14 November 2008
Two Years With Cycle Chic
The photograph that launched a thousand bikes. November 14, 2006. 08:43.
Two years ago this day, at exactly 08:43 - I took a photo on my way to work at Danish Broadcasting. The subject matter was something regarded as incredibly anonymous and uninteresting to most people in this city, including me - Copenhageners on bikes in the morning rush hour.
At that point I had a habit of keeping my camera on me and taking street photography shots to and from work. I was waiting at a red light on Åboulevarden on a grey November day and I noticed that the Copenhagener in front of me was rather stylish. I could see some cyclists approaching from the left, turning into frame. The light was nice, I thought, and the red light would change to green in a moment. I pulled out my camera and took a shot, catching the cyclists on the left, the cyclist on the right pushing off and, in the middle, a pillar of style and calm.
I thought it to be a nice urban shot when I took it. Farther along the route, minutes later, I snapped a couple of more shots of stylish cyclists, as though noticing the Copenhagen connection between style and bicycles for the first time:
I hopped off the bike even farther along and took a few more shots of Copenhageners on bikes in the morning light. It was mostly because of the light, I might add.
On my way home that evening I snapped this shot of a dancing taillight in front of me:
The next day I didn't take any photos of bikes at all. But then the trickle started turning into a stream. Little did I know what that one photograph at the top would launch.
Like most Copenhageners, I hadn't noticed this thing people in other countries call 'bike culture', even after riding my bike each day for many years in the city. I started, slowly, noticing bicycles and, more importantly, the people riding them over the course of the few days, this this shot, on November 16th:
It all kind of snowballed from there. Which is a bit of an understatement. Months later, in June 2007, I started this blog, after having amassed a respectable archive of Cycle Chic shots that had proven to be a hit on Flickr. That, too, was a spontaneous decision and I never expected it to amount to anything. I just figured it would be nice to gather them all in one place.
Here we are today. 'Cycle Chic' - a flippant, casual description of a Copenhagen cyclist on a winter's morning - has become a concept. Dozens of other blogs and sites have been launched in the same vein around the world. These photographs have been published in magazines and newspapers around the world. Exhibitions are underway.
It's all rather overwhelming. Most importantly, it is all rather wonderful. To think that this one photo has created all of this is brilliant. I didn't know at that point how those Copenhageners who happen to ride bicycles could inspire people around the world to do the same through a long series of photographs. I didn't know that there was nerve out there that needed to be hit. To think of the whole wave of promoting urban cycling as a normal and feasible activity that has surged forth over the past couple of years - 2008 in particular - is rather overwhelming. The testimonials I get sent are moving and touching.
This one shot has led to this blog, Copenhagenize.com, the online shop, the Slow Bicycle Movement, Cykelhjelm.org as well as consultancy work helping other cities move towards 'bike culture'. Quite remarkable if I think about it. Yes, sometimes I tire of taking photos of bicycles and need a break. But then all of a sudden it's back.
So thanks to all of you readers who make Cycle Chic a part of your day. Thanks to all the guest contributors for showcasing the march of Cycle Chic around the world. Thanks, not least, to the good people of Copenhagen for being so frightfully cool and stylish and sustainably mobile.
I'm off to take some shots.