Creating a new bicycling culture in Seattle; start with the clothing?

Dec 1, 2014, 6:25 AM | Updated: 11:01 am
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Juliette Delfs opened Hub and BeSpoke, a bicycle clothing store in Fremont that sells "normal looking" bike clothes. (Photo by Hub and BeSpoke)
(Photo by Hub and BeSpoke)

Seattle is building new bicycle paths, dedicated lanes and traffic signals, and creating a bike share program, all to make cycling and bike commuting more attractive. But something is missing.

If you’ve ever seen a cyclist dressed in colorful spandex, racing down the street, and thought to yourself, ‘Way to go, Lance Armstrong, but I can’t do what you’re doing,’ Juliette Delfs wants to help you. She opened Hub and BeSpoke, a bicycle clothing store in Fremont that sells “normal looking” bike clothes.

“We were thinking that it would encourage others to ride in general if the model on the street, the person on the street, doesn’t look like a hardcore athlete,” Delfs said.

At her store on North 36th Street, Delfs showed off a fashionable women’s raincoat that is waterproof, with venting and built-in reflectivity, cut for an arm-forward riding position – but not big and baggy. It’s bicycle clothing that doesn’t look like bicycle clothing.

“My most preferred compliment is, ‘You rode in that.'”

Bicycling is widely accepted in other parts of the world. But Mark Peterson, a bicycle commuter and marketing professor at the University of Wyoming, called cycling the most underutilized form of transportation in the U.S. He said Seattle and other cities need to create a less intimidating bicycling culture that welcomes new riders.

Normal clothing is a good example of that.

“There’s a large percentage of people in most places in Holland that ride their bicycles so it is common for business executives to arrive at their destination by bicycle,” Peterson said.

Delfs insisted you don’t always need to shower and change clothes for a simple bike ride.

“I’ve had people who do two-mile commutes and they’ll come back and tell me I’ve changed their lives,” she said. “I’ve taken 45 minutes out of their day on each end because they’re not dealing with all these logistics.”

Congestion charges, tolls and other taxes are used to discourage cars and encourage bicycling, Peterson said. But potential riders also need to hear that cycling is safe, weather is not a real obstacle, and bicycles belong. That’s creating a new bicycle culture.

“It starts with clothing and just having a lot of conversations,” Delfs said.

“To have a community that’s receptive to bicycling is kind of a hallmark or a designation of a community that cares about quality of life,” added Peterson, who said it should be cool to cycle to work.

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Creating a new bicycling culture in Seattle; start with the clothing?