Friday, November 13, 2009

Bike Culture Typology 2009

In April 2007 I tried to organize bicyclists into categories-a task much harder than I thought it would be. Two years later I thought it would be interesting to take another look at bike culture.

Read the Wikipedia Article on Bicycle Culture

So here is the abbreviated list with notable trends. I welcome your comments since most of mine are simply observations.

Invisible or captive riders - They ride late at night or in the middle of the day. If you see a bike on the bus chances are that the bike owner belongs to this group.
  1. Service workers
  2. Urban Food delivery workers - once dominated by pizza places and Chinese take out this sector is growing among chain restaurants in Philadelphia.
  3. Foreign Exchange Students - declined slightly last summer as more locals scooped up seasonal jobs.
  4. Hardscrabble, DUI convicts
  5. Students

Urban core riders continue to evolve
  1. Bike Messengers – Package delivery has kept this sector healthy if small, less than 80 people are now employed as bike messengers in Philadelphia.
  2. Fixed Gear riders - the "Hipsters" grew significantly since 1997 and thus have generated a backlash group known as Hipster bashers. The fixie craze will probably plateau soon but this group appears to be claiming a permanent spot in bike culture. Future generation of "White Guys with Beards".
  3. Cycle Chic - this group pulls from Crosstown Commuters and perhaps Recreational Casuals, except they are younger and look fabulous. The term Cycle Chic has been popularized by the Copenhagen Cycle Chic website which focused on all those beautiful Scandanavian women going about their business. The movement's devotees prefer dutch bikes, comfort bikes and 3 speeds over the fixies. Some feel that this group represents a sea change in attitudes towards bikes, celebrities like Beyonce Knowles and longtime advocate David Byrne have put cycle chic in the spotlight.
  4. Crosstown Commuters
  5. Intermodal (bikes on transit) Commuters - That's me!
  6. Lowriders - Bicycle Artists or Hobbyists. Perhaps a sleeping giant, I predict that one day lowriders will be in the spotlight.
  7. White Guys with Beards - That might be me too.
  8. Self made mechanics
  9. Build and ride bicycles with discarded parts.
  10. Tall Bike Riders

Transportation Cyclists
  1. Intercity commuters
  2. Vehicular Cyclists - strongly identify themselves with the teachings of the controversial John Forester. This is still a vocal group, but their struggle to take control of the advocacy agenda has been subdued by the explosive growth in cycling in facility rich Portland and the the European style bike lane configurations in New York. Ironically though the increase in bicycle usage has resulted in cries to better educate the cycling population. There is opportunity for those that can get beyond the idealogical battles.

Recreational Riders
  1. Recreational sport
  2. Recreational casual - Families or couples, prefer off road paths, beach boardwalks etc. - This group has started to embrace bike trailers to carry kids and gear to places such as the beach. Another great trend.
  3. Recreational casual fitness
  4. Competitive Sport riders – Competitors, such as triathletes and cross country racers
  5. Extreme riders - Subgroup of d - Downhill racers, BMX etc.
  6. Touring Cyclists
  7. Recumbent riders

Other Institutional Bicycling Groups
  1. Mormon Missionaries
  2. Police on Bikes
  3. Business Improvement District Ambassadors
  4. Pedicab operators - Philadelphia is nearing the passage of legislation that will open the door for pedicabs here. New York is clamping down on their huge pedicab industry with new regulations that will take effect later this month.
  5. National Delivery Services (UPS and USPS in select cities)
  6. Drug couriers
  7. Recycling service - Pedal Co-op's recycle by bicycle pickup service is a big hit. It is a much needed service as few office buildings in Philadelphia offer recycling.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for including recumbents in the list... You need dual categories - some recumbent riders also use them for transportation.

Anonymous said...

Drug couriers...hehehe

JohnWa said...

How about taking this exercise a step further and opine as to which bicycling groups in Center City Philadelphia tend to exhibit the illegal behaviors of ignoring traffic control devices such as red lights and stop signs and riding on sidewalks? And why the bicycling culture in Philadelphia has morphed into what can best be described as "selective compliance" with the Pa. Motor Vehicle Code?

JohnWa said...

Another illegal bahavior which was mentioned in today's Inquirer article on scofflaw bicyclists: Salmon Biking - the riding against the flow of traffic. Is it because those who do it are simply too lazy to go to the next block, which will lead in the direction they wish to go? That's my take.

John said...

Let's give Center City bicyclists a little love here, at least for today. Today's Inquirer Article has already delivered a solid punch at scofflaws.

Compared to the outer neighborhood cyclists on the margins of society the majority of Center City Cyclists look like disciplined soldiers. In CC 5% ride the wrong way and 20% ride on the sidewalk, and create most of the havoc. Red light running is the major crisis and the victims of that mistake are usually the cyclists themselves.

The City is going after big bucks to launch a campaign directed at bicyclists and motorists and I for one am glad that bicyclists are finally being treated as a force to be reckoned with.

JohnWa said...

You appear to be unwelcoming of my questions, despite your invitation to do so, because of a concurrent media article accurately pointing out bad bicycling behaviors. From what source are the 2 statistics you mentioned? In Center City, I would suggest that Urban Food delivery workers routinely ride on sidewalks and bike messengers do that in addition to routinely salmon biking and ignoring traffic control devices. Based on just those two groups, the percentages you state are clearly much higher. And if bike messengers even pause at an intersection, they do figure 8's in the crosswalk, because they ride fixed-gear track bikes, and refuse to come to a stop. I will bet those bikes are illegal. And did you just state that bicyclists not living in Center City are on the margins of society? To what society are you referring?

Please do not take this personally but if what you posted are "observations" then others should as well. No?

Anonymous said...

JohnWa, once again you pick out some minor percentage of cyclists and claim that they represent all cyclists. Salom riding?? I'm sure we're all out there doing it.

Lets go for a ride through Center City and see just how bad the problem really is. I bet that it is no worse than people driving cars. Who also don't get tickets.

John said...

For the record:
1 - Quoted percentages are based on our annual bicycle counts which include behavior.

2 - Messengers are a tiny percentage of bicyclists, less than 80 are more and less employed in Center City. You may be observing Fixed Gear Riders who often look like messengers.

3 - On the margins: I am referring to the invisible cyclists as I categorized in the Bike Culture Typology 2009 blog.

Anonymous said...

John said...
For the record:
1 - Quoted percentages are based on our annual bicycle counts which include behavior.

You may want to consider posting these statistics. JohnWa like most non-cyclists think that if they see one cyclists running a red light we all do it. Blind to the fact that people driving in cars who engage in similar behavior represent a minority of drivers.

John said...

2008 Bicycle Count Report:

Lala said...

This list seems a little muddled. Some of your classifications are based on physical characteristics (or perceptions) of the riders and others are based on behavior.

Personally, I'm a Crosstown Commuter who's also an Intermodal Commuter when it's windy, and am probably Chic when I wear a skirt and snazzy shoes, except on weekends when I'm Recreational... oh, and also a Mechanic, when I feel like it.

What purpose does this list serve? I'm not trying to be snarky (unlike the staunchly anti-bike dick who always threadjacks the comments), I just don't get it. I mean, it's interesting, but not informative.

John said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John said...

LaLa - The 2007 list linked in the first sentence was much more detailed than this. I left out my favorite category "Crazy Lady on a Bike".

This exercise was more a brain dump than trying to educate anyone. However as you point out there are those who know nothing
about what we call bike culture. Generally they know of three types - immigrants, messengers and Lance Armstrong. And according to my Urologist there are these "packs" of guys that look like Lance Armstrong on Route 73 on weekends.

Anonymous said...

regarding selective compliance to traffic law...
meet me at 22nd and Walnut Street between 7:30 am and 9:30 am.

There you can observe motorists driving 3-ton vehicles through the recently-reddened traffic light at 40 mph, while eating and texting. Not one or two, but dozens.

You can also often observe ME cycling on the sidewalk in fear of these selfish idiots. BTW, I've been riding in Philly since age 9, am an Effective Cycling Instructor, have Motorcycle License, and have bicycled in NYC, London, Barcelona, Bivalve, Newark, San Francisco, etc., etc.

BUT I still wind up on the sidewalk when in my judgement, the chance of disfigurement/death by nice soccer mom or harried professor on cellphone exceeds the chance of getting a ticket or a lecture from dopes like JohnWa!

most sincerely,
Michael McGettigan
Trophy Bikes University City

Unfashionistable said...

The list is pretty stupid, really. Why are service workers different from intercity commuters? What's the difference between a crosstown commuter and a student?

I suspect that most people would fall into several of the categories, and it's pretty meaningless with the exception of defining cliques that some people gravitate towards (like the logopro bike wear crowd, the fixie hipsters, bike messengers, etc.)

I think the Cycle Chic thing is particularly insulting, and is rooted in a desire to enforce attitudes around having "the right bike" and the like (not to mention that fixies are the ultimate example of "cycle chic" - they even sell them at Urban Outfitters!).

It seems more useful to try to get meaningful data about the various reasons people bike, and if increasing bike culture is the goal, probably why they don't as well (like, why will someone bike all around town all weekend, but they get in their car to drive 4 miles to work on Monday?)

Unfashionistable said...

Also, @ JohnWa -

You seem to feel like the people who comment here should be able to speak for all cyclists in the city.

All I can say is I drive a fair bit as well as bike, and I'm glad I don't feel any ability to answer for drivers in Philadelphia, because the state of driving here is fucking ridiculous. I mean, like 25% of cars aren't even insured, and moving violations type laws are so rarely enforced, I'm not even clear a lot of drivers are aware that things like turn signals are even, you know - required by law.

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