Is this the end of the "man bike"...? And why are bicycles gendered anyhow?
Since the beginning of time for the bicycle (1817!) bikes have had genders, and dudes have rolled around on frames made specifically for their manly selves. Officials in the Netherlands say the age-old male bike design is straight up dangerous, and want man bikes off the road.
The problem: standard men’s frames have a horizontal crossbar. That’s the “top tube” in this handy diagram:
It's really high, straight-across, and a real pain when you need to catch yourself as you fall. The Dutch government claims loads of accidents happen when men hop on and off the pesky things. Best case scenario = you get a bar in the crotch. And that's AT BEST.
The Netherlands' Center for Cycling Policy (Fietsberaad) is not having it. They're recommending that everybody uses safer (and cooler) ladybikes.
The difference between the two genders of bikes has nothing to do with anatomy or expression. It's actually all about fashion. Women's bicycles were first made with bars that slanted down so ladies didn’t have to lift their legs so high to saddle up. Of course this wasn’t to cater to the less-flexible among us – the lower bars were meant to keep our legs under those long-ass skirts we wore back then. Climbing onto bikes and showing ankle, shin, or more was a HUGE no-no. Hence the curvy swoop:
Get it girl.
In those days the tilted bars made bikes weaker than the horizontal bars did, but it wasn’t considered ladylike for women to ride bikes as roughly as men did anyhow. That changed of course, along with the end (pretty much) of boneshaker wooden bikes and the use of stronger metallic frame materials. But the gendered bike frame tradition is a stubborn one, lasting long after we shed the skirts.
No skirt, no problem.
Modern women’s bikes are just as sturdy as men’s, and according to the Netherlands, the slanty bars really are the way to go. They say the male design "only creates problems and is not functional." As the first country to recommend ditching the design, it'll be neat to see whether the Netherlands sets the stage for other governments to send man bikes to the curb.
Thanks to De Telegrafaf Binnenland.
Photos via Treehugger.com, Vintage.es and Boomerinas.com.
The opinions expressed on the BUST blog are those of the authors themselves and do not necessarily reflect the position of BUST Magazine or its staff.