The great dedorkification project: Failed
I had a hypothesis: Would drivers respect me more if I looked and acted less like a dork and more like the other female cyclists in the neighborhood?
To test this hypotheses I performed a very unscientific experiment: I got all dressed up in my best office wear (time to shift wardrobes anyway, with spring finally here), donned my nice red coat (aaack, there's a spot of grease on it now! why can't I do anything without getting grease where it doesn't belong?), and adopted the most nonchalantly self-assured pose I could muster. Once on the street I proceeded at a pace that was slow and stately, hugging the line of parked cars and rolling through stop signs, flashing a charming half-smile at all who made eye contact. All without cursing.
Was I treated any nicer by the motorists?
I should not have been rolling through stop signs, but it's very hard to come to a complete stop and get a foot down in these shoes. In fact, it's very hard to do anything at all in these shoes, with the notable exception of tearing up my Achilles tendons. Why do the norms of fashion demand that women wear such completely impractical footwear?
Unscientific conclusion: It doesn't matter how you look, because most Americans already think that bicycles are dorky enough to trump everything else that you do. Therefore, wear what you want and ride such that your behavior demands respect: stopping at busy stop signs, taking the lane where needed, riding at speeds comparable to the flow of motor traffic when possible, wearing your brightest and most reflective accessories, etc. Oh, and the fashion industry is sexist and cruel, so to hell with them.
Update: In somewhat related news...
Come on, Americans, we're embarrassing ourselves in front of Europe! (As well over half of my countrymen erupt into uproarious laughter.)
I did like the last bit:
"One thing is certain, if anybody gets together to ride in memory of me - unlikely, i know - I'll be having no lycra, no goofy specialist bikes and no helmets. Promise me that. And tell the world that facts and science beats fear-mongering any day."
I agree, except with me you would be absolutely free to wear a helmet if you wanted to (gotta put that sticker somewhere), and I would allow exceptions to the no-lycra rule for these two jerseys.
[Tip o' the helmet that I wear to keep my hair out of my face, really, to Cyclelicious.]
Updated update: Sorry, I just can't get over my stupid-yet-awesome new jacket:
Reflective stripes are the new black! I'll just keep telling myself that.