A recent “Voice of San Diego” article explored one particular business owner’s opposition to bike lanes because the project would take away a few parking spaces. This article is notable for the comments, several of which point out that there remain plenty of unused parking space available 24/7 in the area of the restaurants whose owner is caviling. It turns out that it’s the loss of free (ie, tax-subsidized parking spots, ie, automotive socialism) that people are fearing. They don’t want to pay to park and then have to walk–the horror, the horror!–half a block for a burger.
But my favorite comment was the one that asks, semi-rhetorically, “Do we really expect a bunch of people in bike shorts to start frequenting Urban Mo’s, Gossip Grill and Hillcrest Brewing Company?”
There are two parts to the foolishness of this comment. One is the implication that bike shorts would be unacceptable in what it turns out are booze-and-burger joints, augmented by the usual hot wings type of bar fare. In fact, the first two restaurants are, according to the websites, “hetero-friendly gay restaurants,” one for boys, whose menu features men in thongs, and one for girls, with events such as “HUMP Day Wednesday”; the third, Hillcrest Brewing Company, the “First Gay Brewery in the World,” throws a menu changeup by offering pizza with the beer. Kind of like TGI Fridays with more colorful clientele. Unless you were homophobic or had ugly legs, it wouldn’t bother you to go into any of these in bike shorts. They are not white-tablecloth restaurants.
But that’s all beside the point: the fact is, that I know hardly anyone who rides in bike shorts anymore. And the ones that do are not the ones clamoring for bike lanes anyway. (Indeed, sometimes they are clamoring against bike lanes, as the Vehicular Cycling bunch seems to have transmuted into roadie evangelists). The great majority of the riders I know personally, as well as the ones I see in increasing numbers on the street every day, wear fairly ordinary-looking clothes. Some of the gear, such as Swrve’s stuff or my own Bicycle Fixation line, is specifically designed to fit in with day-to-day clothing styles yet work well on longer or more arduous rides, but for around-town riding pretty much anything goes.
Bicycling—woe to the self-conscious rebels among us!—is becoming mainstream, and people riding two miles to dinner at an easy pace don’t put on racing kit to do so.
Indeed, Gina and I have often ridden our bikes to real white-tablecloth restaurants, such as AOC on Third, or the wonderful Girasole on Larchmont, and many others, wearing the elegant attire expected in such places. We even pedaled to a friend’s Jewish conversion ceremony at a temple in Beverly Hills, me in a suit and Gina in a skirt and blazer appropriate to any board meeting. (Our friend, a former bicycle racer, got a kick out of that! And she herself, though once on an Italian women’s team, now rides in civilian clothing.)
So of all arguments to make against bike infrastructure, the one based on fear of Spandex is the stupidest.
In honor of which I present some photos of people riding their bikes in “non-bike” togs:
Gary in Beverly Hills
On Santa Monica’s Main Street, flush with bikes and busy restaurants
Nice dress on Santa Monica’s Main Street
Ron Leach, publisher of Shutterbug, with his vintage French Meral commute bike
DJ, artist, and professor Patrick Miller
Gina on her way home from a meeting