride a bike dressed for the destination - whether you are going to work, on a date, school, dinner or a show - not the journey," Patek said.
Later, the organizer of the New Amsterdam Bicycle Show, Joanna Virello, teamed with George Bliss of Hudson Urban Bicycles to sponsor "Skirts on Bikes." Rijcken returned to New York City from Amsterdam for the ride, which drew about 100 supporters, some bearing placards reading "I Like the Way I Bike" and "I Bike the Way I Like."
Among those who joined in was fashion designer and city cyclist Lela Rose. "I love any event that glamorizes bike riding," she said, noting that heads turned as the stream of "fabulously dressed" cyclists passed through the streets of Lower Manhattan.
"Usually you feel fragile on a bike; last night we felt powerful," Rijcken told the New York Press after the ride. "It's what bicycling should be: positive, friendly and joyful."