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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Hipsters Are Changing Our World

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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.



  1. This is a stupid article. Quit about a group of like minded people like they are some weird zoo animal. Also, just because someone dresses differently and rides a bike doesn’t mean they need to be labeled. There are a thousand different kinds of people biking in Charlottetown, why don’t you just call them good citizens and leave it at that.

  2. What Steve said. This is easily the most cringe-inducing article I have read in recent memory. It reads like it was written by my grandmother! “Hipster” is a meaningless word, there is no such thing as “the hipster movement,” and prattling on like this won’t do anything to advance sensible urban planning.

  3. Hipster is certainly not a meaningless word. They know who they are, and if they don’t, someone else knows who they are.

    All this hyperbole and verbal diarrhea isn’t helping to advance any of the numerous valid points in the article!

    Simple facts…Hipsters exist and hipsters have made and will continue to make a mark on bicycle culture.

  4. the hipster title bothers me, too. However, any article that focuses on cycling is fine by me. Relax, people!

  5. What I do find interesting about this article is what it implies about how young people (be they labelled ‘Hipsters’ or not) might contribute to transportation trends, the representation they receive (or lack) on a policy level, and the growing diversity of the cycling community.  How about a big YAY for cycling becoming more and more trendy!  

    The author is absolutely right to point out the growing number of new cyclists on the road and the need for more cycling infrastructure to help them out.  Though I’m not sure the assumption that ‘Hipsters’ (or young people) won’t come out to council meetings or otherwise get involved in advocacy rings true.  Certainly our policy makers can do a much better job of connecting with youth and making them feel welcome in decision making.  But — from critical mass to the anti-Bayer’s road widening movement — lots of great and innovative advocacy IS happening.  Let’s just hope it’s genuinely and openly received. 

  6. Good article—but I’d hesitate to say that the east coast is new to hipsters. Maybe PEI has only had a recent hipster influx? In Halifax, however, hipsters have reigned since before Williamsburg sold out. 

  7. This is great! I think in a city like Charlottetown with not a lot of cycling infrastructure and generally pretty conservative about it, this article not only adds whimsy and cheekiness to the conversation, but indicates that there is a cycling culture there which has value – whether you identify with it or not. Overall, happy to read this post written about Charlottetown.

  8. The first couple of comments read like Hipsters rejecting their own Hipsterness. Isn’t denying the Hipster moniker one of the defining qualities of being a Hipster? As in “I’m too quirky to be labelled?” This was a nicely written article about a legitimate trend and it’s puzzling to see those negative responses.

  9. Great article!!! Nevermind the naysayers. I wish I was as hip as the hipsters influencing the world in self-propulsion on one of the best inventions on Earth, the bicycle. But alas, woe is me. The tree trunkedness of my legs and the certainty of a muffin top in skinny jeans only allows for ray-bans and 80’s T atop a free-wheeling single gear, and mountain bike with far too many gears…..Melancholy is incompatible with bicycling….

  10. I defy anyone to define “hipster” in a way that isn’t either (a) so vague it applies to almost every urbanite under the age of forty or (b) so caricatured it doesn’t apply to any living person on earth. It’s a useless, imprecise term that never adds anything to the conversation — especially not when the topic under discussion is transportation planning, of all things!

  11. It’s too true – lots of cyclists who should really care how bike-able their city is, wouldn’t even consider going to a city council meeting or the like. I know exactly the kinds of people Christina’s talking about here – in North End Halifax there’s a critical mass of them – and if they put aside their political cynicism long enough to give their input into city-planning exercises, we could have our dream cycling city much faster.

    Good article, well said!

  12. i love seeing hipsters trying to drive fixed gear bicycles in halifax, which is one of the most hilly cities in canada! have fun walking your bike up the hill!