I am a low-maintenance hair person. I really don’t want something that takes too long to mess with, requires a ton of products and equipment, but I still want something that looks good when I take my bike helmet off. I’ve had short hair in a range of lengths since I chopped off my waist-length hair in junior high, not because I want something easy, purely because I’m vain. I just look better with short hair. Consider, then, the irony of ending up with a hairstyle that requires 15 minutes to properly style, plus hairspray, and being 100% okay with it because I LOVE IT so much.
My hair stylist is a genius. (She also took this photo – still a genius)
I’ve switched up my routine for this hair style – I now curl it at work, so I can wear my helmet in the morning and not smush the hair. This is important, especially on days I have client meetings. I want to look good, and smushed curls are not the “good” I’m going for. I didn’t really quite appreciate how much this hairstyle has changed my attitude on wearing a bike helmet until recently, when I really loved how it turned out, and didn’t want to put my helmet on to bike home.
Curl mastery – before putting on my bike helmet at the end of the day.
I was only going home, so it shouldn’t have mattered, and yet, this particular day, I felt especially pained by having to smush my hair. I didn’t consider not biking home because of it, but I would definitely reconsider biking TO work, if I couldn’t do my hair once I get to work. So there I was, suddenly realizing that I was letting my hair dictate my commute mode.
I love my Nutcase helmet but I may love my hair more…. #vain
Okay, to be fair, it didn’t look terrible when I got home 25 minutes later.
Slightly flattened curls. Not bad, I guess.
So it was with great awareness and recent experience that I was interested to read a pair of BikeArlington’s recent blog posts about a study they recently conducted for Arlington County’s Master Transportation Plan Bicycle Element Survey. Arlington is polling people to see what they think about bike lanes. (You have to download the report, but don’t worry, you’ll get awesome emails from BikeArlington in exchange!) Of the 1206 people they spoke with, 89% reported wanting to bike more often. Yay! Fitness ranks high on the list of why people do bike, but biking taking more time also ranks pretty high for why they don’t do it more often. (People, think of it as spending less time in the gym! You’ll come out ahead, I promise.) There are a lot of really good details in this report, most of which has to do with existence (or lack thereof) of bike lanes, and I strongly encourage you to read it. Although this is Arlington, VA, specific, I’m sure the responses are not much different than you’d find elsewhere.
More like this, please!
What I found most interesting is the list of barriers that prevent people from walking and biking more. Of the women polled, concerns about appearance ranked high on the list of reasons why they do *not* bike to work. I hear this frequently as well, especially if a company does not have showers, a decent sized restroom, or a culture that supports biking and making looking a little less than 100%. I know I’m spoiled at my job, where many of us bike and finish our looks at work. We have to look just as professional as the executives we work with, so it is important to us as well.
Bunny bike style! Hated the way my helmet made my hair flip out, though.
I know that Arlington has less control over what individual companies or buildings do compared to the control they have over installing new bike lanes. And because so many respondents want more and better protected bike lanes, I hope that Arlington moves forward with plans to put in what the residents clearly want. But more importantly, I hope that planners and designers and company leaders and everyone realize that if we want to get more women on bikes, the helmet hair struggle is real. It’s not something that should be dismissed or belittled.
Ugh, I can see here how my bike helmet is smashing my hair here. #dislike
If I, who bikes pretty regularly and proudly, reconsider it because of my hair, think about what someone might think who has *never* tried biking to work. I know, from experience, how great it makes me feel, how much easier it is to be traveling on my own time frame and power, and how much more community spirit I feel from biking past the same houses and businesses every day. I am willing to have less than perfect hair (and a bit of sweat) for the benefits I receive from biking. So how do we get women to enjoy the same experience? I guess I’d say build more bike lanes.