Urbanista Photo by Lisa Bauso
I didn’t feel I had much new to add–except to point out one small omission.
On page 139, Birk reprints the Copenhagen Cycle Chic Manifesto, a treatise focusing on biking as a simple but stylish way of getting about town.
The manifesto, authored by well-known cycling ambassador, Mikael Colville-Andersen, unfolds as a series of ten guiding principles.
I am aware that my mere presence in said urban landscape will inspire others without me being labeled as a “bicycle activist.”
I will endeavor to ensure that the total value of my clothes always exceeds that of my bicycle.
So I scanned the list as reprinted in Joyride–and something about the final principle caught my eye.
I will refrain from wearing and owning any form of “cycle wear.” The only exception being a helmet.
Now, anybody who knows anything about Colville-Andersen knows he is a great despiser of helmet laws and helmet advocacy, his logic being that such initiatives deter people from riding and contribute to the notion that biking is a dangerous activity.
So I found it curious that his manifesto would include a mention of bike helmets–and an abrupt mention at that. Deploying ace journalism skills, I went back to the source, Andersen’s website, and discovered, indeed, that Birk had left out a key part of the sentence in question.
Here is the original, with the omitted portion in italics:
“I will refrain from wearing and owning any form of ‘cycle wear. The only exception being a bicycle helmet - if I choose to exercise my freedom of personal choice and wear one. (and make an effort to understand the science of helmets).”
The science URL links to studies questioning the utility of helmets in preventing serious injury.
Now, shortening a sentence in a Cycle Chic manifesto may not seem like such a big deal. Nevertheless, there is a war raging in the urban cycling community about the merits and deficiencies of helmet policies–i.e., do they inhibit construction of safe bike infrastructure– and this appeared to be one small skirmish in a larger battle.
I emailed Andersen, who lives in Copenhagen, and asked what he thought of Joyride’s edited rendition. He responded immediately.
I granted Mia – whom I know – permission to use the manifesto and referred to the source and the copyright of the cycle chic mark.
I was rather frustrated when I saw – in a copy an Oregon journalist had on a visit to Copenhagen – that the helmet part was incomplete. I emailed Mia right away.
According to Andersen, Birk told him her editor must have truncated the sentence—and that she would correct the problem in the reprint. Birk also said she deliberately left out a discussion of helmet laws in Joyride because she felt her arguments against such legislation would distract from the themes of the book.
I contacted Birk seeking comment, but have yet to receive a response.
Andersen said in his email: I am incredibly disappointed by the ‘mistake.’ I take the ‘excuse’ with a grain of salt and don’t approve of the way the manifesto is used.
The choice bit and ‘learning about the science’ bit being left out is unacceptable.
So that’s my small contribution to the Joyride literature: setting the copy editing record straight.
UPDATE: Since this post purports to set the record straight, I thought I should add this final comment from Colville-Andersen:
For the record: I criticize helmet effectiveness, helmet promotion and helmet legislation. Not helmets.