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Utopias of fast and slow cycling

Research output: Contribution to conference - Without ISBN/ISSN Conference paper

Published
Publication date8/09/2017
Original languageEnglish
EventCycling and Society Annual Symposium - London
Duration: 7/09/20178/02/2018
https://www.cyclingandsociety.org

Conference

ConferenceCycling and Society Annual Symposium
CityLondon
Period7/09/178/02/18
Internet address

Abstract

Historically, cycling has nurtured a multitude of competing, sometimes even conflicting, visions about what represents the 'good society'. Indeed, the bicycle is 'a complex socio-technical object whose meanings and uses are shaped variously through its histories, production and uses' (Vivanco 2013: 26). As such, the bicycle utopias meant different things to different people at different times in history.

In late 1800s, cycling was mainly a bourgeois pastime, while the bicycle was associated with aspirations of modernity and progress (Furness 2010; Reid 2015). Conversely, the first half of the last century has witnessed a democratisation of the practice, particularly driven by feminist and socialist dreams, while in the second half environmentalist and anarchist movements kept the hopes of cycling futures alive (Horton 2006). Today, cycling is inspiring visions of sustainability, urban regeneration and getting economies back on track.

Drawing on research of contemporary cultural representations of cycling from literature, graphic novels and other artistic experimentations, as well as from policy documents such as cycling plans from London and from across Europe, this paper aims to unpack the form, content and function of current bicycle utopias (Levitas 2013). In doing so, I argue that aspirations of truly 'sharing cities' can only be achieved once the utopian promises of fast and seamless mobilities, as well as their associated hopes of unfettered economic growth, are challenged upfront.