Velo-City preview

Exhibit on Vancouver bike culture explores our passion for pedaling.

Credit: Flickr / thelastminute

Velo-City exhibit showcases Vancouver bike culture’s local flavour

June is bike month, and I love cycling. A personal highlight was cycling the thousand-year-old Camino de Santiago in Spain, but I also like cruising the seawall, the Gulf Islands or the Portside trail in my neighbourhood.

But just as interesting as riding are the communities and people behind bike culture. Along with guerrilla expressions of bike community like Critical Mass, which I’ll cover in an upcoming post, I heard about Velo-City: Vancouver & the Bicycle Revolution at the Museum of Vancouver.

Visit Velo-City, which runs at the Museum of Vancouver from June 4–September 7, 2009. The museum is located at 1100 Chestnut St, in Vanier Park.

Share your biking photos on Velo-City’s Flickr group page. Submitted photos will be streamed onto the exhibit’s Velo-Love Wall.

Plan your next bike trip: here and here

The Velo-City exhibit tracks cycling “as a form of creative, personal and political expression that’s changing the way we see and relate to our city,” according to a press release.

With this thematic goal in mind, I contacted two local bike personalities for their thoughts: Tania Lo, who is featured in the exhibit, and Toby Barratt, who curated it. Both provided great insights and resources about Vancouver’s vibrant bike culture.

CLICK to read the interview with Tania Lo

CLICK to read the interview with Toby Barratt [pagebreak]


Pictured: The B:C:Clettes is a dance

cooperative dedicated to the promotion

and celebration of cycling. (Photo via

Flickr by meaduva)

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Tanya Lo is the associate publisher at Momentum Magazine, and one of a pair of cyclists who rode a custom tandem from Patagonia to the Arctic—a journey chronicled in the feature-length documentary Long Road North.

What have you learned that makes Vancouver’s bike culture or history unique?

Tanya Lo: Vancouver’s bike culture is very diverse: we have roadies, mountain bikers, unicyclists, BMXers, fixies and commuters. Velo-city points out that Vancouver has also been a hub of cycling exports: Lorne “Ace” Atkinson and his Bike Fashion show in the early 1960s; Momentum’s Bikeosphere Art and Fashion show in 2008; bike builders like Rocky Mountain and Brodie; and the North Shore’s mountain bike/free ride scene.  

What symbolizes bike culture for you?

Ciclovia that happens in Bogota every Sunday does a lot in showing people what it looks and feels like to be in public space without cars. Travelling through rural areas and mega cities [during the Long Road North] really opened my eyes to the different ways cities engage cyclists and how I engage with people when I’m on a bike.

Have you ever had a “bike epiphany”?

There’s almost an awakening when you first start to ride your bike, since you realize it’s not as difficult as you may have thought. On bikeways you run into friends and other cyclists.

I think the barrier to entry needs to change: the (actual or perceived) fear factor that comes from roads being historically built for cars, not people. We need permanent infrastructure that clearly indicates where a car should be, where a bike should be and where a pedestrian should be. This will come through strong governmental leadership at the municipal and provincial levels, coupled with investment in infrastructure and public education.

How does a piece of technology designed for transportation, like a bike, build community—assuming you think it does?

As a pedestrian or a cyclist, you have more opportunity to interact with people. And not only interact with people, but the opportunity to interact with natural surroundings: the smells, sounds, pollution or fresh air, and public space.  

Can you point to any resources where readers can tap into local bike culture?

•    Velolove Listserve

•    Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition

•    B:C:Clettes

•    Bicycle Bee blog

•    PEDAL (pedal energy development alternatives)

•    Vancruisers

•    Fearless Gearless

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[pagebreak]Critical Mass Vancouver, June 2007

Pictured: Critical Mass is a regular

gathering of velophiles who ride

together on the last friday of every

month to provide safe riding as a result

of the sheer numbers of cyclists and

peacefully demonstrate for cyclists’

rights to the road. (Photo via Flickr

by FrameStealer, 2007)

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Toby Barratt from Propellor Design is one of Velo-City’s curators.

What have you learned that makes Vancouver’s bike culture or history unique?

When we started researching Velo-City, we tried to get a sense of how many cycling subcultures are active in Vancouver—and we found over 40! We enlisted photographer Mark Mushet to take portraits of 16 different cyclists, which are accompanied by interviews. In Velo-City, you’ll meet fixie riders, randonneurs, freeride mountain bikers, track racers, activists, tall-bike riders, freak-bike builders and kids still riding training wheels. The common denominator is a passion for biking.


What are some standout symbols of bike culture for you?

Vancouver’s bike culture is full of Vancouverites who use their bikes to push the limits of fitness, sport, creativity, community and pleasure. There is no one single icon, but rather many great individuals and groups of like-minded people:

•    Lorne “Ace” Atkinson is one of Vancouver’s living legends: a racing champion in the 1940s and 50s, a coach, a bike store owner and tireless chronicler and promoter of cycling in our city.

•    Artists Red Sara, Jim Hoehnle and Khan Lee were the creative force behind the Velomutations Project that’s responsible for building some of the most unique bikes you’ll ever see. These artists worked with people from the community to build fantastic choppers, tall-bikes and freakbikes of all descriptions.

•    Free ride mountain biking phenom and owner of Sombrio Clothing, Dave Watson is one of the pioneers of North Shore-style mountain biking. Dave likes to push the limits of what is thought possible on a bike. In 2006, he did a massive gap jump over the Tour De France.

•    Richard Campbell is one of the most accomplished of Vancouver’s dedicated bike activists and advocates. He’s played a major role in securing many of the key cycling infrastructure improvements that make our city safer and more enjoyable to ride in.


How did you get involved in curating an exhibit about bike culture? What do you like best about it?

All three of us at Propellor are avid cyclists, so the idea evolved out of our own personal love affairs with the bicycle. But we also had a strong sense that something exciting was happening in the city and noticed a dramatic uptake in the quantity and variety of people getting out on bikes.

Since 2006, we’ve designed and curated an annual sustainable design exhibition called Swell, which included a bike-related design section. Soon, we began thinking about the role bicycles can play in building a sustainable future, and came up with the idea of a bike show. We pitched the idea to the Museum of Vancouver, and the opportunity to work on a project that involved geeking out on beautiful bikes and meeting other passionate cyclists was a dream come true.

Can you point to any resources where readers can tap into local bike culture?

•    Momentum Magazine – Quickly becoming a leading chronicle of North American bike culture.

•    You Never Bike Alone – Robert Alstead’s great doc about the history of Vancouver bike culture.

• – Perspectives of the fixie gurus at Vancouver’s Super Champion Bike Shop.

•    Cycling Art Blog – The musings of a road racing aficionado.

•    Pedal Revolutionary Radio Show – Vancouver bike culture radio program

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