New York Roll Models

A celebration of a civilized model for city cycling.

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A Celebration of a Civilized Model for City Cycling

As I see it, promoting a civilized model for city cycling is a game of attraction, as opposed to confrontation or ridicule. Looking back on my days as an unwitting practitioner of the “racer model” of bike riding, hunched over a racing bike in Lycra and logos, I remember a distinct difference between the casual riders and me. As they enjoyed a slow spin in regular clothes on their city bikes, they looked happy. I was attracted to how they rode in regular clothes and shoes on handsome bikes that looked pulled from a classic movie. They looked great, and I wanted in.

When I got my city cruiser, everything changed. I felt liberated, almost like a kid on a bike again. Special equipment and clothes were no longer required.

When photographer Billy Powers and Hudson Urban Bicycles shop owner George Bliss approached me about a project they called “New York Roll Models,” I was intrigued. Eighty-one-year-old Powers was not a cyclist and had not been on a bike in decades, actually, but he was an admirer of the upright cyclist’s form. He had a growing collection of terrific photographs of stylish New Yorkers- on bikes – the exact bicyclists who had inspired me to try a different way of riding a bike in the city.

Bliss turned his shop into a quasi-gallery space with huge blowups of Powers’ photos gracing the shop’s walls and front window. I suggested that the two create an online presence – a project that was cost-effective, within my skill set, and something that might catch on with a wider audience. And was born.

Inspired by Steven Rea’s brilliant Rides a Bike photo blog, New York Roll Models features photos of New Yorkers paired with short first-person accounts of bicycling in the city. There are guys and gals, both older and younger, from various professions and walks of life (or is it “rides” of life?). Powers’ images and their stories make New York Roll Models a celebration of a civilized model of city cycling.

What will happen next for New York Roll Models? Will there be a gallery exhibit? Will there be a book? Will we see Roll Models popping up in other cities? As the ambassador-at-large, I can safely say that we don’t know.

But I can say that, in New York, there is a need for New York Roll Models. A stylish rider on an upright city bike is a novelty here. In this town, cycling culture is dominated by cycling for sport. One of the primary aspirations of New York Roll Models is to throw a spotlight on how accessible riding a bike can be for everyone by promoting riding as easy, fun, and attractive. That is, after all, what lured me in, though by accident. New York Roll Models is doing it on purpose.

George Hahn is the creator, writer, and crash test dummy of his own website, a journal for men who aren’t millionaires but who like to look good and live well.

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