Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Cranked up about bicycle postage stamps

Okay, I'm glad the US Postal Service saluted bike riding with this set of stamps released on June 7, 2012. The drawings are nice and the concept of the stages of bike riding is okay . . . but I have quibbles. 

The publicity material reads [with snippy comments by me]: 

"Art director Phil Jordan designed the stamps using illustrations by San Francisco illustrator John Mattos. Each of the four Bicycling (Forever®) stamps features a different kind of bike and cyclist:

". . . a young child learning to ride . . . " [In my opinion, this is the best of the bikes shown here. It has two of the things needed on a regular bike, a chain guard and an upright riding position.]
". . . a commuter pedaling to work . . . " [This is the one that bugged me the most. Why should a commuter need a road-racing bike? This bike has rams-horn handlebars and skinny wheels and the rider is in road-racing clothing. This bike forces the rider into a crouched racing posture that's tough on the back and rotten for keeping an eye on traffic. I'm guessing the saddle bags are partially full of work clothes to be worn after this rider showers upon arriving at work. Commuter bike riding -- to me -- is not a workout and it's not a race. It's transportation. If you're sweating a lot you're doing it wrong. This bike doesn't even have any fenders or lights. Bad for riding in weather or at night.]
". . . a road racer intent on the finish line . . . " [Same bike style and clothing as the "commuter" bike above. Minus the saddle bags and plus the elbow-rest handlebars.]
". . . and an airborne BMX rider." [And what is this? It's the last stamp in the series -- so does it represent the final stage in the evolution of bike riding? Jumping your bike into the air? This belongs at the other end of the stamp series, right after the training wheels. This is 10-year-old kid stuff.]
What would I have wanted on a bicycle stamp? I would have put a regular bike in the middle instead of the road-racing bike shown. Fenders, front and back lights, chain guard, stepthrough frame, upright handlebars. A bike fit for riding in all conditions. And the rider would be in regular clothes, not spandex. I would want the stamp to show that bike riding doesn't always have to be fast, and it doesn't always have to be a competition.
Update: Changed the headline, added the release date of the stamps. Plus, I redrew my alternate stamp to raise the handlebars and put the rider in a more upright posture -- and I added a bell. I also added the picture below of bike commuters in Copenhagen. As always, click for closer view.


big karl said...

i rode 20 k daily in copenhagen last july and never fell once off the bike. great city to bike. even wore a helmet 'cause i always saw steinie with one...karl john karlson

Daughter Number Three said...

I notice you omitted the helmet on your stamp. That would be controversial!

I agree the "commuter" drawing is pretty clueless about reality.

Daughter Number Three said...

Maybe they didn't want to show the woman bicyclist as not serious, compared to male speed demon. Could have made both those bikers female and left the kid and BMXer as males.

David Steinlicht said...

Karl, 20 kilometers per day is impressive! I usually wear a bike helmet. I know some people don't like the helmet and I'd agree that if you ride at a leisurely pace, you are less likely to need the helmet. Many to most riders in Copenhagen don't wear helmets. But I'm a big scaredy cat, so I wear the helmet.

D#3, I did sorta put a helmet on my suggested stamp. Didn't play it up, though, as I don't consider the helmet to be standard equipment (I'd say the standard should be fenders, lights, bell, upright handlebars, chain guard). I think the kid and the BMXer could be interpreted as female -- the kid . . . who can say? And the BMXer is covered head to toe, so again . . . who can say?

Avidor said...

Why just the helmet? I would show a bicyclist wearing a medieval suit of armor brandishing a sword riding over the crushed hulk of an automobile. Also lots of skulls littered about.

David Steinlicht said...

Ken, I'd buy that stamp.

Daughter Number Three said...

David, now that I look at her hair I see that it could be a helmet. I was thinking of bangs.

I felt weird saying the kids were male when clearly that's not specifically indicated by any visual cues. And the artist was probably going all out to make them gender neutral. But my bet is that 90% of viewers will read them as male.

I would buy Ken's stamp, too.