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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - New Yorkers are getting on their bicycles and they are doing it in style.
Frumpy, unfashionable gear has given way to sophisticated, chic and affordable designs by fashion students as more city dwellers abandon the buses and subways to pedal to work.
"New York should have not only the most bicyclists, but the most stylish ones as well," Patti Harris, the first deputy mayor of New York, told a news conference.
Promoting bicycling is part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's agenda to create a greener, bike friendly and car-free New York.
Following the examples of cycling cities such as Amsterdam and Beijing, New York has built 200 miles of bike lanes in the past three years. An estimated 185,000 New Yorkers cycled to work in 2008, an increase of 35 percent from the previous year.
In keeping with the city's efforts to promote cycling, luxury apparel maker LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton asked students at the Fashion Institute of Technology to create chic yet affordable cycling gear.
"We want to do everything we can to raise the profile of biking in New York," Janette Sadik-Khan, commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation, said at the news conference to announce the winning design.
"Having functioning, attractive gear so you can arrive at work looking stylish should be very encouraging," she said. "No one wants to show up at work looking like bike messengers."
A sleek jacket, designed by Jessica Velasques, made of nylon mesh with an iPod pocket, an opening for earphones, adjustable waist and a hidden hood was the winning design.
Velasques also created a poncho with a removable hood, magnetic closures and sleek pockets with bolt button details, which was accompanied by a strap bag that zips open into a large garment bag and holds an extra bag to stack a pair of shoes inside.
Actor Matthew Modine, who founded Bicycle for a Day which encourages people to use bicycles more, said cycling can also help people cope with the slow economy by cutting costs for car insurance, tolls and gasoline.
"Imagine how wonderful life would be if you don't have to park to watch a musical, you have an extra $30."
The DKNY division of Donna Karen International will develop the prototypes of the winning designs. They will be unveiled in conjunction with the city's "Summer Streets" program, when a 6.9-mile route from the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park will be closed to traffic so people can run, bike, walk and take part in activities on three Saturday mornings in August.
Reporting by Jui Chakravorty; editing by Patricia Reaney