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The Photo That Launched a Million Bicycles, by Mikael Colville-Andersen The Photo That Launched a Million Bicycles, by Mikael Colville-Andersen

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Copenhagen Cycle Chic: Redefining Bike Culture One Turn at a Time

Friday, Nov 26, 2010, 12:34 PM / Denmark

Two facts about Copenhagen: 1) It is an extremely stylish city. 2) It is a biking city. And thanks to Mikael Colville-Andersen of Copenhagen Cycle Chic, we are able to catch a glimpse of both worlds as they collide and whiz by.

Two facts about Cycle Chic: 1) It is not about the bicycle, it is about the person on the bicycle. 2) It is a symbol of how our cities should evolve into more livable spaces.

Colville-Andersen explained to TribaSpace that the Cycle Chic philosophy is about looking good, interacting with your urban landscape, and contributing to the urban scene by merely riding a bicycle. But Colville-Anderson wasn’t always philosophising about bike culture, he was a film director and photographer “before this bicycle thing kicked in.” And like many popular bloggers, he fell into the blogoshpere by chance, and people instantly took notice.

“Cycle Chic poured in with people from the word go. I realised that people in other countries were hungry for this rebranding of the bicycle as not just transport, but also as an urban lifestyle accessory,” said Colville-Anderson.

It all started on his way to work at Danish Broadcasting one morning almost four years ago, when he was taken back by an “elegantly-clad” woman on a bike and snapped a photo.

“I didn’t notice the bicycle, I noticed the urban scene,” he explained about the picture that has been coined “The Photo That Launched a Million Bicycles.”

After posting it on Flickr, members from other countries became fascinated by the fact that she was able to ride in a skirt. That confused Colville-Anderson as he was used to people riding in their everyday attire and believes all of our closets our filled with “cycling clothes.” But more importantly, it created a dialogue that inspired him to start taking similar photos and eventually start the blog.

With 500,000 people in the greater Copenhagen area on bike everyday, he certainly had no shortage of material. Now over three years since the launch, Copenhagen Cycle Chic has over 7,000 readers and has been recognised by the Times, the Guardian and more as one of the most influential street style blogs, as well as the catalyst for a whole new wave of bike culture.

After discovering the niche with Cycle Chic, Colville-Anderson also started, a more academic site exploring how this bicycle culture is built up and should be marketed globally, as well as Copenhagenize Consulting which advises cities about getting geared up for it all. He also travels all over the world (23 cities in 13 countries over the past 18 months) for photo gigs, to give lectures and to host Cycle Chic events.

“The success of the blogs has continued to amaze and humble me. At the beginning I just blogged because there was an audience who liked the shots, then I realised that it was really getting big and I accepted the responsibility to keep it pure and fresh as the movement spread around the world.”

And how does this demystification of the bicycle take place? According to Colville-Anderson it is simple: keep showing the bicycle ridden by elegant people, every day of the year, and the perception will change. People will realise that you can be the same person on two wheels as you would walking, driving in a car or taking public transportation – just like the people of Copenhagen.

“You dress for your destination, not your journey. People here don’t identify themselves as cyclists, they just happen to use bicycles to get around. Biking is not a fetish or a hobby, it’s just transport. I call it “vacuum cleaner culture” because the bicycle is just an effective and practical tool that makes our daily lives easier.”

When it comes to the “vacuum cleaners,” whether it’s a young fashionista riding a 1960s mini-bike, a teenage girl on a beach cruiser, a teenage boy perched on a banana seat, a dad pulling a cargo bike, or a hipster riding a vintage 10-speed, Colville-Anderson does not discriminate with his camera, just as long as you have that certain Cycle Chic.

“I look for movement – candid movement. I look for poetry and grace on the bicycle. It’s like being a wildlife photographer, shooting beautiful swans in the wild. And I love a wicked pair of heels and a skirt or a gent in a suit.”

Colville-Anderson is often referred to as Denmark’s Bicycle Ambassador. But don’t let the title fool you, he is still not obsessing over bikes.

“Bicycles are lovely and aesthetic but I’m not a bicycle geek.”

Remember, it is not about the bike. It is about the person on that bike.

Megan Cahn | TribaSpace

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