Like other accouterments of our lives—housing, clothing, pets—how we get from Point A to Point B communicates to those around us—and not everyone draws the same conclusions! The following observations are some of the most common (or loudest) I’ve come across; different countries and time periods have had varied observations about modes of transportation. Like most stereotypes and public perceptions, the following are of varying degrees of truth.

As general background: when users have to decide which mode of transport to use (private car, public transport, cycling, walking, etc.) gender is often a more robust determinant than age or income!

Shank’s Mare (A.K.A. walking): the Oldest Mode 

If only we could see what was on the other side!
  • Seldom chosen as the primary or only way to get around
  • People on long pilgrimages (Hajj to Mecca, walking cross country to raise awareness for a cause, Gandhi’s march to the Sea)
  • Depending on other info, may indicate poverty or health awareness

Bicycle: Impressions Depend on Model, Condition, Etc.

Many cities in China have more bicycles than cars.

Bicycles, mopeds, scooters, and motorcycles are almost always two-wheeled vehicles driven and steered by one rider. The distinctions are, like almost everything else, varied around the world and prone to blurring. A bicycle is powered entirely by the rider pedaling; a moped has a small motor attached to assist with pedaling in especially difficult environments. Bicycles are relatively easily modified for people with physical limitations, compared to cars and motorcycles.

  • People are in the best mood when riding bicycles
  • Can be inexpensive or very expensive, depending on type of bicycle and riding gear
  • Environmentally friendly 
  • Difficult to park securely in many places
  • Primarily for physical fitness
    • In fact, the vast majority of regular bicyclists in the US ride for transportation as they cannot afford a car and do not have access to public transit
  • Limited passenger capacity
    • Not as limited as most in the U.S. assume.
    • In Copenhagen, “’Cargo-bike moms’ are gentrifying the Netherlands.”

Scooter Impressions

Scooters are powered entirely by an engine, with a foot well for the seated rider’s legs. Unlike a car, all engine controls are in the handles.

Ambulance scooter with a sidecar for patients
  • Easy to drive
  • Cheaper and slower than a motorcycle
  • No safer than motorcycles 
  • Popular on very rural country rides for teenagers
  • More popular abroad than in the U.S.
  • Easier to maneuver and store in crowded areas
  • Driving permit requirements are often different from those of a car or motorcycle
    • Many areas don’t require permits at all
    • Iran and Saudi Arabia (among others) are questioning whether scooters fall under the same laws forbidding women to drive

Motorcycle Rider Stereotypes

Motorcycles and scooters are very similar, but a motorcyclist sits astride the seat. The engine of a motorcycle is generally more powerful than that of a scooter.

Bessie Stringfield rode her motorcycle from one end of America to the other, and as a dispatch rider in World War II.
  • Violent
  • Gang members
  • Harley riders are elitist and only care about brand; Other riders are effeminate
  • Reckless behavior
    • Stunt hooligans on the road
    • Prone to road-rage
    • Have a death wish
      • Emergency Response personnel sometimes refer to motorcycle riders as “Organ Donors,” but that is more because of the lack of safety gear than specific behavior patterns
  • Car haters
  • Uneducated rednecks
  • All young riders prefer sports bikes
“Dykes on Bikes” motorcycle club at a Pride rally
  • Physically tough appearance
    • Men have long, unkempt beards
    • Tattoos are common
    • Women dress provocatively
    • Lots of black leather, chains, spikes, gang markings, etc.
    • Gear is chosen to look tough rather than for practicality
  • Many of these perceptions are based on Hell’s Angels and other “outlaw motorcycle clubs”

Multi-Passenger Public Transportation

Public transport is much safer than automobiles (the above photo is an exception).  For example, bus and rail travelers are 20 times less likely to die en route than drivers. Even if self-driving and safety technology could reduce car by 90%, fatalities per passenger mile would still be twice as high in private automobiles.

Dogs ride free, right?
  • World-wide, the largest share of public transportation users are women
  • Bus and train riders experience the most negative emotions
    • Bus: poor people who cannot afford a vehicle/gas;
      • homeless/mentally ill people seeking temporary shelter from the elements.
    • Subway: city-dweller
    • Train: long-distance commuters;
      • More common in Europe and Asia, where train systems are much more comprehensive
    • Plane: long-distance (business or pleasure) travelers of means

Individual Cars

Private automobiles are especially dangerous if they don’t obey the laws of gravity.
So happy! He knows he’s going to the park.
  • The second happiest people are car passengers, followed by car drivers
  • Carpoolers: cut down air pollution
    • Lessen expenses of gas/parking
  • Private chauffeur
    • Renting a limousine or similar
  • Driver alone: not sociality responsible
    • Selfish or ego-centric
  • Taxi/Lyft/Uber: short distance trips for those valuing convenience
    • People who cannot drive for whatever reason (inebriation, tourist, moving larger than normal cargo, etc.)
    • Consider the possible conflicts between traditional taxi services and Lyft or Uber style companies, or even the conflict between drivers and management within those companies
  • Car drivers are so common that to dig into assumptions, it’s necessary to get into make and model


Other methods of transportation are more common outside the US. Extreme climates, different resources, and distance have made what we might see as extraordinary into the everyday.

Ferries are common in highly populated areas on the water.
  • Dog sled, snow mobile, cross-country skiing
  • Bush plane
  • Tuktuk, marsrhutka, or any other kind of informal minibus system run by individual drivers
  • Horseback or horse-drawn vehicle (or donkey, mule, camel, etc.)
  • Canoe or kayak
  • Hitch-hiking
  • Rickshaw

BOTTOM LINE for writers: consider your choice and the reason for it!

UCI Road World Championships: Long-term Effects of Bicycles in Women’s Lives.

UCI Road World Championships are over and congratulations are due to all cyclists, especially Chloe Dygert and Emma White, two US cyclists who came in first and second in the women’s junior road race. Dygert and White were also 1 & 2 in the women’s junior time trial. It made me reflect again on the long-term effects of bicycles in women’s lives.

On September 17, I posted this picture on my Facebook page and mentioned that some suffragists called bicycles Freedom Machines because of all they opened up in the lives of 19th century women. I’ve been thinking about bicycles a lot this past week, and it seems this is a topic worth revisiting after the close of race week.
cloth doll on child's bike
Male domination of cycling ended as a result of the introduction of the safety bicycle in the 1880s. The safety bicycle had smaller wheels, a lower seat, a diamond frame and (soon) pneumatic tires. In 1896, Margaret Valentine Le Long garnered fame (if not fortune) by riding a safety bicycle from Chicago to San Francisco.

A 1889 Lady’s safety bicycle.
A 1889 Lady’s safety bicycle. This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1923.

Not all women cycled for feminist reasons. Indeed, at the end of the 19th century, some cycled in order to expand Victorian moral and aesthetic tastes and sentiments into the public arena. These women cycled to feminize, domesticate, and civilize public spaces they considered masculine, loud, and rowdy.

Annie “Londonderry” Cohen Kopchovsk was the first woman to bicycle around the world. “Annielondonderry” by Unknown – http://www.annielondonderry.com. Licensed under PD-US via Wikipedia.


But regardless of why women took up cycling, the bicycle took them out of the home and into an expanded world. In addition, practical dress for women cyclists (in addition to eliminating corsets) resulted in divided skirts, bloomers, and knickerbockers. It was practical, facilitating more comfortable riding. But at the same time, it was symbolic in breaking from the dominant norms of appropriate female dress and behavior. In 1896, Susan B. Anthony told the New York World’s Nellie Bly that bicycling had “done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.”

Bicycle suit punch 1895
Bicycle suit, 1895. By http://www.victorianweb.org/periodicals/punch/15.html [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Frances Willard, suffragist and founder of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, was one of the most famous women of her day with a mass following of independent-minded, often politically active women. At the age of 53 Willard determined to learn to ride a bicycle because she “wanted to help women to a wider world…from natural love of adventure—a love long hampered and impeded…[and] from a love of acquiring this new implement of power and literally putting it underfoot.” Her book, A Wheel Within a Wheel: How I Learned to Ride the Bicycle, was published in 1895. Bicycling magazine called it “the greatest book ever written on learning to ride.”

Frances Willard
Frances Willard by English: photo taken before 1898, author not known, Image edited Deutsch: Urheber unbekannt; Das Bild wurde vor 1898 aufgenommen; Bild wurde später (am oder vor dem 30.12.2009) nachbearbeitet. (http://memory.loc.gov) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In his novel trilogy The Forsyte Saga, John Galsworthy had this to say about cycling: “Under its influence, wholly or in part, have wilted chaperones, long and narrow skirts, tight corsets, hair that would have come down, black stockings, thick ankles, large hats, prudery and fear of the dark; under its influence, wholly or in part, have bloomed week-end, strong nerves, strong legs, strong language, knickers, knowledge of make and shape, knowledge of woods and pastures, equality of sex, good digestion and professional occupation—in four words, the emancipation of woman.” (Quoted in Dave Horton’s “Social Movements and the Bicycle.”)
 bicycle painted in rainbow colors as art
Some authorities warned against excessive cycling by women, girls, and middled-aged men. Also of concern in the 1890s was the possibility that bike riding might be sexually stimulating for women—which resulted in remodeled “hygienic” seats, high stems, and upright  handlebars that reduced the angle at which women would ride.  Even so, through cycling, doctors discovered that exercise is healthful—even for women! The bicycle caused the death of the corset and “straight laced” women, leaving only “loose” women. (FYI: during the Civil War, “loose women” were also known as “soiled doves.”)
Ashland bike art, bike with birds
Willard named her bicycle Gladys, for the “gladdening effect” it had on her health and political optimism.The overall message of her book presented mastery of the bicycle as a metaphor for women’s mastery over their own lives.
bicycle art: yellow bike with sun
bike with flowers
So, that’s all ancient history, right? None of this really speaks to women today, right? Unless you are Rosemary Shomaker—or one of the platoons of other women whose experiences still resonate with those of our foremothers. Rosemary posted on my Facebook page: “In the 1970s the bicycle was definitely a ‘freedom machine’ for one girl escaping a less-than-fabulous home life—me! I rode my bike everywhere. To softball and field hockey practices ad gaes. To my part-time job. To friends and boyfriends; houses. To Wolf Trap Farm Park. Along the W&OD bike path. To parks. To tennis courts. Early bike riding shaped my still uber-independent spirit. Go Richmond 2-15 UCI Road World Championships! Best wishes from a bike lover.”
mannequin on bike
I was never a bike-for-pleasure person. But bike as transportation was a big deal. It allowed me to ride from my house a few miles along a county road to visit with my cousins. My sister and I shared that bike. When I got my first car at 16, my dear sister got sole possession of that dear bike.

Go, girls! Go!
girls' bikes

UCI Road World Championships: The Beauty of Bicycles

Frankly, I never thought much about bicycles as art. When I first saw this sculpture in the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, I thought, “What an odd thing to have here!” That was shortly before Race Week edged into my conscience.

bike sculpture in Ginter Park Botanical Gardens
Sculpture in the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

But once I started noticing, bicycle art is—if not rampant—at least frequent. I found this one while vacationing with my family.

bike sculpture in Sculpture in Narragansett, RI
Sculpture in Narragansett, RI

And here are several you can see if you do tour Ashland—as I certainly urged you to do in my most recent blog!

two bicycles suspended from awning in Ashland, Virginia
Art in Ashland, VA

Last but not least, consider visiting the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Beginning September 6, they will have a teaching program for children titled ArtCycle. It is interactive, allowing a virtual tour of museum holdings related to bicycle art as well as the opportunity to make art using bicycle parts. This program will be available for a time after race week. Check the VMFA calendar.

UCI Road World Championships

From the UCI Road World Championships Richmond 2015 website:

The Road World Championships (Worlds) is cycling’s pinnacle event, held annually in an international city as chosen by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) through a competitive bidding process similar to the Olympic Games.

Worlds is a nine-day event, featuring 12 Championship races for Elite Men and Women, Under 23 Men and Junior Men and Women. It is a rare opportunity for the athletes to compete for their country, just as they do during the Olympic Games.

UCI Road World Championship: Bicycles are welcome in the Center of the Universe

Ashland, Virginia—self-designated decades ago as the Center of the Universe—is a small town about 15 miles north of Richmond, home of Randolph-Macon College. Ashland is a railroad town predating the Civil War, originally built by executives of the RF&P Railroad.

sign reading, "Ashland, Virginia, Center of the Universe"

However, that doesn’t stop the town being very bicycle friendly. Every nice weekend day cyclists swarm at Ashland Coffee and Tea, taking breaks during their enjoyment of rural Hanover County roads.

In the spirit of race week, Ashland’s Main Street Association invited merchants and residents to welcome cyclists and fans by decorating bicycles.

I want to share with you a sampling of what you can see if you walk around the bicycle gardens in the center of the Center of the Universe!
Ashland-ALLY-bike-garden Ashland-bicycle-planter Ashland-bike-art Ashland-bike-bird-box Ashland-bike-birdhouse Ashland-bike-blue Ashland-bike-flags Ashland-bike-green-and-yellow Ashland-bike-light-blue Ashland-bike-red-petunia Ashland-bike-sculpture-monster-2 Ashland-bike-sculpture-monster Ashland-bike-treasurers-office Ashland bike wall art, "Park in rear" Ashland bike wall art

Ashland offers tourist information at the Train Station Visitor’s Center. You can get a bike garden scavenger hunt map there, as well as a self-guided walking tour of historic places.


And in downtown Ashland, you can get good food that does not come from a chain restaurant! (Of course, if chains are your thing, there are bunches around the I-95 exit, and along Rt. 1 and Rt. 54, very convenient.) There are antique stores and fun shops. Bottom line: something for everyone. Y’all come!

Ashland bike sculpture man on bike

UCI Road World Championships

From the UCI Road World Championships Richmond 2015 website:

The Road World Championships (Worlds) is cycling’s pinnacle event, held annually in an international city as chosen by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) through a competitive bidding process similar to the Olympic Games.

Worlds is a nine-day event, featuring 12 Championship races for Elite Men and Women, Under 23 Men and Junior Men and Women. It is a rare opportunity for the athletes to compete for their country, just as they do during the Olympic Games.


Bicycle History to Celebrate UCI Road World Championships

In the beginning. . .

When my interest is piqued, of course I turn to research. A friend told me that the gift shop at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens has two books on the history of bicycle racing in Richmond. True confession: I did not buy them—but you might want to. In the meantime, I did go on-line. As usual, Wikipedia has a lengthy article on the history of the bicycle. You might also be interested in visiting the Smithsonian Institute website, for their series America on the Move. These include pictures. Also, A Pictorial History of the Evolution of the Bicycle has great pictures

I’ll share with you some of what I learned. First of all, the immediate ancestor of the bicycle was the Draisine, also called a Velocipede, Hobby Horse or Swift-Walker. It was designed by Baron von Drais in 1817 and looked like a bicycle, but had no pedals. So one moved by walking along, feet on the ground, while seated. It was made of wood, with iron bound wheels, and weighed nearly 50 pounds. Even so, speeds of eight miles per hour were feasible.

By Wilhelm Siegrist (1797-1843?) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Although a two-wheeled bicycle with pedals may have been created as early as 1839, Pierre Lallement filed the earliest and only patent for a pedal-driven bicycle, in the US in 1866.

sketch for original pedal bicycle
Original pedal-bicycle. This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1923.

Soon after, in 1869, a pedal-bicycle was invented for ladies.

Velocipede for Ladies
Velocipede for Ladies by Pickering and Davis, New York. Engraving from Google’s scan of The velocipede: its history, varieties, and practice, author J. T. Goddard, page 85 in chapter Velocipedes for Ladies. This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1923.
A subsequent major development, the Ordinary or high-wheeler was first made abroad in 1869, and in the U.S in 1877. Depending on the length of the rider’s inner leg, the front wheel could have a diameter up to 5 feet! It was light-weight, fast, and dangerous. Because the rider’s weight was so high and so far forward, a bad patch in the road could cause the rider to “take a header” over the handlebars. The rider couldn’t fall free of the machine because his legs would be trapped under the handlebars. Broken wrists were common. And of course, death was possible. Women’s clothing as well as the social norms of the day made this “ordinary” bicycle unsuitable for women. Cycling became associated with reckless young men. Cycling clubs and races blossomed.


The next major development came in 1885, when John Kemp Starley created—but never patented—the first successful “safety bicycle.” His improvements included a steerable front wheel, wheels of equal size, and a chain drive to the rear wheel. Bicycles became very popular for both work (commuting, deliveries, etc.) and pleasure uses. In 1895, Chicago put its mailmen on bicycles. The safety bicycle was the first bicycle suitable for women.

Whippet Safety Bicycle
Science museum [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

A 1889 Lady's safety bicycle
A 1889 Lady’s safety bicycle. This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1923.

As far as I’m concerned, developments since then are all just tweaking! As the automobile became the preferred mode of individual transportation in the US, bicycles have been taken over for pleasure and exercise. As of the 1970s, cycling was the nation’s leading outdoor recreation. Still, bicycle messengers flourish in major US cities. In other parts of the world, the bicycle is still the “workhorse” of preference. In the People’s Republic of China, the Flying Pigeon was the government approved form of transportation, considered essential for every household, along with a sewing machine and a watch. In the 1970s, the post-Mao leader Deng Xiaoping defined prosperity as “a Flying Pigeon in every household”—which reminds me that in the presidential campaign of 1928, a circular published by the Republican Party claimed that if Herbert Hoover won there would be a chicken in every pot. A lucky duck. True confession: my mind works in mysterious ways.

Flying Pigeons, chickens in pots, and lucky ducks

And that seems as good a place as any to end this!

UCI Road World Championships

From the UCI Road World Championships Richmond 2015 website:

The Road World Championships (Worlds) is cycling’s pinnacle event, held annually in an international city as chosen by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) through a competitive bidding process similar to the Olympic Games.

Worlds is a nine-day event, featuring 12 Championship races for Elite Men and Women, Under 23 Men and Junior Men and Women. It is a rare opportunity for the athletes to compete for their country, just as they do during the Olympic Games.

UCI Road World Championships

The cyclists are coming! The cyclists are coming!

Not that I am a cycling enthusiast, but any event this big piques my interest. Some weeks ago, when I first became aware of the upcoming races, I started noticing bicycles—and they are everywhere! Did you ever count how many clutches of bicycles are fastened to motor vehicles?

bike rack on car

bike rack on car

Although the Virginia DOT says that all vehicular laws apply to bicycles, clearly this isn’t the case with parking.

bike chained to sign reading, "reserved parking handicapped only"

bike chained to sign

bike chained to sign


bikes parked in store

Also, DUI statutes don’t apply to bicycles in Virginia. Although one can be charged with DUI/DWI for drunk bicycling in 22 states, Virginia isn’t among them. Still, in my opinion, one would be stupid to do it. The person most likely to be injured is the cyclist, but think of the trauma to family, and to the motorist who might have killed someone. It’s like riding without a helmet: just because you can doesn’t mean you should!

But I digress. I was talking about bicycles being everywhere, and used for all sorts of purposes. When I was a Nimrod this summer, I intentionally saved this picture for now.

bike used as planter at Nimrod Hall

And perhaps the sweetest picture of all—

bike painted pink for Ashland bike art

Check out the UCI Road World Championship website to learn more. 

Former UCI Road World Champions

Greg LeMond 1989 Tour de Trump
Greg LeMond, American cyclist (retired) and two-time World Champion
By https://www.flickr.com/people/small_realm/ [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

La Course by Le Tour de France 2015 (19936269888)
Pauline Ferrand-Prévot, 2014 Road Race World Champion, at 2015 La Course by Le Tour de France.

By youkeys (La Course by Le Tour de France 2015) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons