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Bicycle Politics Symposium and Workshop
Date: 16 September 2010 Time: 09.30 to 5.00pm
Venue: Institute for Advanced Studies Meeting Room 2/3
Bicycle Politics Symposium and workshop
Thursday 16th & Friday 17th September 2010
Centre for Mobilities Research, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK
The report on the workshop can be found here
The major role and relevance of bicycles and cycling to future life seems increasingly unquestionable. On the ground, projects across the world are committed to promoting cycling and/or cycling-oriented subcultures. In both theory and practice, there's a real energy and vitality to think about cycling differently, to carve out alternative possibilities around the bicycle.
But if cycling is enjoying a renaissance, it is also under fire. Whilst almost everywhere people are pushing for cycling, it also seems that almost everywhere cycling is deeply problematic - contentious, oppressed, discriminated against.
Bicycles, cycling and cyclists seem to invoke love and hate in equal measure .
Bicycle Politics, a two day event hosted by the Centre for Mobilities Research (CeMoRe) at Lancaster University, UK, aims to explore bicycles and cycling politically. By thinking creatively and critically, its political project is to help push bicycles and cycling further into the hearts of our cities and societies, to improve the possibilities for cycling to re-make our world, to assist cycling's obvious potential to contribute to alternative, sustainable mobility futures.
To this end, we are calling for critical explorations of the political, social, cultural and economic barriers to current and future cycling, as well as for critical investigations of the ways in which bicycles, cycling and cyclists are currently framed.
We welcome all proposals for papers which fit under the broad heading of Bicycle Politics. Such contributions might examine:
. Cycling and political economies and ideologies
. The politics of cycling 'promotion'
. Critiques of cycling
. Cycling and discriminations
. Cycling and inequalities
. Cycling, social control, freedom and deviance
. Cycling, space and the politics of space
. Cycling, social movements and social change
. Cycling and identity
. Cycling and the politics of representation
. Feminist perspectives on cycling
. Cycling and the law
Our intention is to produce an edited collection, Bicycle Politics, from the event.
Cancellations received before 2 September 2010 will be issued a full refund minus an administration charge of £5. Cancellation requests received on and after 2 September will be at the discretion of the organisers and will be subject to a minimum administration charge of £5.
Where To Stay in Lancaster- or our campus guestrooms. Most of our guestrooms are en-suite. As well as private WC/bathing facilities, each has access to a fully equipped kitchen, shared with up to three other residents. The nightly rate is £26.40 (single) excl. VAT. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01524 592444 to book.
We aim for the symposium and workshop to be open to all, however, spacesare limited.
Bicycle Politics Workshop, 16th - 17th September 2010, Lancaster University
10.30 - 10.45 Welcome and Introduction
10.45 - 11.30 Andrew Milward - A 'considerable strain upon the resources of the hospitals'. A discussion of the politics of cycling promotion in the inter war period.
11.30 - 12.15 Robert Davis - Against Road Safety: what's wrong with the 'road safety' agenda and why road danger reduction is necessary for cycling?
12.15 - 13.00 Matt Wilson - Cycling and the Law
13.00 - 14.00 LUNCH
14.00 - 14.45 Gail Jennings - The Visibility and Purpose of Cycling in Cape Town, South Africa
14.45 - 15.30 Rutul Joshi - Bumpy Rides of Cycling Policies and Public Projects: An Indian Perspective
15.30 - 15.45 TEA AND COFFE BREAK
16.00 - 16.45 John Stehlin - Regulating Inclusion: 'Livability', gentrification and the formalization of the bicycle in the United States (virtual presentation)
17.00 - 18.00 General Discussion
19.30 Workshop Dinner - 7:30, The Gregson Centre, Moor Lane, Lancaster
8.45 - 9.00 Where are are we up to?
9.00 - 9.45Jennifer Bonham and Peter Cox - The Deviant Traveller: A Foucauldian Analysis of Cycleways
9.45 - 10.30Rachel Aldred and Katrina Jungickel - 'I didn't feel like a proper Cyclist': managing problematic and provisional cycling identities
10.30 - 10.45 TEA AND COFFEE BREAK
10.45 - 11.30 Aurora Trujillo - Cyclists as an Oppressed Group: Towards a transformative 'promotion' of cycling
11.30 - 12.15 Esther Anaya - Are Public Bikes Systems Good Practices?
12. 15 - 13.00 Robert Davis - London's 'Cycling Revolution' - what has actually been happening in London?
13.00 - 14.00 LUNCH
Trine Agervig Carstensen, Ezra Goldman and Thomas Sick Nielsen - Changing roles of the bicycle in Denmark
14.45 - 16.00 General Discussion and Conclusions
Abstracts of papers to be presented to the Bicycle Politics Workshop, Centre for Mobilities Research, Lancaster University, UK - 16th/17th September 2010
A "considerable strain upon the resources of the hospitals"- a discussion of the politics of cycling promotion in the inter war period Andrew Millward (Cycling History and Education Trust, UK)This paper examines the involvement of cycling organisations in promoting cycling during the 1930s. While this decade saw an enormous increase in cycling, it also coincided with an increase in motor cars on the roads which led to tensions and a growing tendency to polarise views on the rights of cyclists compared to other road users.
Political concerns were raised at the startling increase in cycling-related accidents and fatalities and this was reflected in attempts to restrict cyclists' rights through measures such as compulsory rear lights and audible warning devices and separate cycle lanes. Cycling organisations' attempts to counter these measures were hampered by an unsympathetic press and public opinion which was increasingly falling under the influence of a developing "road lobby".
This paper will analyse the actions of cycling organisations in this critical period and how they successfully promoted the growth of cycling and countered the growing anti-cycling lobby and those who attempted to portray cycling as unsafe.
Against Road Safety - what's wrong with the 'road safety' agenda and why road danger reduction is necessary for cycling - Robert Davis (Cycling Officer, London Borough of Ealing, and Road Danger Reduction Forum, UK)We must criticise the tendency to think that what is known as "road safety" (RS) as being desirable, benign, and neccessary for cyclists as for all road users. The practices and assumptions of the official "RS" lobby are in many ways opposed to a safe road environment for all.
Creating such an environment requires adopting the agenda of the road danger reduction (RDR) movement: a tendency which sometimes works inside the institutions of RS but which is opposed to some central tenets of this lobby. This means criticising assumptions which have - as with all ideology - become unquestioned parts of our culture.
The RS lobby is analysed as part of the institutions and ideology of a transport sytem built on encouraging ever increasing (and frequently illegal) motor vehicle use. History shows RS as being part of the problem of danger on the road, which tends to fail to address (and even exacerbate) the sources of danger on the road, and blame its victims.
The RS lobby claims responsibility for reduced road deaths, yet this decline can be seen as frequently spontaneous and due to factors irrelevant to establishment road safety interventions (demonstrated in the work of Adams, Davis and Smeed), with risk compensation (adaptive behaviour) by road users a crucial explanatory variable which is officially ignored or underestimated. The supposed science base of RS is ideological, with fundamental flaws in its objectives.
The RDR agenda, making those responsible for danger at source accountable, with alternative ways of measuring the success of interventions, is required for a civilised society's transport system.
Cycling and the lawMatt Wilson (Loughborough University and Bicycology, UK)Cyclists are often criticised for their relaxed attitude to traffic law. Jumping red lights, riding on the pavement or the wrong way down a one-way street - hardly the most serious of offences, but enough to send some people into a rage, condemning 'cyclists' - all of them, it often seems - as rogue scoundrels, not fit to be on the road with the rest of the civilised - i.e. motorised - world. But why do cyclists break the law in this way? Because they can get away with it? Partly. But perhaps it is also because we don't in fact have Road Traffic Laws, we have Car Laws, and rules for motorised, high speed vehicles are not necessarily appropriate for all other road users.
Traffic regulations are designed primarily - almost exclusively in fact - with the car in mind. Not only does this subject cyclists to unnecessary inconveniences, it can, at times, put them in real danger. If cycling is to become more popular, we need to make it both safer and more convenient, and, as governments like to tell us when they are talking about their friends in business, this means freeing them from restrictive regulation. Cyclists are vulnerable enough, and they know it - when they break the law, they mostly do so because they are responding to a situation in a way they feel is most appropriate.
Perhaps there is also a wider lesson to be learnt here. The concept of Naked Roads, developed partly by the Dutchman Hans Monderman, suggests traffic regulation is often counter-productive. Road signs, traffic lights and so on make drivers complacent: no need to check for other road users when there's a sign or a flashing light telling us what to do. By removing such signs, drivers are forced to respond to what is actually happening around them - to make eye contact, to be aware of her surroundings, to slow down. This might come as a real surprise to those who assume greater regulation is the answer to improved road safety, but it will come as no surprise to anarchists, who have long argued that laws tend to dull our senses - morally and practically.
Drawing on the theory and practice of naked roads, on anarchist discussions on law, and, most importantly, on the daily experiences of cyclists riding in a hostile world, I want to suggest that we need to start promoting a radical approach to tackling road safety: at times, that might mean greater generalised regulation - for example, citywide 20 mph zones; at others, it will mean reducing regulation, forcing drivers and cyclists to pay attention to those around them. And, in the meantime, I want to urge cyclists to carry on breaking the law, and, importantly, to let people know why they do so. This doesn't mean giving cyclists a bad name, as some cyclists suggest. Rather, it means giving an out-dated and dangerous legal system the bad name that it rightly deserves.
"I didn't feel like a proper cyclist": managing problematic and provisional cycling identitiesRachel Aldred (University of East London, UK) and Katrina Jungnickel (University of East London, UK)This paper draws on data from the ESRC-funded Cycling Cultures project to examine and compare tensions and discontinuities within cycling identities in Cambridge and Hull, UK. Interview data suggests that while "cycling" is seen as a positive practice, the "cyclist" identity is much more troubled and harder to claim. People refer to "real cyclists" and "proper cyclists", citing their own failures to live up to the image of a "good cyclist". Some also seek to distance themselves from more explicitly "troublesome" cyclists, such as "lycra louts" or "exchange students".
The paper links these tensions to dominant and limiting policy constructions around cycling, which apparently valorise cycling as a practice while still (a) stigmatising some cyclists and (b) failing to confront the dominant policy context, of mass motorisation and the concomitant pressure for space on the streets. It will explore how discourses around cycling identities differ in Cambridge and Hull, linking these differences to economic, social, and policy contexts in the two areas.
Into the headwind, against the tide: The visibility and purpose of cycling in Cape Town, South AfricaGail Jennings (Editor of Mobility Magazine, and University of the Western Cape, South Africa)Every March, Cape Town, South Africa's second city, hosts the world's largest cycle race: 35,000 entrants appropriate 109 km of public road. The Cape Town metropolitan area and region also hosts the 'Cape Epic', one of the world's most prestigious annual mountain bike races. In addition, the city and the provincial government each employ a non-motorised transport (NMT) programme officer, and have developed a bicycle master plan and NMT strategy. These aim to increase cycling and enable walking as modes of travel. In 2006, Cape Town was awarded gold status by Velo Mondial in recognition of its NMT planning.
Despite this pedigree, utility cycling is almost absent on Cape Town roads; less than 1% of Cape Town commuters use a bicycle for transport, and this has changed little over the past 25 years. Yet it could play an important mobility role, as more than half of Cape Town residents cannot afford personal vehicles, and public transport is generally limited and of poor quality.
Considerations that account for the low level of utility cycling include cultural taboos, the low status of bicycles where cars symbolise economic achievement, hilly topography and severe weather, apartheid spatial planning and urban sprawl. In addition, there is an absence of safe bicycle parking (combined with a high theft rate), a poor road safety record, cyclist-motorist conflict, absence of bicycle infrastructure and prohibition of bicycles on public transport.
Another reason for low cycling rates is Cape Town's fragmented society - multiple unmet mobility needs hamper cross-class mobilisation and alliances. In addition, the city has a divided cycling community: there is no unified voice among mountain bikers, competitive riders and recreational 'roadies', let alone commuters. Finally, local plans and policies only consider infrastructure solutions and fail to encourage utility cycling.
Explanations for the low uptake of non-leisure cycling in Cape Town can be gleaned from literature and material gathered by observation, as well as from interviews with bicycle enthusiasts and advocates, policy-makers, and commuter- and non-commuter cyclists.
The paper considers the obstacles to building cycling activism and to appropriate adoption of utility cycling. It also suggests ways in which cycling alliances could function, and recommends policy interventions for increasing cycling in Cape Town.
Bumpy rides of cycling policies and public projects: An Indian perspectiveRutul Joshi (University of the West of England, UK)This paper presents the 'bumpy rides' of pro-cycling policies in India by placing them in the context of recent public transit and urban renewal projects and popular perceptions about cycling. A recent government study (2008) shows that the share of cycling in 87 major cities in India has declined from 30% in 1994 to 11% in 2008, presenting a clear trend towards increasing motorisation in Indian society as a result of economic growth and rising incomes. It is the current unsustainable practices (of driving motorised vehicles) that continue to marginalise the sustainable practices (cycling) in Indian cities and probably also in the other cities of the Global South. Recent national urban transport policy (2006) aims to be more inclusive by talking about creating quality cycling infrastructure. This policy marks an important paradigm shift towards 'sustainable transport'. In most Indian cities, the cyclists are either from the low-income groups or school children; both are vulnerable road users in their own way, and require a great deal of policy support to provide safer infrastructure to enable their 'sustainable' practices (e.g. cycling). However, the pro-cycling policies which are often pro-poor policies are often subverted to give way to other motorised modes re-asserting road space as a microcosm of power structures existing in the society. In spite of the great deal of rhetoric about 'sustainability', some of the 'international best practice' mass rapid transit projects fail to provide quality infrastructure for the cyclists. The struggle for the space for cycles in the cities in India is no more a struggle for financial resources or for the right kind of policies being in place as it used to be. It is more of a struggle now of claiming the space for cycles as a legitimate transport mode in the cities.
Regulating Inclusion: "Livability," gentrification and the formalization of the bicycle in the United StatesJohn Stehlin (University of California, Berkeley, USA)Bicycles are changing American cities. Throughout the United States, bicycles and bicycle infrastructure have figured prominently in development strategies aimed at creating more "livable" urban space. But a parallel process is occurring in which cycling has been promoted and folded into the consumptive agora of city life in such a way as to exclude many urban residents who may in fact already use bicycles as an integral part of livelihood strategies and micro-economies of subsistence. Increased enforcement of traffic laws for bicycle riders, equipment regulations, and even potential licensing on the horizon present a picture of the current process of formalization of the bicycle as infrastructure, positioning various urban users differently in relation to city space not unlike subway lines, boulevards and freeways. In this paper, I examine the ways in which understandings of who counts as a bicyclist—as well as an urban citizen—are being reworked through transformations of urban space in the name of "livability" along raced, classed and gendered contours. Through studies of specific developments in San Francisco's downtown and Mission districts, rapidly-gentrifying Northeast Portland and the emergence of Detroit as a city ripe for "reconquest" by bicyclists, I hope to demonstrate that certain trajectories through which cycling is experiencing a renaissance have the potential of closing off a fuller and more democratic politics of the bicycle.
The Deviant Traveller: A Foucauldian analysis of CyclewaysJennifer Bonham (University of Adelaide, Australia) and Peter Cox (University of Chester, UK)The relationship between the cyclist and the use of roadways and other spaces allocated for travel has a contested history. Pro-cycling advocates have argued from a number of positions for the rights of cyclists to use road space and the location of responsibility for road safety. This paper examines how the widespread introduction of segregated cycle facilities in recent years, whilst having undoubted beneficial effects can also be seen to raise significant problems for cycling in the context of broader travel behaviours. Bonham's (2006) exploration of the manner in which travel systems and patterns act as disciplinary regimes can be extended to further develop an understanding of the impact of segregated cycle facilities. By applying a Foucauldian approach, one can investigate the positioning of cyclists within transport discourses as deviant and analyse the cycle path as a special space within which to confine, scrutinize and control this group. The cycle path, by removing cyclists from road space, enables 'normal travellers' to conduct their journeys unhindered and operates to maintain rather than challenge existing travel norms. The cyclist is thus re-created outside the norms of road travel and outside of the transport discourse around which road use is defined. The authors argue the consequences of this segregation may be profoundly at odds with the potential of cycling as a core component of sustainable mobility.
Cycling as an oppressed practice: towards a transformative 'promotion' of cyclingAurora Trujillo (University of Reading and Bicycology, UK)Some may think that using the word oppression to describe the conditions that commuter cyclists confront on British roads is too extreme. However, I want to show in this paper how the framework of structural oppression, developed to explain the situation that groups such as women, ethnic minorities or the disabled confront, is adequate not only to describe the situation which cyclists confront, but also to explain the underlying political and cultural processes that allow that situation to persist, and the power relations that it represents. After exploring how the framework of structural oppression applies to the case of cyclists, I will then discuss the theoretical distinction between affirmative and transformative remedies to respond to the problems that 'minority' groups confront. Having explored these two theoretical approaches, I will go on to defend a transformative 'promotion' of cycling, distinguishing this from the conventional approach, which attempts to accommodate cycling without questioning the current patterns of mobility dominated by cars. A transformative institutional and social response to the highly inadequate and dangerous conditions that British cyclists confront requires institutions, policy-makers and society at large to question the current hierarchy of the road, and consider the role that both automobility and cycling, as well as walking and public transport, should play in the near future. I will conclude that without such deeper questioning, the current 'promotion' of cycling is not only destined to fail, but represents an injustice towards those situated in the most vulnerable positions.
Are public bikes systems good for cycling? The view from BarcelonaEsther Anaya (Bicycle Mobility Consultant, Barcelona, Spain)Cycling in Spain is very far from being an ordinary, let alone a major, mode of mobility. Levels of cycling in most cities, including Barcelona, are between 0.5 and 1.5%. Nonetheless, cycling is recognized as a practice worth promoting.
A major way in which cycling is currently being promoted in Spain, and across the world, is via public bike schemes. Over the last three years a subsidies program from the National Energy Agency to Spanish municipalities has resulted in more than one hundred systems being implemented across the country.
This paper describes, examines and critically reflects on the introduction of public bike systems in Spain in general and Barcelona in particular, leading into a wider discussion of the role of public bike schemes in making cities fit for cycling.
Based on an analysis of the Spanish situation, the paper claims that the degree to which public bikes have integrated into the urban mobility equation is decisive for the success of these systems. Such integration depends on, among other things, the existence of a minimum infrastructure for bicycles before the system is implemented, the existence and character of a participation process, the relation between the use of private bicycles and public bicycles, the way in which the system is funded, and the effects of the system on bicycle sales or rental. The paper also examines some of the problems which public bike systems inevitably confront, such as logistical complexity, vandalism, and lack of integration with public transport.
With public bike schemes proliferating across the planet, a discussion of both the pragmatic problems as well as the radical potentials of such schemes is very timely, and the paper has universal relevance. It helps us to consider the causes and consequences of the introduction of public bike schemes into cities with low levels of bicycle use.
Public bike schemes seem well intentioned attempts to get more people, both residents and visitors, cycling. But what specific problems do they cause, and what specific effects do they have on the city? And finally and most importantly, are they likely to boost cycling in sustainable ways?
London's 'cycling revolution' - what has actually been happening in London?Robert Davis (Cycling Officer, London Borough of Ealing, and Road Danger Reduction Forum, UK)Cycling levels have doubled in London since 2000. It has a cycling Mayor and a former Mayor with a reputation for supporting cycling (and opposition to car use). High profile schemes such as the "Cycling Super Highways" and Cycle Hire Scheme, supported by both their administrations, have created the idea of a "Cycling Revolution". But this view is unjustified. Both regimes have operated systems that are in many ways biased against green transport in general and cycling in particular. Indeed, the supposedly "pro-cycling" image of both administrations itself obscures necessary analysis of cycling in London.
An analysis of cycling in London reveals that increases in cycle usage were to a large extent due to happen anyway, irrespective of interventions by Transport for London.
London's share of journeys by bicycle is still far lower than occurs in comparable (density, topography, climate) cities in northern Europe. It is unlikely to rise to reach the steadily decreasing targets set by government under the current approaches taken by Transport for London and central Government.
As well as highlighting funding shortfalls, the ideological and institutional framework of transport planning and associated authorities is shown as discriminating against cycling and for competing modes.
Possible ways of viewing cycling, and what is required for a sustainable and healthy transport policy, are suggested.
Changing roles of the bicycle in DenmarkTrine Agervig Carstensen, Ezra Goldman and Thomas Sick Nielsen (University of Copenhagen, Denmark)Cycling is an ordinary practice in Denmark. The topography and infrastructure are supportive, the cycling culture is profound and many crucial factors are present and form excellent preconditions for daily cycling.
The bicycle has over time been an important national symbol. Previously the symbolic meaning of the bicycle primarily worked within the nation, so cycling was an obvious, inherent and indisputable cultural practice.
This paper examines how the bicycle has changed as a national symbol. Over the past decade we have witnessed a renaissance of the bicycle; it has been revitalized as a national symbol and is increasingly applied in various national and international contexts.
The paper illuminates how the bicycle is applied as a brand of both cities and nation, and it elaborates on what has fertilised and enabled the constitution of the bicycle as a powerful brand.
The paper examines the circumstances underlying the revitalization of the bicycle, including events which have been crucial.
The paper claims that the outside world's growing interests in Danish cycling culture has been crucial for the revitalization and has been a driver for many internal bicycle promotion processes, e.g. pro-bicycle policies in various municipalities. This external interest has therefore helped boost cycling in Denmark.
Who can attend: Anyone
Associated staff: Dave Horton
Keywords: Bicycling, Cycling, Mobilities, Politics, Transportation, Travel
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