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Oregonian guest opinion piece: Bikes are the newest "must-have fashion accessory"

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on July 29th, 2009 at 9:28 am

Cirque du Cycling-20.jpg
An "ultra-hip bike culture effete"
and her fashion accessory.
(Photo © J. Maus)

I noticed an interesting opinion piece in The Oregonian this morning that claims that the "newest local outdoor must-have fashion accessory" is the "walked bicycle."

In the article, author/journalist/bike commuter Lawrence J. Maushard of Southeast Portland, seems almost perturbed by the number of people who walk with their bikes on our city's sidewalks. I'm not sure why good looking people walking bikes causes so much consternation with Mr. Maushard (does he dislike eco-conscious people? is he just a hipster hater?), but it makes for an interesting read:

Here's an excerpt:

"That's right. You cannot go anywhere in this town without tripping over some young fashionista literally strolling the pavement with their rolling Treks, Konas, Motobecanes, Batavus, Gianni Mottas and retro Schwinns for all the world to see and admire.

Portland has become so bike obsessed, so bike conscious that it's no longer good enough to simply ride those two-wheelers to work, school, shops, and stores. No, you've got to be seen oh-so casually walking your bike along at a leisurely pace in order for passersby to get their maximum visual of you as a green-god denizen of this Cascadian heaven on earth."

Maushard's thesis is that "ultra-hip bike culture effetes" are walking their bikes to get maximum green street cred with passersby; and that many of them are newbies, lured to biking by Portland's reputation who then find actually riding and mixing with traffic is too harrowing.

"Portland has become so bike obsessed, so bike conscious that it's no longer good enough to simply ride those two-wheelers... No, you've got to be seen oh-so casually walking your bike along at a leisurely pace in order for passersby to get their maximum visual of you as a green-god denizen of this Cascadian heaven on earth."

As for people who actually ride their bikes more than walk them, Maushard thinks they "all look like possessed maniacs who wouldn't hesitate to run down innocent children and house cats that have somehow wandered onto the bike lanes."

Wow. I'm always interested to read how others -- outside the bike bubble/sphere I usually work and live in -- perceive Portland's burgeoning love of bicycles. Mr. Maushard's piece definitely feels like he has some anger toward certain people simply because they are young, hip, fashionable, in good health, and walk their bike (and he's obviously not too fond of people riding them either).

I sometimes cringe when I read stuff like this, because I admit I'm highly sensitive to how people perceive biking in general in this town. But I also realize that it's rare (and valuable?) to get this kind of critical perspective.

Maushard's final paragraph makes it seem like he is nostalgic for the pre bike-boom days in Portland, when run-ins with cops and Critical Mass played larger roles in our city's bike story:

"It's a little disheartening to realize, however, that in a city once known for its aggressive patchwork fear-no-cops-and-cars Critical Mass road rallies, you're now more likely to see smiling happy people walking perfect bicycles down the sidewalks on beautiful sunny days. My how the times have changed."

Can someone please explain to me what's so bad about "smiling happy people"?

The article, The bike as a fashion accessory, appears as an excerpt on page B4 of the Metro section of today's paper and in its entirety on "The Stump" section of OregonLive.com.

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Comments
  • chelsea July 29, 2009 at 9:33 am

    hmmm...he may be over-thinking this one. why not right about a real issue, there are plenty to go around?

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  • mark July 29, 2009 at 9:35 am

    that guys an idiot and the Snoregonian is irrelevant. they're just trying to get attention. ignore them and they'll go away.

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  • jj July 29, 2009 at 9:40 am

    Ummmm...well...er...I suppose we could have a nice cop/bike war if that would make Mr. Maushard happy again.

    I for one, am happy that the bike folks are walking them while on a sidewalk.

    As for bikes being a "fashion accessory," well, its better than buying a car that "matches your personality." And they might actually ride it a bit.

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  • Paul S July 29, 2009 at 9:46 am

    page B4 of the Metro section of today’s paper

    What, they still make those things out of paper?

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  • April July 29, 2009 at 9:49 am

    ....don't most people walking bikes do so for practical reasons? Reasons to walk my bike:

    flat tire
    walking with friend who is bike-less
    carrying something awkward, like coffee or milkshake (no cup holder on my bike)
    talking on cell phone
    ...

    It seriously sounds like this person needs to get a life.

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  • Bjorn July 29, 2009 at 9:51 am

    Says it is a guest opinion, I think the last time I read a guest opinion like this in the Oregonian it was when they got some UO journalism student to write them a free article. You have to ask yourself a couple of questions, 1. Didn't the Oregonian lay a lot of people off, 2. Is the Oregonian a lot thinner than it used to be. Seems like about the same number of words in the thing, just a lot less substance...

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  • Spencer Boomhower July 29, 2009 at 9:52 am

    He's maybe hoping to become Portland's own George Will? Next up: scathing invective against dungarees, with special vitriol reserved for cutoffs (as part of the summer fashion pullout).

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  • Esta Nevando Aqui July 29, 2009 at 9:55 am

    Maushard is a douchebag bike-hater just like all the other soon-to-be unemployed fake journalists at the Boregonian.

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  • Dave July 29, 2009 at 9:56 am

    I feel like I got to the end of that piece and there was no real point being made.

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  • Oliver July 29, 2009 at 9:59 am

    He does goes to great lengths to poke at any possible sore spots. A ham-fisted approach to editorializing akin to writing for a 4A high school newspaper; and a great comfort to those of us who have suffered the loss of a beloved pet to the jerk who insists on speeding through our neighborhood in his vehicle.

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  • Kt July 29, 2009 at 10:11 am

    This guy has no clue.

    A Road Rally is a timed competition event for cars, in which competitors must drive at prescribed speeds (set at or below the speed limit) and follow an unknown route that lead past checkpoints, the location of which is also unknown. Penalty points are accrued for arriving at the checkpoint before or after the calculated time of arrival. The goal is to stay on course and on perfect time; or, in the parlance of the rally community, "zeros".

    You couldn't even use Road Rally (aka Time Speed Distance or TSD rally) as a metaphor for Critical Mass, or vice versa. Unless one is running extremely early, getting pulled over by the cops while participating in a Road Rally only means more penalty points and, depending on the sanctioning body, other penalties as well. We don't like penalties.

    (As unofficial liaison between the bike world and the rally world, I spend a lot of time advising Rallymasters about what bike events are happening around the state so there aren't conflicts between our two worlds.)

    Besides all that, though.... Cars have always been fashion accessories. Exhibit A, cruising. Exhibit B, car shows, drifting exhibitions, cruise-ins, etc.

    Would the author rather those fashionable young chaps and ladies ride their bikes down the sidewalks of his fair town? Is his problem that they are walking their bikes on the sidewalks, which I understood was the law in certain portions of downtown Portland (and Main St Tigard)?

    Sounds like the author is one of those curmudgeonly old guys growling "get off my lawn".

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  • Vance Longwell July 29, 2009 at 10:11 am

    Oh c'mon lighten up. Unless dude can mind read, he's just speculating. Speculation shouldn't be so threatening.

    Similar criticism could be made of a motorist in a flashy car, so what?

    Besides, are you all really going to try and maintain that there are no posers in Portland? Portland is bike-poser free?

    Get the Church of Green off my mode. You wingnuts are giving cyclists a bad name.

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  • tonyt July 29, 2009 at 10:16 am

    In downtown proper it is illegal to ride your bike on the sidewalk, so in those instances people are walking their bikes because that's the law.

    I suppose if more people were riding their bikes on the sidewalk, there'd be an editorial in the O complaining about that too.

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  • rixtir July 29, 2009 at 10:17 am

    Or maybe if I'm walking my bike on the sidewalk, it's because I'm only going a block or two from my last stop, and it makes more sense to me to walk than to mount up, ride a block or two, then negotiate a left turn against oncoming traffic, then still have to walk back half a block.

    Other people I've seen walking their bikes:

    * One person with a bike, walking with another person without a bike. Been there, done that, when I've met up with the other person-- perhaps I should have insisted she run alongside me so i could stop walking my "fashion accessory."

    * Two people walking their bikes as they chat, on the sidewalk facing oncoming traffic. How dare these smug hipsters walk on that side of the street, and hold a conversation!

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  • Kt July 29, 2009 at 10:19 am

    Spencer!! I love it!! :)

    The O could just dredge something up out of their archives from the early part of the 20th century... :)

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  • rixtir July 29, 2009 at 10:24 am

    And really, Maushard should bother to learn what "effete" means before he uses it in a sentence ("ultra-hip bike culture effetes") again.

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  • Kt July 29, 2009 at 10:42 am

    This is a good phrase, though:

    "the relentless lack of intelligent life behind the steering wheels of multi-ton road rockets"

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  • Spencer Boomhower July 29, 2009 at 10:42 am

    tonyt:

    "In downtown proper it is illegal to ride your bike on the sidewalk, so in those instances people are walking their bikes because that's the law."

    Yup. And in other instances - in places where it's legal to ride your bike on the sidewalk - they might be walking their bikes because they're trying to be POLITE. Many of those "fashionistas" are really very nice, considerate people.

    I think in this case the O is simply following the strategy of a certain recent advertisement: stir up the hornet's nest of bikey (and anti-bike) anger to get attention. Best ignored if possible.

    Except! I actually enjoyed some of the comments in the article, like this one from garycycler: "As a 'bike commuter', Mr. Maushard must be aware that he can easily purchase a wider saddle that will reduce the probability of getting his panties in a bunch..." Bwahaha. Well done, suh.

    Oh, and thanks, Kt!

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  • KJ July 29, 2009 at 11:03 am

    I think he was attempting satire and it didn't work. Satire *is* hard to do well.

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  • YOUR-INN.COM July 29, 2009 at 11:08 am

    The only REAL problem with bikes being a fashion accessory is that it is track bikes everyone wants/ is riding. Most of the kids rolling around town on them DO NOT have good enough bike control to go through traffic. When you roll own the street with your feet off the pedals because you cant take pedaling anymore, then you probably need a freewheel. Because once your feet are off of those pedals you no longer can stop, and having a brake is so uncool.
    People need to get normal bikes and get used to riding before they are trying to tear around town on a brakeless fixie.
    -Brendan

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  • YOUR-INN.COM July 29, 2009 at 11:09 am

    The only REAL problem with bikes being a fashion accessory is that it is track bikes everyone wants/ is riding. Most of the kids rolling around town on them DO NOT have good enough bike control to go through traffic. When you roll own the street with your feet off the pedals because you cant take pedaling anymore, then you probably need a freewheel. Because once your feet are off of those pedals you no longer can stop, and having a brake is so uncool.
    People need to get normal bikes and get used to riding before they are trying to tear around town on a brakeless fixie.
    As far as bikes being fashionable, that is a very good thing and is much better than idiots rolling around in hummers and other gigantic trucks and SUV's.
    -Brendan

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  • KruckyBoy July 29, 2009 at 11:15 am

    When I see someone walking their bike I usually check to see if they have a flat.

    Can someone please explain to me what’s so bad about “smiling happy people”?

    I gotta agree with you Jonathan- what's with all the h8?!

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  • SkidMark July 29, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    This gave me a good laugh because sometimes it appears to be true. The real reason that someone is walking their bike on a sidewalk though, is because they are looking for a secure place to park it, and they are being courteous and not riding on the sidewalk. Or maybe they are running errands that are very close together and prefer to keep their bike locked within their sight.

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  • SkidMark July 29, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    And to Brendan: as a BMXer have have some audacity to comment about "brakeless" fixed gear riders. The trend in BMX is to ride brakeless with a freewheel, so that the only way to stop is by rubbing your foot on the tire or dragging your feet on the ground. How many 13 year old kids have the bike skill to stop a brakeless BMX all the time every time?

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  • nuovorecord July 29, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    Yawn...nothing to see here, folks.

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  • BURR July 29, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    the guy's an idiot and it's not surprising that the Oregonian published this drivel at the height of summer just to get people all stirred up again.

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  • RonC July 29, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    I think it's all a plot to sell those Urban Outfitter's single speeds.

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  • patrickz July 29, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    It looks as if most reactions to this person (including those of people replying in the O itself) are way too serious. The article reads a little bit as an imitation of our familiar Bikesnob.

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  • rixtir July 29, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    I think you may be right patrickz. His closing paragraph makes more sense when read from that perspective.

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  • Tony Fuentes July 29, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    Eh...I don't get the angst about this piece, maybe it's the heat.

    It reads like a less entertaining version of a Bike Snob NYC post...Heck, maybe it's the first post for CrankyGeezerBikeSnobPDX.blogspot.com

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  • Matt F July 29, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    As far as I can tell he's trying to poke fun at Portland's bike culture through sarcasm/being funny. Which is fine, everything should be made fun of...AS LONG AS ITS GENUINLY FUNNY. But unfortunately for him (and everyone else who read it), he failed. The thing is if you're making fun of someone or something and trying to be funny, make sure its actually really funny. Because if it ain't, then it just comes off as lame and dispirited (hello Willamette Week) or, worse, mean. Either writers in Portland haven't got a clue as to how they come off or they ain't got no sense of humor.

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  • Tony Fuentes July 29, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    @RonC,

    Speaking of the UrbanOutfitter bikes...

    http://bikesnobnyc.blogspot.com/2009/07/weird-style-cast-offs-and-bolt-ons.html

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  • BURR July 29, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    anyone else wondering if 'Maushard' is a pseudonym being used by someone who doesn't like BikePortland.org?

    :-O

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  • Paul July 29, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    Mmmm...Street of Dreams...Cycle the Dream...who is drinking the Kool-Aid now?

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  • naomi July 29, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    Wow, that article was so dumb my brain hurts.

    This guy was clearly looking to ridicule cyclists and make them look like shallow, trend chasing junkies. I would not have given him such a big platform but it's not my blog here at bikeportland.

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  • naomi July 29, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    http://www.maushard.com/LM_bio.html

    haha the guy thinks obama is an "illegitimate president"

    Enough said. He's a troll. I'd remove this story from the front page personally.

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  • Eileen July 29, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    First off, there are no newbies! Didn't we all learn to ride a bike by the age of 6 or 7? And wasn't it our main form of transportation from ages 7 to 14? There are a lot of returnees, but no newbies. Please. I am sort of anti-hipster in that I try to NOT appear that I am trying. I see the irony. I guess I reject trends and think coolness for the sake of coolness seems like an awful waste of energy. I think I can relate to the author because sometimes I just want to ride my bike and I hate that riding my bike now appears to be making a statement or that I will look like a wannabe tool. I just wanna be me! I have never been a die-hard anything, but have been riding my bike around this town when I felt like it or when I needed to since I first moved to Portland 13 years ago. Back then, it definitely did not make me cool - I just didn't have a car.

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  • Bruce July 29, 2009 at 4:40 pm
  • bicycletothesun July 29, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    Feels good to be a hipsta! Uhhhh! yeaaa boyyyyy.

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  • Donna July 29, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    By allowing this piece to run, the Oregonian has once again met all the expectations I have for their paper and the people who run it.

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  • Daniel Ronan July 30, 2009 at 12:43 am

    This is just a part of the downhill slide of the Oregonian! I wrote a piece on this at my blog if you care to read. Just click my name. But if you're a hipster, please stay away. :)

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  • peejay July 30, 2009 at 6:45 am

    naomi:

    Actually, it looks like he believes our last president was illegitimate. Look at the other pages from his site. His sin is not that he's a "birther"; it's that he doesn't update his stuff.

    That said, what a terrible piece of writing! Just about right for the O.

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  • Tasha July 30, 2009 at 7:25 am

    This just makes me laugh, it is so rediculous. There are people that have nothing better to do than nitpick what others are doing. I am the last thing from fashionable and I always walk my bike on the sidewalks downtown, mainly for the reasons others have listed. Until I get a bungee cord, I'm not letting those Voodoo donuts spill while getting those 4 blocks to work from their shop downtown. And it is silly to navigate through the one-way system downtown when I'm going 5 blocks away and need to have my bike locked nearby. Silly, silly man.

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  • YOUR-INN.COM July 30, 2009 at 10:50 am

    Skidmark: as far a comparing BMX to Fixed riders you have left some major factors that make riding a fixie way more dangerous. I run brakes on my 20" even though many riders have removed their brakes.
    1. Standover height. It is way easier to put your foot down and stop yourself when your frame ends below your knee instead of in your crotch.
    2. Age. Most kids getting into BMX are 14 year old freshmen in highschool. Most people picking up fix gears are 33 year old freshmen at PSU. There should be some common sense when comparing a grown ass adult to a child.
    3. Tire Size. A bmx tire is generally over 2 inches wide, which has way more rolling resistance that a skinny road tire. This means that the bike will be rolling much slower.
    4. Location. Most of these young kids riding on BMX bikes don't stray much further than their local skatepark and do not really ride as transportation. This can be attributed to the fact that riding distance on a bmx bike is terribly uncomfortable and makes about as much sense as doing tricks on a fix gear.
    So while many BMX riders do not have brakes currently, there are way less incidents of them creating accidents with others, and BMX riders generally have much better bike control than your average hipster rolling around on a brand new Bianchi.

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  • Lazlo July 30, 2009 at 11:45 am

    I found it mildly amusing. As someone else stated, he sounds like a poor man's bikesnobnyc.

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  • blurp July 30, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    So Portland. Take something you and for the most part everyone likes, then trivialize it and write and article about how over it you are by calling it names.

    You wanna see some fashion accessory bike come here to Tokyo and see the 14 year olds with your yearly wage on two wheels. But, thats not fair cause they actually ride them here till the aerospoke brakes.

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  • hunter August 2, 2009 at 6:46 am

    I like the part where he says" with a latte on one hand and a bike in the other".....I'm quite glad that a person drinking a coffee is walking, not riding one-handed. When I first moved here I did notice how many people were walking their bikes, and thought "why not ride them?????".....But if you are just going a block or so downtown with stuff in your hands it is easier to walk it a bit, not get out in the road just to pull in a block later...

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