Actress Chloe Sevigny and her folding bike.
This week’s New York Observer story on "the beautiful bicycle girls of New York" may very well be the most e-mailed news item ever forwarded to the Streetsblog inbox. Calm down, people! Gillian Reagan observes what appears to be a new trend in New York City: Exceptionally good looking women are riding bikes. "Eco-conscious and ethereal, they wear flowing frocks and gigantic sunglasses but never helmets. Their hair flutters in the breeze as they leave a trail of swooning male pedestrians in their perfumed wake."
Meet the beautiful bicycle girls of New York, a breed that bears little resemblance to the hard-charging, Spandex-short-wearing species of 20 years ago. Those women were athletes, pumping the pedals, fighting to win. Getting somewhere. Today’s girls-and one always thinks of them as girls, even if they’re well into their 40’s-are more meandering, their long legs flashing along the pot-holed alleys of SoHo and the boutique-lined bike lanes of the West Village.
Local celebrities like the actresses Naomi Watts and Chloë Sevigny and the Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen have all championed living the green life in this most public and only incidentally calorie-burning way. "I go every day to work on my bike," Ms. Bundchen told the Daily News a couple of years ago. "It’s faster than a car, and cheaper."
While the Observer is far more interested in the girls’ outfits than anything having to do with transportation policy, Alex Marshall at the Regional Plan Association notes that we could be looking at a positive trend if, in fact, "women are feeling comfortable enough to cycle in nice clothes and without helmets." Marshall says, "It almost compares to the way conduct and attitudes in the subway shifted dramatically a decade or so ago. If we can get more people riding bikes in nice clothes and without helmets, it will really help popularize and increase cycling."
Call it the Copenhagenization of NYC.