2011 or 1899? Sexy Cyclist Deemed Traffic Distraction

Girls In Skirts Riding Tandem photo

Photo from Dr. Neesen's Book On Wheeling, 1899.

While it would be great to get the police officer's side of the story, the Internet is nevertheless circulating a "news" item that a visiting female Dutch cyclist was stopped by a New York City policeman and threatened with a ticket for wearing a skirt he deemed to be a traffic distraction.

The Guardian was the latest to print the story about Jasmijn Rijcken, a cyclist visiting New York in late April for the New Amsterdam bike show. Rijcken alleges that an NYPD officer saw her on a city street where she had stopped with her bike to read a map, and threatened to ticket her. The officer felt the skirt Rijcken was wearing was a hazard. Is this 2011 or 1899?

Jasmijn Rijcken On VanMoof Bike in NYC photo

Photo courtesy Jasmjin Rijcken.

Back in the earlier era of growing numbers of women taking up biking, the issue of what they would wear while cycling was a fiercely debated media item.

Dr. Victor Neesen, in his 1899 Book on Wheeling touched on cycling's morality by saying:

Short skirts have received more attention and open discussion than any other of the moral aspects of cycling.

Of course, in those days, "short," as the first photo shows, meant displaying female ankle and shins. Rijcken, who had had the photo of herself above snapped earlier the day of the incident and provided it to Streetsblog, was wearing something closer to a mini-skirt.

Though it is not against the law to wear a skirt or any other "sexy" apparel while cycling, bicyclists can be charged with "reckless operation of a bicycle" or "disorderly conduct," though Rijcken says the policeman left her alone after learning she was Dutch.

Rijcken's story has been questioned by Streetsblog and others, not only because she did not note the officer's name and thus it cannot be investigated by the NYPD, but also because she is a marketing representative for Vanmoof, a bicycle design firm, and may have created the story as a guerilla marketing ploy.

But Rijcken told TreeHugger via email from Amsterdam that the incident was no marketing move.

I admit that this sounds odd because I work for a bike company. However, it is not a rare incident. Apparently there are many people that believe that the police did do the right thing. I don't feel different about riding in a skirt. I still think that as long as you do not flash anybody (which I didnt!!!) it's ok to dress according to whatever your personal style and you personal preferences are. I think that if you need to change clothes every time you go on a bike, it is not so useful as a transportation tool.

The idea that what women wear on bikes is worthy of both police notice and media attention is back in fashion. What is definitely true is that the upswing in cycling in New York City has caused some cultural upsets, including a crackdown on cyclist infractions and dissension over new and existing bike lanes.

Since the incident, there's been an organized effort to "ride for freedom" and on June 30, Skirts on Bikes will ride in NYC to celebrate freedom and fashion.

More about women on bikes:
6 Reasons The World Needs More Girls On Bikes
Why Bikes for Girls is a Lifechanging Concept in Africa (Video)
Why Women Bike, and Why They Don't
The Crusade Against Female Cyclists
5 States Where Women Barely Dare to Ride
Cycling Make Teens Smarter (But Just The Girls)

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