June 29th, 2016

Written by PUBLIC Founder, Rob Forbes

bill cunningham bike new york

Image by Matthew Tichenor via flickr.

The Tour de France begins this Saturday, July 2 from the foot of Mont Saint-Michel, and we will all be treated to three weeks of extraordinarily beautiful French countryside, fierce competition by amazing athletes, those wild outfits with polka dots and logos, along with the celebrated iconic race leader yellow jersey. The race ends in Paris, the fashion capital of the world, where heroes are crowned, and legendary figures such as Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, and Greg LeMond earned their reputations.

One of my cycling heroes, lesser known in biking circles, but an icon in the New York fashion scene died this past Saturday. Bill Cunningham was 87 when he passed away.

Cunningham documented street and couture fashion for decades, often from one of his city bikes. He does not hold any records for speed and was never spotted wearing racing spandex, but he possibly holds the record as the person with more bikes stolen or wrecked than any other individual (over 30!). Cunningham was one of the most influential people in fashion. He was both adored and feared by fashion designers and loved by the public for his iconic weekly column in The New York Times.

bill cunningham new york bike

Image by Anthony Fine via flickr

This documentary on him, Bill Cunningham New York is epic and well worth a watch. It captures an utterly unique individual, someone with a rich and varied life story who never sold out to the commercial forces of his industry. As Bill said, “If you don’t take money, they can’t tell you what to do. That’s the key to the whole thing”.


Image by Robert King via flickr

What would Bill Cunningham say about the Yellow Jersey? Who cares? 🙂 But isn’t it wonderful that we have such bike heroes like Bill Cunningham impressing us from the streets of New York, not just the acclaimed bike racers pedaling through the windy, steep Pyrenees?


5 Responses to “What Would Bill Cunningham Say About The Yellow Jersey?”

  1. Lorrie Myers

    Thank you for a lovely tribute to such a unique individual. I will miss his take on fashion and life in general.
    Pedal on my friend

  2. Mark Johnson

    I arrived in New York in the early 80’s and started working for a catering company called Glorious Food. We catered all the big social and fashion events. Bill Cunningham showed up everywhere – always with a smile. He seemed very humble yet enjoying himself immensely as he darted in with his camera – angling in to get a photo.
    I only recently got a Public Bike – but what a surprise to learn about Bill Cunningham through your Public Opinion. Something sort of full circle about it.
    Thank You

  3. sandra garratt

    I have loved Bill Cunningham for most of my life….his passing has hit me hard, what a wonderful man…thank you for including him as a bike hero, he was and remains an inspiration to so many.

  4. Martha Morgan

    I’m glad you posted this. I loved his appreciative rather than exclusionary approach to how people put together what he called their “armor to survive the reality of everyday life.”

    One of my favorite quotes of his from the documentary: “He who seeks beauty will find it.”

  5. Betsy Doyle

    Thank you for your tribute to Bill Cunningham. His photos were the first thing I look for each week in the Sunday NY times. What an eye he had! I love that he traveled by bicycle everywhere in bustling NY city traffic, and while he photographed high fashion and trends, he remained himself.