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Is Cycling Finally Going Mainstream?

When monitoring trends, sociologists and marketeers like to talk about "early adopters".  They mean the people who first have the courage and the nuance to start a trend, or be the first to be seen to be doing something new or otherwise unusual. 

At the dawn of the motoring age the aristocracy were early adopters of private motor vehicle ownership; paving the way for motorisation for the masses to come later.  In technology, those of you who brought an Apple iPod more than 9 years ago were early adopters of a new way of listening to music, before we all started doing it.


I have no evidence to back me up, and I'm highly aware that the experiences I am about to discuss are limited only to one small corner of Hackney, near to where I live - but around Broadway Market I believe there is a clear pattern of people using bikes passing the "early adopter" stage and moving in to the mainstream.  6 or 7 years ago there were still lots of cyclists around Broadway Market, but they seemed to me to be primarily male, more focused on "gear", or indeed fixed wheel riders.  The fixed wheel "craze" really took off amongst the young art and design creative community in the East End and had a large scene to back it up and help to nurture it (such as specialist shops, bike polo groups etc), and long may it continue.  But as Mikael Colville Anderson of Copenhagenize fame describes in his presentation "Behavioural changes for urban cycling", the fixed wheel craze is sub-cultural (that is to say only appeals to a limited group of people) whereas when something is mainstream ("cultural"?) it appeals to all sorts of different everyday and ordinary people, and indeed is accessible to all.

Now, don't get me wrong, I rather like fixed wheel bikes, and I have no more beef with people who want to tear up the city in a single speed alley cat than I do with someone who wants to pootle to work on a Dutch upright bike.


But I am certain that we've passed the narrow-cast "craze" stage of cycling around Broadway Market and moved on to the "everyday and ordinary".  That is to say, the "sub-cultural" riders would cycle regardless of whether it was a mainstream activity or not, but perhaps the prevalence of "sub-cultural" riders in recent years has helped to encourage others to become early adopters and help to mainstream cycling.  I've talked before about Hackney and how the organic grid of cycle routes and different types of infrastructure have helped to create conditions which are inviting for cycling, but I wonder what the key factor is in helping to make cycling here seem so much more mainstream than elsewhere in London.  Note in my pictures the age range and diversity of the cyclists portrayed.  Note the lack of helmets, high visability gear and cycle-specific clothing.  I have my own ideas as to what I think are driving the move from early adopters to mainstream cyclists in my neighbourhood (regular readers won't be surprised to hear I think that design and planning have a lot to do with it) but what do you think?  Is cycling still a narrow-cast reserve of the few where you are, or, like Broadway Market, is it becoming everyday and ordinary?  If you currently cycle only in cycle-specific gear, helmets and high-vis what would convince you to change to a more leisurely European style of riding? 

As always, I'm keen to hear your thoughts!