Philadelphia Art Gallery Exhibit: Velo+City: The Social History of the Bicycle – Lisa M. Reisman Gallery

Last week, Velo+City: The Social History of the Bicycle opened at Rittenhouse Square’s belle epoque-era gallery and gift destination – Lisa M. Reisman et Cie. The show presents a diverse and compelling collection of original prints, vintage posters, and ephemera. This exhibition visually details the rise of the bicycle over its 150-year history. The works follow the bicycle’s development from a dangerous object of ridicule and plaything of aristocrats to a democratized form of leisure and transportation for all

The curators for the show, Campbell and Michael with gallery owner Lisa M. Reisman. Michael tells me his favorite bike is a Flying Dutchman which was a gift from his dad. Campbell doesn’t ride, but she loves the culture of the bike and celebrates it. She did a lot of the research of Victorian women and their relationship with bikes, as they weren’t really allowed to ride them until the 1900s because of safety issues, and well skirts. The culture of the bicycle is so true. To me the bicycle is a tool I use to get exercise, perhaps to get from place A to place B, but not as much. Who loves the bicycle more than the bike messengers of Philadelphia; they were in the majority of those enjoying this opening night.
As a photographer I have always been fascinated by bike messengers, often trying to sneak a photo here or there, but scared that like in the movie the “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” one of them would turn and point and let out a scretch. A closed culture, rebels, nomads and what I observed as a bit crazy as they weave their bikes at tops speeds through city traffic trying to make that run. They were in fact a bit suspicious at first, but then welcoming as they opened up telling me about their favorites bikes, as many own more than one, and explaining what the bicycle ment to them.

Rachel Gagliardi and Josh Beaver. Josh’s bike of choice = a Fixgear red/white/white. They loved the exhibit and learning about the beginings of the bikes history. The advent of the bicycle in the 1880’s stimulated great controversy about women’s proper role in society. Questions of “how they should ride”, when they should ride, who they should ride with” were considered by commentators, and”wheeling’s” many critics were certain that bicycle riding threatened women’s health, morals, and reputation.
Skirts made riding the Ordinary (a bicycle with a large front wheel) virtually impossible. Tricycles, however, were designed to accommodate full skirts and allowed women to ride without adopting the bloomer outfit, which many women opposed for its politically radical associations. Like nearly every other aspect of life in the nineteenth century, tricycle riding had a specific set of rules and regulations. The rule against women riding alone in fact generated a new profession: the professional lady cyclist as chaperone. Tricycles were commonly used for touring, and the tandem tricycle was popular with couples. Chris & Ashley Sue enjoy the exhibit
Ashley Steigerwalt and Megan Barbour. Although not bike messengers, they enjoy the culture and their messenger bags to carry their stuff.
Ashley has a custom messenger bag he designed himself The first bicycle was two equal-size wheels and a dropped frame with no crossbar was the Victor, first manufactured in 1887. With the addition of pneumatic tires (invented in 1889) and enclosed gear, women were able to ride comfortable without their skirts becoming entangled. The final dramatic improvement in bicycle technology was the coaster brake, invented in 1898. These features enabled women to bicycle safely without having to wear bloomers.
Nadja & Tom, a bit cautious of who I was, but smiles that lit up the room. You know how I like a good smile.
Stewy, KHS with fellow co-worker at Trophy Bikes, Natalie and Dan
I did spend a good deal of time talking to a one Paul Glover who resided in Ithaca for many years, and well was an activist, a member of the Green Party, and started his a newsletter that launch Ithaca’s own currency and influenced the government on several issues. You have to read about him, he is fascinating.

And then in all too short of time I had to leave and go to the next event. But I will be back before the exhibits last day, as it runs through Aug. 14, it’s free and you have no excuse not to stop by and see this fascinating exhibit of prints and lithographs. They are all for sale too!!

Lisa M. Reisman et Cie, 1714 Rittenhouse Square (between 17th Street and Rittenhouse Sq), 215-735-2781,