7th Cycling and Society Symposium and Workshop
6-7 September 2010, School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford


Welcome to the 7th Cycling and Society Symposium website. The 2010 Symposium was hosted by the Transport Studies Unit at the School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, on Monday the 6th September 2010.

The 7th Cycling and Society Symposium offered critical perspectives on the subject matter from a broad variety of disciplines. Twelve papers were presented across four themed sessions followed by plenty of discussion. The Symposiums are of interest to academics, policy makers and advocates who like to think more critically and creatively about the practice of cycling in its broadest sense. This year nearly 60 people from across different disciplines attended the Symposium.

On the morning of Tuesday 7th September there was also a workshop for the Cycling and Society Research Group, during which an open discussion was held involving the wider cycling research community.

The Cycling and Society symposium series was launched in 2004 at Lancaster University, with subsequent meetings at the Universities of Cardiff (2005), Chester (2006), at the offices of the Cyclists' Touring Club (CTC) Guildford (2007), University of West of England (2008) and University of Bolton (2009). The symposia are linked to the Cycling and Society Research Group whose members span many disciplines and approaches to the study of cycling. An edited collection of papers presented at earlier symposia was published in the book Cycling and Society (eds. Horton, Rosen & Cox, 2007) by Ashgate as part of its Transport and Society Series.

Symposium Programme on Monday 6th September

There were four sessions of three papers of 20 minutes duration, with twenty minutes after each session for discussion. A full programme of speakers, presentations and audio recordings of their talks are provided below.

09.00Registration and Coffee
09.30-09.40Introduction and Welcome
09.30Welcome to Oxford
Prof. David Banister, University of Oxford
09.35Introduction to 7th Cycling and Society Symposium
Dr Tim Jones, University of Oxford.
09.40-11.00Session One: Velomobile Encounters and Interactions
Chair: Henrietta Sherwin, University of West of England.
09.40Cycling in London: All the Rage
Laura Golbuff, UCL.
10.00Enacting Mobile Claims to Space: The Choreography of Encounters Between Cyclists and Non-Cyclists
Katrina Brown, Macaulay Institute.
10.20Inhabiting Infrastructure: How Architectures, Rhythms and Crowds Affect and Effect London's Commuter Cyclists
Peter Wood, UCL.
10.40Session One Discussion
11.00Morning Coffee Break
11.20-12.40Session Two: Gender and Lifecourse
Chair: Tim Jones, University of Oxford.
11.20Applying the Life Course Approach to Walking and Cycling
Heather Jones, K. Chatterjee and S. Gray, UWE.
11.40Women Returning to Cycling/Bike Riding
Jennifer Bonham, University of Adelaide.
12.00Cycling Circles: Gender and Social Influences in UK Cycling
Anja Dalton, J. Powell, G. Parkhurst and P. Pilkington, UWE.
12.20Session Two Discussion
12.40Hot Buffet Lunch
13.40-15.00Session Three: Cycling (Sub)Cultures
Chair: Dave Horton, Lancaster University.
13.40Geographies of Urban Cycling: Investigating the Relations Between Body, Technology and Space
Samuel Johns, University of Oxford.
14.00Bicycling as a Way of Life: A Comparative Case Study of Urban Bike Culture in Amsterdam and Portland, OR
Peter Pelzer, University of Amsterdam.
14.20"Nattering" and "Silly Little Things": Informal Encounters, Everyday Connections and Local Characters in Cycle Campaigning in Hull
Katrina Jungnickel and R. Aldred, University of East London.
14.40Session Three Discussion
15.00Afternoon Tea
15.20-16.50Session Four: Theory into Practice
Chair: John Parkin, London South Bank University.
15.20Understanding 'Best Practice' Heuristic: Implications for Active Travel
James Macmillen, University of Oxford.
15.40The Effective Use of Social Capital in Cycling Scheme Development
Brian Deegan, London Borough of Camden.
16.00The Research and Evaluation Needs of the Third Sector in the Big Society: A Sustrans / Cycling Perspective
Andy Cope, Sustrans.
16.20Session Four Discussion
16.50Closing Remarks, Details of Dinner and Next Day Workshop
Dr Tim Jones, University of Oxford.
Tuesday 7th September - Cycling and Society Research Group Workshop
Chair: Dr Tim Jones, University of Oxford
09.30-12.30Agenda will be decided amongst attendees but could include discussion on the previous day's papers; emerging themes; methodological approaches to understanding cycling and society; contributions from participants involved in major funded research projects with a focus on cycling; general sharing of knowledge; and importantly, establishing a host for the 8th Cycling and Society Symposium in 2011. Mid morning coffee provided.


Cycling in London: All the Rage

Golbuff, L.

This paper reports the findings of my recent MSc dissertation on the phenomenon of 'cycling rage' in London. One conclusion of the research pointed to the contrasting ways in which emotion and reason are employed to represent cycling in London. On one side, sensationalist accusations of deviance. On the other, protectionist policies aimed at getting more people back on the bike (because cycling's good for you, your pocketbook, the environment, etc.). Occupying the narrow space in between, the meaningful but mundane contents of the daily journey. One-to-one interviews were used to develop meanings of the central research question, what conditions stimulate emotion related to cycling in London? Twenty-eight cyclists, drivers, those who cycle and drive as well as those who neither cycle nor drive, were asked to describe what does cycling rage mean to you? Drawing on historical representations of cycling promotion, as well as actor-network theory and socio-psychological accounts of deviance and road rage, individual accounts of people and place were examined for common themes. One of those themes was the disjuncture between promotional representations of cycling and the cycling experience itself (including non-cyclists interacting with cyclists). Perceived as being 'out of touch' with the emotive daily journey, rationalised representations of cycling have the potential to backfire by alienating their audience, triggering cynicism, scepticism and a lack of confidence in political will - and all this despite recent high profile policy and promotional efforts aimed to increase cycling in the capital. This research is therefore relevant to those developing messages to reach and be accepted by cyclists and would-be cyclists alike.

Enacting Mobile Claims to Space: The Choreography of Encounters between Cyclists and Non-Cyclists

Brown, K.

Legal entitlements for cycling are usually conditional on the convergences of bodies, bikes and spaces being choreographed in particular ways. These are often based on particular notions of responsible or citizen-like behaviour and can be highly contested. Rights to space are therefore enacted and negotiated as much through everyday, embodied practices of cycling as they are through official legal procedures. Drawing on an ethnographic study of outdoor access rights in Scotland, this paper focuses on actual sites and moments of bodily encounters between cyclists and non-cyclists (e.g. walkers, horse-riders and land managers) to see how mobile claims to space are asserted and resisted in and through practice. Here claims are contested through a struggle over what counts as 'responsible' and 'irresponsible' behaviour. In this paper I examine some of the key mechanisms through which such boundaries are drawn in practice, as the law is mobilised in combination with various representations and (bodily and emotional) experiences of cyclists/cycling. These are explored with particular attention to the mobilisation of speed, rhythm, technology, bodily techniques and comportment, pleasure and pain, confidence and intimidation, in disciplining cycling bodies.

Inhabiting Infrastructure; how Architectures, Rhythms and Crowds Affect and Effect London's Commuter Cyclists

Wood, P.

As London's cycling renaissance proceeds apace, this paper documents how urban commuter cyclists affectively interact with their transport infrastructures and other road users. It questions conceptions of cyclists as atomic, independent individuals, investigates how the requirements of cycling might necessitate a more diffuse conception of agency, and suggests how this might practically impact cyclists and transport professionals.

It firstly describes three exemplary situations: the rhythms and flows of cycling in traffic, the following of road-markings, and the differences between cycling alone and cycling within groups. These examples develop understandings of how cyclists hybridise and interact with other phenomena physically and affectively larger than the individual, making links to nonrepresentational theory (Thrift 2008), social practice (Shove and Pantzar 2005) and their common constellation of concerns in the pre-cognitive, habitual and embodied.

This used a mixture of "ride-along" ethnographic methods and subsequent video-elicitation interviews to produce data detailing precisely how cyclists affectively react to on-road phenomena. 2010 sees the advent of large infrastructural changes such as the "Barclays Cycle Hire", "Barclays Cycle Superhighways" and "Visible London" projects, alongside widespread increases in cycling rates. This paper aims to develop understandings of affect and embodied skill which can directly inform analysis of these policies' effects.

Applying the Life Course Approach to Walking and Cycling

Jones, H. Chatterjee, K. and Gray, S.

This paper introduces PhD research that will explore the application of the life course perspective to develop a more complete appreciation of the continuity and change in walking and cycling behaviour over the life course of individuals. Studies of travel behaviour have been criticised for invoking static representations of reality that prime research to explain behaviour in terms of present factors rather than as the product of human development across the lifespan. A lack of longitudinal data on walking and cycling obstructs this type of insight.

The life course perspective is a theoretical orientation used for the study of human development and aging. It can be distilled into five principles: human agency, lifelong development, timing, socio-historical context and interdependent lives. The life course framework is applied in this research using life story interviews, comprising a biographical life history grid followed by a semi-structured interview, to reconstruct the subject's walking and cycling career. These accounts are understood as interpretations of the past, constructed in the present with an eye on the future. Interviews will be conducted with adults born between 1946 and 1950 and a subset will be conducted with their adult children to explore inter-generational influence in walking and cycling careers.

It has been said that the Baby Boom generation are entering retirement healthier and wealthier than any generation before and will be pioneers of a new experience of ageing. The paper illustrates the methodology with emergent findings from pilot interviews. This research seeks to understand how this age group narrates their walking and cycling careers and how they envisage this will change in retirement. It is anticipated that some narratives may conflict with the traditional view of ageing as a time to become less active, with some participants expressing an expectation of maintaining or increasing their levels of activity.

Women Returning to Cycling/Bike Riding

Bonham, J.

Women constitute only a small proportion of cyclists in Australia, on average 20% of bike journeys are made by women, but several cycling surveys show high levels of 'latent demand' amongst women for cycling (Bonham and Clement 2005; Garrard et al. 2006). These studies report that women want to cycle to improve their health and wellbeing but are discouraged from doing so because of a lack of time and the safety issues related to traffic and motorist behaviour. Informed by these findings, the research reported on in this paper examined the experiences of women returning to bike riding. Many Australian women learn to ride bicycles as children but give up riding through their life course. Following from this, there is a large pool of women with basic bike skills who might be enticed back to cycling. A qualitative study was established to investigate the experiences of women who had returned to cycling after a lengthy break. It was expected that the insights from this research could assist other women who wanted to take up cycling. The research method provided for three different levels of participation: single in-depth interview; two interviews - one at the beginning of the study and another after 4 months of riding; tracking participants over four months through interviews, journal entries and footage from bike mounted video cameras culminating in a focus group with all respondents in this group. This paper reports on one aspect of the research: cycling over the life course. Contrary to expectations, most women had a 'stop - start - stop - start' history of cycling: they started cycling when they were young then stopped cycling at particular 'life' moments only to take it up again later on and so on. This paper explores those stop-start moments, the circumstances that made them stop cycling, why they returned to it, how they speak and think about themselves as cyclists and how cycling fits together with other mobility practices.

Cycling Circles: Gender and Social Influence in UK Cycling

Dalton, A., Powell, J., Parkhurst, G. & Pilkington, P.

Currently, in the UK, women are distinctly under-represented as members of the cycling community. Less than one third of trips by bike are made by females. Women can then be construed as missing out on many important health benefits (reduced risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and depression, increased fitness and wellbeing) and also social benefits (enjoyment, freedom and independence of movement) which cycling can confer. Yet many women are presently not persuaded to take to two wheels and are, therefore, not highly visible as cyclists.

This paper will reveal early findings from a PhD research project, conducted in Bristol in Spring/Summer 2010, as to the factors which may discourage women from cycling. It will explore the differences in perceptions of cycling between men and women and highlight the most significant reasons for low rates of cycling amongst females. These may include; a lack of interest, lack of widespread facilities for cycling, safety concerns (personal and/or motorised traffic), body image/consciousness and the lack of an inclusive cycling culture.

Using qualitative methods, and with a focus on behavioural theories and social influence, the paper will examine gender differences and analyse the barriers to increased female participation in utility and leisure cycling. The methodology used is novel in a transport context and draws on Social Network Analysis. The first stage consists of semi-structured interviews with men and women who are existing cyclists, whilst the second stage will investigate the impacts of their cycling behaviours upon members of their social circles; families, friends/peer groups and colleagues.

The research will explore how the cyclists may have influenced those around them and the potential this may have to create a 'virtuous circle' of cycling behaviour. The results of this study will inform future policy efforts aimed at encouraging greater levels of cycling, especially by women, in order to move towards a more inclusive cycling culture in the UK.

Geographies of Urban Cycling: Investigating the Relations between Body, Technology and Space

Johns, S.

Recent geographical study has examined the body as a space of research and its interactions with forms of technology. Actor network theory, emotional and affective geographies, non-representational theories and studies of kinaesthetic embodiment have conceptualised the hybrid assemblages formed between bodies and technology, within which both forms of agency are entangled. Yet experiential geographies have often overlooked the kinaesthetic assemblages formed by the coming together of such hybrid actants. In mobility practice this is manifested in the content of the line between A→B, with body and bike producing embodied rhythms and kinaesthetic sensations through hybridity. This dissertation examines such experiential spaces produced by the kinaesthetic activity of fixed wheel riding, drawing together a range of discourses in an empirical context.

The investigation is driven by three central research questions:

  • What are the origins of fixed wheel bikes and how has the growth in a marginal sub-culture resulted in a widespread urban fashion?
  • Why do people ride 'fixies' and what kind of experiential geographies are produced by such kinaesthetic assemblages?
  • How do the outcomes and consequences of this hybridised practice impact upon urban cycling in general?

Utilising Oxford as a site of study, the manufacturer Fellia producing 'CREATE' fixies will be employed as a case study of the commodification of technology, affective experience and identity. Acknowledging the limitations of conventional research methodologies, go-along interviews and video ethnography will be used to explore the hybrid actant within the creation of capitalist worlds, notably their inhabitation through both consumption and production. Running throughout this discussion is the theme of dialectical tensions, exemplified in the conflicting forces of hard and soft policies, top-down and bottom-up approaches, and riding fixed as a gendered practice. Circularity and sphericality are also central to this research, as linear modes of urban transport are critiqued in view of sustainable forms across three perpetual dialogues, engaging kinaesthetic activity and representational networks.

Bicycling as a Way of Life: A Comparative Case Study of Urban Bike Culture in Amsterdam and Portland, OR.

Pelzer, P.

Interest for bicycling has grown steadily in academic research over the last decade. Most quantitative studies from the field of Transport Geography work well to assess the impact of physical circumstances on bicycle use, but are not very sensitive to the cultural aspects of bicycling. Culturally orientated studies have this focus, but often neglect the importance of space. In this study I try to describe and explain urban bike culture by combining these insights. I argue that urban bike culture consists of three analytic categories: bicycle use, bicycle experience and bicycle identity. These are mutually influencing each other through a set of complex relations and shaped by cultural, regulatory and physical structures. The focus on these internal and external relations functions as a heuristic device to explore bicycle culture in a comparative case study of two famous bicycle cities: Amsterdam and Portland, OR. Sources are a secondary data analysis and in-depth interviews with bike users and experts. Preliminary findings suggest an important explanatory role for national culture. In Portland bicycling is a way to resist against the dominant American car culture, whereas in Amsterdam bicycling is perceived as an ordinary means of transportation and part of the Dutch culture. Spatial practices are also relevant; cyclists in Portland ride on a higher speed and hive more intense interactions with motorists than their counterparts in Amsterdam. The particularity of both cities should be taken into account; however, Portland is the American epicenter of sustainability and counter culture, whereas the extreme dense spatial outlook of Amsterdam gives the bike an advantage above other modes of transportation. Understanding bicycling as both a material practice and a social construct has potential for both academics and policy makers to provide both concrete and culturally sensitive insights.

"Nattering" and "Silly Little Things": Informal Encounters, Everyday Connections and Local Characters in Cycle Campaigning in Hull

Jungnickel, K. & Aldred, R.

This paper will draw on ethnographic and interview data on cycle campaigners in Hull (2010). It focuses on campaigners in both official and volunteer contexts, taking particular interest in the myriad of places, times and methods in and through which individuals do important work. While some of these practices take place in conventional formal meetings, many others occur in informal settings and at unusual times. Campaigners talk to people in the street. They stop to help strangers with punctures. They volunteer with different cycle groups in their spare time. They introduce people. They share news and tell of events. They make lists, keep records and write letters. These often serendipitous and largely undocumented "natterings" and "silly little things" have important consequences. This paper examines how small encounters and seemingly inconsequential events serve to generate and reinforce critical connections between people, ideas and things. It reflects upon the role of cycle campaigners as "local characters" with deeply embedded knowledge of people, places and things that together make and sustain these networks. Emerson (2009) draws attention to 'ordinary troubles' to highlight the routine, boring and often trivialised interactions that help to explain more dramatic events. In this case, a focus on "nattering" and "silly little things" brings to light not only the mundane activities that underpin successful cycling campaigning but also the persistence, patience and relentless pressure necessary to make change happen.

Understanding the 'Best Practice' Heuristic: Implications for Active Travel

Macmillen, J.

Over the last two decades, the notion of 'best practice' has become accepted into the standard lexicon of policy-making. Transport policy has not been exempt from this trend; 'best practice' approaches to its development, implementation and evaluation are replete at all scales of governance, and enjoy tacit support from a diverse array of policy actors. Drawing on a series of interviews with policy actors in the active travel community, this paper presents some initial findings from a small-scale research project that seeks to examine actors' conceptualisations of the 'best practice' notion as it relates to the development of walking and cycling policies. The broader implications of this phenomenon for projects of policy learning are considered.

The Effective Use of Social Capital in Cycling Scheme Development

Deegan, B.

Sherry Arnstein produced an eight rung ladder of citizen participation in 1969 which classified user engagement in three broad categories from non participation through tokenism towards citizen power. On the London Cycle Network project an effort was made to involve stakeholders at the earliest stage in the lifecycle of a scheme with the introduction of the strategic pre-feasibility CRISP (Cycle Route Implementation and Stakeholder Plan) process. The CRISP process involves assessing existing conditions for cycling then undertaking a Cycle Route Inspection Meeting (CRIM) with stakeholders to assess barriers to cycling and put forward recommendations for improvements. The traditional highway engineering method would be to put forward a feasibility design then consult with stakeholders and so the CRISP was revolutionary in this field. This paper will seek to look at how much the stakeholders were allowed to input in to the process and place it in the wider context of the citizen participation ladder. The latest iterations of the CRISP used on other cycling projects such as the Super-highways and Biking Borough projects attempt to take stakeholder participation further up the ladder with stakeholders working alongside consultants and devising their own highway assessment tools. An example of this would be the London Cycling Campaign's User Quality Assessment (UQA) tool which rates route from 1-4 for quality. This paper is an attempt to take some of the concepts and approaches discussed in a forthcoming paper by Deegan and Parkin and look at them in sociological rather than civil engineering terms. The Arnstein theory seems to be the perfect vehicle and framework to discuss social capital in cycling schemes in this way.

The Research and Evaluation Needs of the Third Sector in the Big Society: A Sustrans / Cycling Perspective

Cope, A.

The current political and economic climate carries manifold implications for the research sector and for the transport sector, and also for the third sector organisations tasked with the delivery of some elements of transport provision. Not the least of these is the need for increasing the capacity to generate compelling evidence of the effectiveness - or otherwise - of interventions.

Sustrans has been a very keen practitioner in terms of data collection for both monitoring and evaluation purposes. We have a long track record of generating material on a pragmatic, cost-effective basis, that may not have met academic standards of rigour, but which has been instrumental in the ability of the organisation to deliver and to evolve. In terms of research, Sustrans catalysed the EPSRC call entitled 'Cycling and walking for sustainable and healthy communities', in part to redress the balance and to seek to facilitate the generation of evidence that does satisfy academic standards. To this end, three major research projects are well underway.

In this paper, we will seek to outline the factors that are influencing the nature of the evidence that we are seeking generate, and the ways that we are seeking to use that information. We will punctuate the paper with numerous examples drawn from our evidence base.

Ultimately, we will seek to provide a context to what we hope will be a continuing debate about what the academic community might seek to contribute to the way in which cycling is delivered in forthcoming years, how best academics can support third sector organisations in the delivery of sound and effective interventions, and how those organisations can best support the needs of the research community.

Contact Information

  • Dr Tim Jones
    Transport Studies Unit, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford
    South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3QY, UK
    Tel: +44 (0)1865 285504
  • Sally Pepperall
    Transport Studies Unit, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford
    South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3QY, UK
    Tel: +44 (0)1865 285066