CHARLOTTETOWN – Like them or not, Hipsters are changing North America. The Maritimes has seen glimpses of this fad but nothing like what is happening around United States and the rest of Canada. On a recent cross-continent excursion, I saw the changes that Hipsters are creating for our transportation system firsthand—and it’s all because their top accessory is the bicycle. Whether it was in Portland, Oregon or Williamsburg, New York, I could plainly see that Hipsters have taken over the streets—literally. Charlottetown, you are next.
The Hipster movement is defined by unique clothing choices: a mix of eighties-inspired wear with a bit of throwback to the seventies and of course Ray Ban glasses. Increasingly, the creature known as The Hipster is also defined by the bicycle.
I won’t stretch my thesis to say that the bicycle movement was not on the upswing until the Hipster movement entered into the picture, but they have certainly accelerated the growing popularity of pedal-power in cities and towns across North America. Everywhere you look, you can see a Ray-Ban-wearing Hipster on the oldest, most righteous-looking bicycles with their skirts flying behind them or their tight jeans giving just enough freedom to pedal. The movement has made many go to their garages or old barns to dust off their Schwinns, either to sell at ridiculously high prices, or to themselves indulge in the movement.
Without a doubt, the bicycle has become an extension of the Hipster identity—a way of outwardly showing their style by sporting a wicker basket full of flowers, or a bouquet of balloons, or whatever else suits their fancy. This style of bicycling is in strong contrast with the courier look (you know, the spandex-wearing street warrior thing), and I think that is a positive change; it is more whimsical, and it allows people to re-live the experience of riding their bicycles with the wind sweeping across their faces.
While trends tend to take a bit longer to hit the shores of the east coast, there are signs that the hipster movement is taking root here as well. More microbreweries are starting up and let’s be honest we all have a pair of skinny jeans and are looking for a great vintage tee and awesome eighties sunglasses.
But it’s not all about style and blowing one’s wig (a.k.a., ‘getting excited’ in Hipster speak). The Hipsters-on-Bicycles movement is pressuring town and city planners to accommodate growing numbers of bicyclists on the roads. As they are typically new, inexperienced cyclists, many Hipsters prefer to have bike lanes and proper signage to tell them how to properly interact with traffic. And as the rideshare numbers of bicyclists increase, the streets need to accommodate them and give sufficient space to ensure safety for all road users.
Sounds like Hipsters are commanding their fair share of power on our municipal road networks, right? Not quite. Many Hipsters won’t attend planning meetings or organize themselves to advocate for bike lanes or bicycle parking, and this is something that has to change. In the meantime, however, perhaps that smiling, whimsical, windswept Hipster with a bowtie on his t-shirt will inspire a few more people to ride for transportation, to bike for fun, or to advocate for safer bicycle space on our communal road networks.
The bicycle movement is taking hold in communities and cities across the Atlantic region with bikelanes, bike parking and activist groups popping up in Charlottetown, Halifax, Moncton and Sydney. As I drive along the roads in the Maritimes I see more and more signs urging me to share the road or give more clearance to the bicycle and I couldn’t be happier. So will the wave of the hipster infiltrating our quiet communities change our Maritime roads? That is yet to be seen but I have a feeling that their presence on our roads will make us take notice and not just because of the impossible tight jeans. And that’s blip (a.k.a. ‘good’).
Charlottetown resident Christina MacLeod has been active with Heart and Stroke Foundation of NS and Nova Scotia Bikeways Coalition to create active transportation communities across the Maritimes.
Photos by Christina MacLeod and from ersatzspeiche.