Fashion offensives

Architecture has historically had a difficult relationship with fashion, and, despite the challenges of the Urbis generation, it continues to perpetrate an image of consistent fundamentals, along with its younger siblings: Urban Design and Town Planning. Yet architecture is a cultural discipline, and it’s largely bought (line, hook and sinker) the whole consumer culture, and planned obsolence ideology in the best uncritical sense.

It’s perhaps no surprise then, just when the planet has been diagnosed with global warming and its accompanying mortality, and when issues of good urban design, the privileging of energy efficient modes of transportation such as cycling, tricycling, and walking, and the need to radically rethink what a city is (the part it has played in escalating planetary doom etc … ), that fashion offensiveness strikes high on the list of impediments to rethinking transport priorities in the city.

Yep – helmet hair and lycra.

The reasons, apparently, why people won’t cycle and why they hate cyclists.  Recent examples of this underlying thinking have become explicit in discussions in the Listener and on National Radio (in response to Kim Hill’s interview with Tino Tabak).  Peter Stevens (for example) notes that:

“In Cologne, cyclists usually wore street clothes (women wore frocks), and the speed of travel was languid. The cyclists looked happy, and were simply enjoying a healthy, open-air trip to work. Most of the bikes were quite new, but to our eyes looked old-fashioned … By comparison, cycling here seems more for exercise, with Lycra-clad, sunglass-wearing speedsters with tense, focused faces predominating, and the pace is frenetic.”

Poor NZ cyclists – someone needs to obviously free them from their battery-hen/lycra-chained existence.  We want happy free-range cyclists … hopefully then we can have free-ranging and informed debate and action on the redesign of our cities – which is so desperately needed.


9 responses to “Fashion offensives”

  1. One wonders what the elimination of compulsory helmet wearing would do in terms of the quantity of cyclists on our roads (aside from the casualties) – I mean, if we’re all so fashion conscious then that could well be an impediment… Perhaps it is the helmet requirement that actually encourages cyclists to go the whole way with their aerodynamic regalia…?

    If you haven’t already, you’ll have to catch up with Poneke’s most recent post re global warming – absolute classic.

  2. I once heard an interview (this is many years ago) with a person from a cycling advocacy/promotion group and she made an interesting point. She said that in NZ the various laws, traffic and otherwise, are designed to minimise casualties whereas in some other countries (e.g. Holland), where cycling is popular, the same laws are designed to prevent casualties in the first place. Hence we have to wear helmets whereas in those other countries people simply choose to wear them because it’s a good idea in many cases but not necessary in some.

    Another example, I’ve been to Tokyo where cyclists share footpaths with pedestrians. Their footpaths are really wide and as you walk you’ll hear a gentle ring of someone’s bike bell behind you quite often. All you have to do is move to the left and not even look back. This one allowance means that people who are perhaps not so confident cycling on the road but really want to cycle are not prevented from cycling.

    One of the tenets of my personal philosophy came about as a response to the fact that people are basically good but lazy by nature (myself included). Therefore if you want someone to do something then all you have to do is make it as easy as possible for them. As a corollary of that, if you want people to do good, make it easier for them to perform good deeds rather than mediocre or bad ones.


  3. I find it hard to believe that New Zealanders could be so fashion conscious about wearing / not wearing lycra and/or helmets, when we’re so lacking in sartorial elegance everywhere else.

    You may want to visit for some more views on the subject.

  4. it’s so strange in what is supposedly a “sporting nation” that looking as if you are cycling “for exercise” is considered a problem …

  5. When you see the All Blacks in shorts like those pictured above, maybe then cycling gear will come of age as a fashion statement. Until then however…

  6. I’ve made this point before and I’ll make it again: We cut people down for being different. We need to grow up as a nation (vis “tall poppy syndrome” and other complexes). We are stunting our own growth and I don’t think that there is a quick fix for this. It’s a process and we must go through it in order to grow.

  7. Hold on – cutting people down? Its nothing to do with that Tomek – its just that you can see their cocks and its unsightly – and i would think damn uncomfortable. Anyone who wears their cock out on display like that needs a damn good spanking…. it’ll frighten old ladies in the street.

  8. I’m thinking tomek is taking a shot at Stevens etc, rather than my own flippancy…?

  9. Forget all that stuff about what is in the cycle team’s pants – its the big balls in the first picture that i love – massive big balls of light bigger than a person – absolutely fantastic! Where is the space? Is that a train station?

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