I have been meaning to put up abstracts for these two papers, submitted to journals at the end of last year (still waiting to hear back). The first is developed from the ‘Proper Cyclist’ talk I gave at Lancaster last September at Bicycle Politics. The second, co-written with Kat, is about group cycle rides as mobile public spaces. As these papers are under consideration for publication, I can’t put them up here, but if you would like a personal copy of either, please email me.
‘Incompetent, or too competent? Negotiating everyday cycling identities in a motor dominated society’.
This paper uses the sociological concept of stigma to frame a discussion of cycling identities. It begins by considering why we should be interested in cycling and identity, and why we might expect cycling identities in the UK to be constructed as deviant and hence stigmatised. A central puzzle of the paper is the tension between two apparently conflicting paradigms: cycling constructed as a deviant behaviour, and cycling constructed as a sporty or healthy behaviour. This plays out, the paper argues, into narratives about cycling identities where stigma is experienced in two ways: being a bad cyclist or being a proper cyclist, with the former cast as incompetent and the latter too competent. Being a cyclist is a balancing act in more ways than one, as both carry their own identity threats.
The paper demonstrates how cyclists adopt various strategies to deal with this dual stigma including the internalisation of stigma. In diverse ways cyclists manage or resist being cast as stigmatised and/or sporty, as although sport is seen as a socially valued practice it is simultaneously seen as inappropriate for ordinary people engaged in transportation. The paper concludes that within motor dominated societies surviving as a cyclist is existentially challenging. This is important both for policy debates about encouraging cycling, and for sociological debates around identity. The paper makes the case for transport to be taken seriously as generating problematic social identities alongside social inequalities in an automobile age.
Negotiating mobile places between ‘leisure’ and ‘transport’: a case study of two group cycle rides
This paper explores how group cycle rides produce particular types of mobile places, involving distinctive forms of public sociability and of re-making local environments. Our paper focuses on weekend group leisure riding, a mobility practice where the main aim of participants may be ‘leisure’ but most infrastructure used is designated for ‘transport’, generating distinctive purposes and practices. We discuss two such rides, one from Hull into the East Yorkshire countryside and one in London. Data (field notes, visual and GPS records) is drawn upon to analyse positioning and communication, comparing and contrasting the two rides. External (including motor traffic flow and route type) and internal (including group composition and experience) factors shape the relationship between the riders and their ride, and hence the space that they co-create. Cyclists riding in groups create flexible social spaces, which variously challenge, mimic and adapt to the dominance of motor traffic on such routes.