Ebony's Sad Bicycle Wedding

Back in July, in the “He Said, She Said” section, Ebony published an article on wealth management which was accompanied by this lovely illustration by Thomas Pitilli:

Thomas Pitilli Illustration
Screen Shot: Thomas Pitilli Illustration

On first glance, it looks like one of those bicycle wedding graphics that cyclists love to post to Facebook (which is where I first encountered this image; via The League American Bicyclists’ Facebook Page).

Bride Closeup
Oh, the humiliation…

But when you look more closely at the bride, you realize this is not an illustration depicting a whimsical bike-themed wedding. Rather, this image is meant to show financial failure.

I tried to find the article online by searching Ebony. I couldn’t find an online version of any article with this illustration. (But I learned so much about Hip Hop entertainers, reality TV shows, and smartphone apps to spice up my love life.)

On a site called Illo Confidential I found Pitilli’s explanation of the illustration:

The topic had to do with whether a couple should build wealth before marriage, or tough it out for a few years while already married.

Presumably, on instructions from Ebony, Pitilli illustrated a beautiful bride with abject disappointment on her face.

And Pitilli, skilled illustrator that he is, understands that in some contexts the iconography of the bicycle represents whimsy, health, and environmental consciousness. (He has, after all, illustrated for Bicycle Times.) In other contexts, it’s the vehicle of humiliating last resort.

Google Images: bicycle OR bike wedding
Screen shot: Google Images

I was tempted to think that Ebony is just out of touch with its audience. Maybe the editor who commissioned the illustration just has a vestigial anti-cycling attitude.

But a Google Image search of “bicycle wedding” shows the exact opposite of Pitilli’s illustration: image after image of happy weddings — and of mostly white brides and grooms.

African Americans (along with Hispanics, and Asian Americans) make up the fastest growing group to be taking up cycling. Yet there must still be a strong stigma to overcome if — for the audience of Ebony — combining a wedding and a bike is such a potent symbol of financial failure: lower class losers use bikes.

But Ebony isn’t all fluff. Somebody over there ought to know better, and I’m suspecting that person might be “Money Coach” Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, with whom Pitilli consulted for the illustration.

Khalfani-Cox writes columns on financial advice for the readers of Ebony. She ought to know the financial drag that a car represents to many people who could really do without one — even if they can afford one. She ought to know that choosing to drive less — or not at — means more money to invest and spend wisely. She ought to know that a bride on the back of bike has bright prospects.

And maybe she does know all that. I’m going to invite her over to read this article and leave her thoughts.

Be nice, everybody.

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10 thoughts on “Ebony's Sad Bicycle Wedding”

  1. David says:

    As a married cyclist that happens to be african-american, i am disappointed with the sad face on the bride. After all, marriage isn’t just about money and cycling isn’t just for the poor.

  2. Graham says:

    If I hadn’t read the article, I wouldn’t have made the connection to Ebony’s readership at all. Here on the sunny coast of NC, having a bicycle-themed wedding or riding away from a wedding on a bike (even as a guest) would be seen as the ultimate shame and humiliation.

    “Can’t you provide better than even that for your new wife?!”

    If there is such a thing as a transportational bike culture, then it has a very long way to go here in the South before any bride has a happy face on when leaving her wedding on a bicycle.

    Sad, but true.

  3. I think the bride is sad that her new husband didn’t even equip the bike with a skirt-guard.

  4. Alex Fine says:

    I feel this may be reading into the illustration a bit too much. Especially without reading the article. You have to acknowledge that though you may love riding bikes, not all people do and maybe this is a bride that finds widely practiced aspects of a wedding important i.e. limos and nice flower arrangements etc. I wouldn’t mind riding off on a bike but I’m sure there are a large number of brides and grooms who would be disappointed in this kind of wedding. Not everyone is as cool as us : )

    1. Ted Johnson says:

      Alex: What bride doesn’t get exactly the wedding she wants unless it can’t be afforded?

      But, yes, I do need to read the article in order to fully judge it’s perspective.

      It could be that she wanted a Pashley bike, and is disappointed to be on a Batavus. Yes, that’s definitely it.

  5. BluesCat says:

    As much as I’d like to see the bicycle break free of the image as the Poor Man’s Transportation, I fear that will never happen.

    The 1880’s and 1890’s were arguably the heyday of bicycling in America. The invention of the “safety bicycle” — two same-sized wheels on a diamond frame that even the ladies could ride — led to an explosion of millions of bicycles racing and being used for transportation. Bikes became so popular that groups like the League of American Wheelmen were formed to promote bicycling and the creation of paved roads (which were later appropriated by automobiles).

    Even with all that popularity, we should remember that in 1892 a fellow called Harry Dacre wrote a tune called Daisy Bell, whose familiar refrain goes:

    It won’t be a stylish marriage —
    I can’t afford a carriage,
    But you’d look sweet upon the seat
    Of a bicycle built for two.

    (Emphasis is mine)

  6. After all, marriage isn’t just about money and cycling isn’t just for the poor.

    LOVE this comment. However, cycling has allowed me to save money, which is my spouse’s hot-button issue. So while I agree with all comments here, the Outrage-of-the-Day here in DFW metroplex is all of the toll-roads. Sorry, but if you want to drive, you have to pay. Don’t want to pay? Don’t drive. Seems like an egalitarian taxation to me!

  7. Jym says:

    • Daisy had an answer song (several of them, actually) turning the guy down because he couldn’t afford a carriage. If she’s that shallow, he’s better off without her anyhow.

    1892 was early on in that Golden Age of Bicycling; there were many bicycle weddings later on in that decade, some of them very lavish. The stigma can be and should be overcome. If anything it might actually be more difficult these days, since we’ve had generations of advertising to associate cars with status (and freedom).

    Folks I grew up with have journeyed from their wedding receptions in classic (*cough*) cars held together with duct tape and primer, or pickup trucks. A lovely tandem bike would have been better, but oh well. None of that has had any bearing on their marital happiness.

  8. David Washburn says:

    What’s she complaining about, she’s not doing any if the work.

  9. BluesCat says:

    David –

    LOL! Yeah! She should be HAPPY he’s not makin’ her do the DISHES while she’s back there!

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