Abstract, but not art

This week I submitted an abstract. Weehey! And I trained (Grad School), trained (EndNote), trained (technical lecture, inspiring seminar, fruitful meetings with fellows, friends and colleagues, co-conspirators). Listening. Learning. And quite a bit of laughing together too.

It’s great to meet and chat to so many enthused and enthusing people, buzzing brains, with witty wisdoms to share too. Campus life. Challenging, critiquing, critical. Since the submitted abstract (did I mention I submitted an abstract?) presents an early hazy ‘sort of cristallisation’ of my direction of travel and focus for further work, I copy it here for your perusal:

There is increasing evidence on the importance of contextual factors that help or hinder cycling behaviours (Pucher & Bühler 2013). This paper argues that the urban environment has a strong influence in the decision to cycle and become a ‘cyclist’. For example, it has been demonstrated that allocation of space to cycling can be linked to a higher cycle share (Crist 2013). It is argued here that the decision to cycle is made subliminally / subconsciously by the dictating message of the urban environment. If there is limited or unsafe space, fast roads with heavy vehicle traffic, then the cycling constituency will be low as the situation only appeals to part of the population (young, male). On the other hand, protected cycleways are enabling inclusive demographics (Pooley et al. 2011) to participate in the urban context. Recent evidence from ‘cycle conversion’ cities, Seville and New York, fits this narrative. This relationship is particularly important in the context of continuing national and local trends to ‘encourage more people to cycle’ and the emphasis on making cycling appealing to a much broader demographic base.

Philippe Crist (2013) presentation at Go Dutch conference in Newcastle http://newcycling.org/lcgd-crist-video-and-slides/ pp35

It becomes clear when looking at space provided for cycling (cycle tracks and lanes) that the cycle space shows a good positive relationship to the bike mode share. More cycle space, more (people) cycling. It’s also interesting to look at gender splits amongst the cycling constituency itself (and I will write about that later).

Crist 2013 (slide 43, adapted) - speaking at Go Ducth Conference in Newcastle

Adapted slide from Crist 2013 speaking at Go Dutch Conference in Newcastle 2013 (slide 43)

And besides the smart urban planning, hard engineering and soft landscaping task – yes, cities will have to get (re)organised if they are serious about the transport transition. Many UK cities’ transport and planning policy has been demanding ‘moves away from the car’ (for more than 20 years in Newcastle, at least). Organisations’ structures (budgets and teams) must reflect the sincerity of policy wording – to get the ‘leadership from the front’ that UWAC so clearly highlighted is currently patchy and missing (Pooley et al, 2011).

I am glad the Chronicle picked up on this high-level need and wrote an article about it – thanks, Sonia. Only that my super supervisor may now be feeling a little bit precarious, as our discussion (how to unpick or merge activism & academia) is continuing. And rightly so.

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2 thoughts on “Abstract, but not art

  1. One nitpick: I wouldn’t say the situation is “appealing” to young males, as statistically very few of that demographic choose cycling over other modes. Rather, for those young males that do cycle, the situation hasn’t (yet) slipped into being deemed unappealing.

    From one civil engineer to another, best of luck with your study. I look forward to seeing what you come up with.

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    1. Quite right. Point happily taken. It becomes apparent when looking at total numbers (which I hope to do sooner or later). I hope that the outputs, findings and outcomes from my project will have some bearing on politicial/policy/social discourse, yes.

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