Bike effort redefines fashion forward 

Kristin Walker takes us for a ride

Kristin Walker's love for bicycles permeates nearly every aspect of her daily life, but you won't see her in clingy black spandex. This Wednesday, the real estate agent will host Charleston's second Cycle Chic ride, a movement pairing cycling and fashion in one fierce union.

Walker's idea to introduce the Amsterdam-based campaign to the Holy City bloomed from an awkward encounter after a business meeting. Walking out of the office, an associate offered to validate Walker's parking. She told the woman that she'd ridden her bike that day and got a look back of "shock and confusion."

"It is kind of strange to ride to an appointment in a suit and heels," Walker says. "But I don't want it to be that way."

Frustration over these condescending glares prompted the creation of Charleston Cycle Chic. Walker organized the first ride in May, hoping for a decent turn-out. To her delight, 50 women in über-stylish ensembles and designer heels rallied for the trip, traveling down King Street and around the Peninsula.

Walker's second ride is scheduled for June 24. Launching from Marion Square at 6 p.m., the group will bike down East Bay Street to the Battery before coming back to Fuel on Rutledge Avenue for a few post-pedal drinks.

"Eventually I would like to do routes in different areas of town, although I felt like for the second ride we needed to stick downtown," Walker says. "It is kind of fun to do it in a place with a lot of people; we are trying to make a point, although light-heartedly. We enjoyed the looks."

And the fashionable brunette is still getting looks. On a recent ride down King Street, showing off the route for this week's Cycle Chic event, a group of tourists stopped Walker to ask her what she was doing. This kind of curiosity feeds into her main goal: converts.

"If one person buys a bike that wouldn't have done it before, that is awesome. In the whole grand scheme of things, I feel like Charleston has the potential to be a model city, because we have the environment, the weather, and the desire to be progressive," she says, flush with enthusiasm.

Cycle Chic is only one of the ways in which Walker is fostering a progressive biking culture in her beloved city. Through her real estate venture, Pedal to Properties, Walker hopes to show buyers the ease of biking along with a more personal perspective of the city. Walker believes using bicycles as a means to show houses is the perfect way to display the beauty of Charleston.

"You're choosing a house, but first and foremost you are choosing a neighborhood, an area, and lifestyle," she says. "People want to know, can my kids bike to school? How close is the grocery store to my house? I don't think you can get as great of a sense of the neighborhood in a car."

Walker is teaming up with Tom Bradford of Charleston Moves to find more ways to encourage alternative transportation, brainstorming about other fun events.

Plans for the future include stocking up on leg warmers, capes, and heels for winter rides, Walker says. But her outfit this summer will be a sundress matched with her favorite accessory: a cream colored beach cruiser.

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