14 November 2008

Two Years With Cycle Chic

Green Light Go *
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:
Tensed and Waiting for Green * Post-Modern Cowgirl

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.
Sunrise Movement in Concerto

Wheel Melt

Hans Christian Andersen Boulevard Golden Blur

On my way home that evening I snapped this shot of a dancing taillight in front of me:
Taillight - Quite Literally
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:
Uomo con bike*

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.


Unknown said...

Thank you Mikael. Thank you for all the dedication it takes to put together not just this blog but also the others. Thank you for the constant inspiration your words and images provide for us here in the States that are not lucky enough to have as forward thinking and progressive leaders as those that govern your wonderful country.

Mikael, I'm not sure you understand completely how much of an impact Copenhagen Cycling Chic has had on cycling here in the US. Trust me when I say that it has been extensive and we are all better off for it. And I want to thank you for that.

Anonymous said...

Speechless.. Gorgeous.. Thank you...

Anonymous said...

You started a Renaissance on two wheels, Mikael. Congrats from da Dam!

Unknown said...

Happy Birthday from Wales. We are far far behind Denmark but with the recent boom in cycling and looking cool whilst doing so there is hope for the future and indeed next spring/summer.
It was the Guardian mentioning your blog that first pointed me in this direction for which I am ever grateful!

my hyggelig said...

Happy Anniversary indeed! What a beautiful post, absolutely amazing photographs, and inspiration a mile long. Glad I found you - you make my morning coffee solitude a beautiful start to almost every day. Thank you!!!!

Colville-Andersen said...

thanks so much everyone. it's a pleasure having made your acquaintence[s]

CrowMolly said...

I have never been one to present myself in head to toe spandex, but your site has given fresh insight to 'appropriate dress' for a ride.

Thank you, and continued success in your endeavors!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Mikael! You've helped show many of my friends the sincere beauty of urban cycling. Here's to the next two years!

Ahoy! said...

Hello and congrats on your second year!

Welcome to my blog Home and Away, where I have nominated your blog for the I Love Your Blog Award:



Anonymous said...

Hey, congratulations for this wonderful blog. I am from Mexico City and i really enjoy visiting this blog. It makes me know about lifestyle in Denmark. I think it´s a paradise for those who love bikes and enjoy biking. As you must know there is no a cycle culture here. I love this city and there are many places to visit on a bike like Centro Historico (Downtown) unfortunately there is not a program that promotes bikes and that would also help to diminish pollution in this city. I would love to visit Copenhagen and take a ride on my bike. Thank you for sharing those photos to us. Keep on biking.
Mexico City

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! It is fascinating to read your story. I didn't realize it all happened so quickly for you. This blog (and its relatives) and 'cycle chic' have definitely become a part of my vocabulary and my hobbies. I hope to one day visit Copenhagen as well and revel in all the bike fabulosity, which is really just average Copenhageners going about their daily business on their bikes.

I try to give enthusiastic encouragement to others who think that daily cycling is a chore or difficult to do. Thank you so much for all the inspiration!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Have much inspirations, and delights, Zakkaliciousness! And tahnks for impetus: http://lodzcyclechic.blogspot.com/

Adrienne Johnson said...

There is always room in the world for those who cause others to think, so I would imagine there is quite a bit of space around your life right now.

Many years ago I was teasing a friend of mine about how none of his stories were about normal life, they all were about drinking. I don't remember saying it, but he told me that that comment was the first thing that got him to realize he was an alcoholic. We never know what today's words or photos will do to us and others. We are extraordinarily fortunate if we do get to see. You are a lucky man.


Kristin Tieche said...

Thank you for providing us and the world with such inspiration on two wheels, Mikael!

In solidarity from San Francisco,

Anonymous said...

Thank you Mikael - I'm hooked on your site! I bought a Pashley princess sovereign ... discovered your site and that was history! I'm hooked on cycling and cycle everwhere... to work, doing the grocery shopping, out to restaurants, out clubbing!!! This site has really motivated me and made me re-asses why I have never bothered learning to drive a car. Best wishes from a cyclist in St Albans.

Anonymous said...

Although I have arrived fashionably late to this party let us hope that in future I am considered one of the "Early Adopters," as I was (at least in America) some 40 years ago when I adopted the bicycle as my primary means of transportation; by choice, not necessity (when I turned 16 I got a full time job that required me to bicycle 10 miles/16 kilometers each way so that I could save up money to buy - a better bicycle; which I spent rather more on than my "peers" spent on their first cars, thus removing all doubt that I was going to grow up into some sort of "loon").

Here's to your anniversary, and may there be many more. Viva la revolución de la bicicleta!

Disclaimer: I have a drawer full of lycra and Coolmax, multiple helmets and even a shoe/pedal "system," but I try not to let it make me stupid and refuse to let it make me a plastic billboard. All my "gear" is solid color.

And I don't wear it just to go food shopping; that would be stupid (see above).

WestfieldWanderer said...

I'm a daily visitor to both blogs.


A daily dose of inspiration is needed by us here in bike-phobic Britain.

We'll catch up.

One day.

MELI. said...

very cool!
thanks for bringing daily happiness to my eyes♥ and my best friend +daily companion, my bike. from across the pond in SF
xo/ m

village mama said...

Happy Anniversary to you and all the cycle chic deliciousness!!

chococat78 said...

Happy anniversary and thank you for the huge contribution your blog has made to emerging bike cultures around the world. This blog is actually one of the reasons I just bought my first bike in 15 years and I will start bicycling to work and around the city--sans spandex ;) as much as possible.

Anneke said...

Congratulations! I've only found your blog two months ago (I think) but I still check every day to see what's new. :D

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your 2-year Anniversary. You got me hooked, both on the blog and on the bike! Thanks for a lot of pleasure and beauty!

Denis said...

Gratitude from Sevastopol! No bike lanes at all, hilly - but many people cycle! :-) :-)

Colville-Andersen said...

thanks so much for all the kind comments!