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Urban Cycling: a movement, a market, or both?


I’ve been known to squeeze myself into spray-on lycra garb and cycle many kilometres in the name of fitness and well-being. I’ve even done it to cycle through wine districts, tasting wines without having to worry about driving afterwards…but cycle to work in lycra? I don’t think so!

If you’ve been on Swanston Street or St Kilda Road (Melbourne) at peak hour you have seen the hundreds, probably thousands of urban cyclists who line these routes. Their attire ranges from the aforementioned spray-on lycra to stylish suits, high heels and everything in between.

So, is this movement towards urban cycling a fad or does it indicate a new market for products and services?

A movement that’s accelerating

Better Infrastructure has certainly helped create a movement: the City of Sydney has (finally) invested in a Cycleways Network and delights in publishing statistics which show cycling up XXX% each day; the Coalition’s first budget in Victoria has promised “sunny skies” for bike infrastructure next year; BikePark facilities in Melbourne support the urban cyclist while their BikeShare in Melbourne and Brisbane capture both the tourist and local market.

At the same time, cultural programs have tapped into the this movement. State of Design Victoria has structured their 2011 program around ‘design that moves’; ArtCycle Sydney offers monthly guided tours of art galleries, BikeFest Melbourne was launched in 2010 and the International Bike Film Festival just keeps growing!

So what are the markets that support this movement?


Handmade bikes, once the bastion of overly zealous cyclists, are becoming more accessible. In July, the new publication for urban cyclists, Treadlie, will be hosting ‘Made to Measure – the Treadlie Handmade Bicycle Show in conjunction with State of Design Festival.

At the same time, online customised bike services, such as Mojo Bike, allow you to custom build your (fixie or single-speed) bike online. You choose the parts you would like, pay online and within the week you’re cycling your very own creation.


Both Levi’s (urban cycling) and Icebreaker (mountain biker) recently released cycling ranges.

Local designers Apres Velo began offering casual clothing for cyclists in 2006; while Otto and Spike have taken machine knitting to a new level, offering bespoke knitted items for the urban cyclist.

CycleStyle an online retail outlet for the urban cyclist established about 18 months ago, stocks fantastic bike clothing and accessories and has led the shift to stylish bike helmets.


ArtCycle Sydney, in association with BicycleNSW, offers cycling tours which explore art galleries through Sydney. ARTBIKES in Hobart is an innovative partnership between Hobart City Council, Arts Tasmania and the cultural sector.

It offers art lovers free bikes to borrow and cruise the city galleries. Six Bike Hubs have been designed by a local artist and are located in front of public galleries to act as signposts and give you somewhere to park the bike, while you enjoy the cultural attractions.

Promoting movement and market

The number of bloggers commenting on urban cycling seems to grow daily!

Sydney CycleChic, the Australian arm of the international CycleChic movement, offers daily insights into the rise of urban cycling. Established by Saskia Howard, it also publishes lovely photographs of local cyclists.

Joyce, the founder of CycleStyle, also runs a blog where she offers delightful updates on what’s happening in the urban cycling world, while BehoovingMoving connects cycling with Architecture and comments on both in ways which were never part of the architecture curriculum!

If that isn’t enough, respected journalist and TV presenter Sarah Wilson regularly reports on her cycling adventures on her single speed (this is one hard-core, amazing woman!) in Sydney. If responses to her blog postings are anything to go by, she has tapped into a deep-felt interest in making life better — with cycling being a way of doing it!

So where does this leave us?

There seems to be little doubt that urban cycling is a growing movement. For designers, manufacturers and service providers, the opportunities to connect with this movement are endless. Where and how that translates into a growing market is a question at the heart of my own investigations.

Just as the ‘Slip Slop Slap’ campaign tapped into a growing concern for skin cancer (can you believe some of us grew up never wearing sunscreen?) and created a mass market for sun protection products — is there the potential for the urban cycling movement to transcend the lycra-loving (and a little bit male-oriented) “serious” bike market to create genuine markets for Australian designers and service providers?

Thoughts and experiences most welcome!

Angelina Russo is an Associate Professor in the School of Media and Communication at RMIT University. When she isn’t cycling, she’s either sourcing a new folding bike after her beautiful Dahon was stolen (grrrr) or developing a program of cultural cycling tours and bespoke handmade cyclewear for the urban cyclist. You can find more at www.culturecycle.org
Image by newlow [Robin Davies]