Thoughts on the history of bike activism and its future

Re-reading parts of Dave Horton’s wonderful article he states “the importance of the bicycle to anarchism and environmentalism has to do with its relevance to questions of pace and scale” (my emphasis) – this sentence made be stop and think. Dave also describes the cycling movement relating to a socialist and a feminist worldviews. There are clear and stark differences in how cycling has been framed over time and by various supplicants and advocates. Whilst the political movements of “anarchism and environmentalism” concentrate on the ability of “pace and scale”, the other political movements of socialism and feminism had foregrounded inclusion and liberation.

What seems to be decidedly missing from any of those wishes and hopes however is the clear contestation of spatial inequalities. Perhaps these are now such a simple part of modern now car-filled lives and were less obvious when the motor car started to creep in, annoy and endanger, then infringe before taking over spaces and places. After the car was routinely installed, socialists and feminists may have succumbed and became somewhat complicit in the act of the ‘vehement vandalism by motor vehicle’. They switched to being car users themselves which left the more politically deviant anarchists and environmentalists to construct their arguments around societal and political inequalities, but again less rigorously so spatial ones.

Dave continues “These social movements [anarchism and environmentalism] thus oppose automobility and instead celebrate the slower mobilities of foot and bike. They want not more, but less mobility.” Contesting the cause and root of the problem, automobility, is I think a sound starting point. But I propose that for it to become realised and implementable it is in need to be much more strongly supplemented with aspects of urban design and spatial reorganisation. Dave also states “there is perhaps a need to challenge the current globally dispersed bicycle industry […] , and ultimately to contribute to sustainable, local modes of production”. And here might also lie the seed to fruitfully germinate a stronger and greener shoot for future cycling. To firmly ground cycle activism and include the elements of spatial design, we, still, need to build strong advocacy communities, on local and on national levels. For transport cycling to advance in the face of its spatial contestant, automobility, cycling’s voice needs a clear focussed message and a common voice. This, naturally, needs coordination and cash.

It is a good time now for industry and advocacy to discuss closer ties, incontestably linked to cycleway activism and spatial renovation.

I maintain and advise that women have the perfect pitch for spatial justice. Women, through the daily experience and general socialisation, have stories to tell, and relevant ills to be remedied. There is focus on cause, coordination and community, not personal ability and strength. Fronting campaigns for cycleways with women is a winner. Man, the strong cycling man, would do well ponder this, listen intently, then step aside and make space as soon as women voices are audible. Then amplify them.

2 thoughts on “Thoughts on the history of bike activism and its future

  1. Have you ever thought of writing in clear language, instead of using lots of fancy academic jargon which at best uses 10 words where one would do, at worst is as vacuous as some of the ‘thoughts’ you love to put out there? Your pretentious posturing is offputting to me and a lot of other women (and men) I know.

    Start to reform by looking up the word ‘deviant’, which doesn’t mean what you seem to think it does.


  2. Jane B – you are *terribly* rude. This is a blog written by a social science academic, using social science language. I would imagine that her intended audience is people who are reasonably ok with her manner of expression. Blog writers are writing for *free* – they can write how they like, for whatever pruypose they like, they don’t have to care about getting “likes” or approval if they don’t want to/

    There are plenty of cycling blogs written in a more accessible manner, and what you’ve just said is similar to commenting “helpfully” on the appearance of a random stranger in the street.


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