New York City’s soon-to-be-launched bike-sharing program has met with Big Apple-size skepticism. It’s too dangerous for a city with so little cycling infrastructure, detractors cry. The bike stations are too ugly (and a blight on historic neighborhoods), and the bikes themselves are crass advertisements for their corporate underwriter, Citibank. Regardless of whether those criticisms are fair, the program does reveal the fact that bike culture–the lifestyle most often associated with the Netherlands and, on this side of the pond, Portland, Oregon–is riding into the mainstream.
New York may not become Amsterdam anytime soon. But even here, interest has fueled daring experiments in bike construction and fashion. Supported by technological advances, designers are sculpting novel materials (wood, bamboo, carbon fiber, and even cardboard) into breathtakingly novel forms. Never before has there been such a range of rides–from porteurs and cargos to folding and e-bikes–and as many lightweight frames and components. The best are catalogued in Velo: Second Gear, a new book from Gestalten, a collection of profiles of the makers who are on the bleeding edge of bike engineering.
Most of the examples in the slide show are custom-made, handcrafted, limited-edition pieces for the select few who can afford them. But they are also indicators of an exciting moment in the evolution of the bicycle as an object, as well as the foundation for a growing movement that may even come to thrive in hard-hearted New York.