Bicycle Utopias: Imagining Fast and Slow Cycling Futures, 1st Edition (e-Book) book cover

Bicycle Utopias

Imagining Fast and Slow Cycling Futures, 1st Edition

By Cosmin Popan


202 pages

Purchasing Options:$ = USD
Hardback: 9781138389182
pub: 2018-12-04
SAVE ~$31.00
eBook (VitalSource) : 9780429424113
pub: 2019-01-15
from $28.98

FREE Standard Shipping!


Bicycle Utopias investigates the future of urban mobilities and post-car societies, arguing that the bicycle can become the nexus around which most human movement will revolve. Drawing on literature on post-car futures (Urry 2007; Dennis and Urry 2009), transition theory (Geels et al. 2012) and utopian studies (Levitas 2010, 2013), this book imagines a slow bicycle system as a necessary means to achieving more sustainable mobility futures.

The imagination of a slow bicycle system is done in three ways:

  • Scenario building to anticipate how cycling mobilities will look in the year 2050.
  • A critique of the system of automobility and of fast cycling futures.
  • An investigation of the cycling senses and sociabilities to describe the type of societies that such a slow bicycle system will enable.

Bicycle Utopias will appeal to students and scholars in fields such as sociology, mobilities studies, human geography and urban and transport studies. This work may also be of interest to advocates, activists and professionals in the domains of cycling and sustainable mobilities.


What might an urban cycling future look like? This book makes a unique contribution to the sociology of mobilities and mobile methods with a critical and creative examination of where we are and where we could be. Popan questions the normative dominance of ‘fast’ urban mobilities, namely the utopian promise of the car, with his thorough and in-depth analysis of ‘slow’ cycling cultures. This timely investigation of post-automobility futures challenges the reader to imagine the possibilities of different sensory, embodied and social worlds.

Kat Jungnickel, Goldsmiths, University of London, author of Bikes and Bloomers: Victorian Women Inventors and Their Extraordinary Cycle Wear

This book impressively explores so many dimensions of changing bicycle mobilities—among them economics, policy, cultural meaning, embodiment, identity, sociability, and technology—that it is a must-read. It is also a unique and forward-thinking book, weaving together innovative methods, critical analysis, and utopian thinking to envision a future ‘slow bicycle system,’ and, more importantly, the actions and changes necessary in the present to construct that future. Cosmin Popan is a sophisticated guide through these complicated issues, and one cannot but admire the ambition and accomplishment here.

Luis Vivanco, University of Vermont, author of Reconsidering the Bicycle: An Anthropological Perspective on a New (Old) Thing

Where cycling receives massive attention in policy circles and academic discussion, by and large cycling is seen as an extension of existing paradigms. Using familiar concepts, language and tools cycling seems to be just another, long neglected member of our mobility family. But is it? With this book Cosmin Popan asks this question and proposes to use the inherent unique characteristics of cycling to challenge our existing, fundamental notions of mobility. By doing that, he presents us with much needed and refreshing thoughts on how cycling can be used to open our minds to different futures than we currently imagine.

Marco te Brommelstroet, Associate Professor in Urban Planning, University of Amsterdam

In his book, Dr Popan shows how using bicycles and going slow are not just a part of romantic scenes but rather indispensable characteristics of an improved way of life that replaces the mistaken view of ‘speed is efficiency’. It emphasizes the crucial role of the bicycle in urban mobility and boldly proposes steps to integrate this vehicle into a wider understanding of cities within the framework of a post-automobility, slow-living Utopia.

Carlosfelipe Pardo, Executive Director,

This timely book sets out to examine how a new ontology of urban mobility (the things that we consider important in defining how we move around) may arise out of the study of contemporary embodied and social practices of cycling. In doing so the book will be of interest to scholars of mobilities, cycling and cycle activists more broadly. Situating the current system of automobility in the systems of late capitalism the chapters in the book use ethnographic observations and a very subjective view from the saddle to demonstrate how slower and seemingly chaotic practices of cycling might be seen as a prefigurative blueprint for a mobility system of tomorrow. Imagining a shift from a situation where speed, time, isolation and comfort dominate to one where slowness, openness, sensation and convenience come to the fore, the book cleverly use the conceit of a utopia to imagine how a shift might come about if only we started to value our experiences of mobility differently. Whilst the book has perhaps less to say about the broader attitudinal, governmental and planning shifts required for such a state of affairs to arise, it does well to start us down a road where our mobility systems might be derived from our sensory and social experiences of moving rather than those imposed upon us by the broader demands of capital accumulation and the legacies of automobility.

Justin Spinney, Lecturer in Human Geography, School of Geography and Planning, Cardiff University

A thought-provoking read, encouraging us to imagine the policy and social transformations that could change cycle use from now to 2050. Cosmin is also not afraid to challenge, there is plenty here that I might agree with, and even some that I feel the need to argue with, but it is always well thought through and researched.

Kevin Mayne, Development Director, European Cyclists' Federation

Popan combines a critique of automobility with a sketch of a post-car future involving widespread bicycle use. This bicycle utopia is masterfully displayed and provides a signpost for our transport and urban planners. An exceptional and original reworking of future studies in sociology, linked to tractable and everyday ideas. The future could be on two wheels (if we have the courage to make it so).

Simon Batterbury, Chair in Political Ecology at Lancaster Environment Centre

Table of Contents

Chapter 1, Prologue: Imagining a slow bicycle system

The new ‘structure of feeling’

The end of neoliberalism: embracing the slow

The urban form

Bike + train + cargo = love

Cycling as mobility policy

From subculture to culture

The bicycle economy and big data

Know-how and technology transfer

Innovations in bicycles and accessories

Broader societal and economic changes

Steps from 2016 to 2050

Chapter 2, Introduction: Tips of the cycling iceberg

Chapter 3: How to imagine biketopias

Utopia as method

Conclusions: Enacting the social

Chapter 4: Beyond autopia

The elephant in the city

From autopia to Carmageddon

Electric, autonomous, networked, shared

The mobility growth paradigm

Going car-free

Careless car-free?

Conclusions: Beyond cars, beyond growth

Chapter 5: Utopias, dystopias, biketopias

In praise of slowness

Early biketopias of modernity and progress

Fast cycling for urban regeneration and growth

Slow bicycle utopias

Mad Max on a bike

Convivial biketopias

Bike spaces of hope

Conclusions: A break from growth

Chapter 6: Senses

On growing pedals

Velomobility at a glance

Grow ears, awaken the whole body

Working the inner body: balance and movement

Pain festivities: ‘sufferfest’

How to achieve eurhythmia?

Conclusions: Flowing towards eudaimonia

Chapter 7: Sociabilities

Cycling as interaction order and sociable practice

The Ride-Formation

Swarm sociabilities

Conversation sociabilities

Carnivalesque sociabilities

Club sociabilities

The chain-gang

The accordion

Conclusions: Fluid Ride-Formations

Chapter 8: Slowness

Need for speed

Tactics of slowness

Affecting the slow

Slowness, sufficiency, de-growth

Conclusions: A norm of sufficiency

Chapter 9: Conclusions


About the Author

Cosmin Popan is Research Assistant in the Department of Sociology at Manchester Metropolitan University

About the Series

Changing Mobilities

This series explores the transformations of society, politics and everyday experiences wrought by changing mobilities, and the power of mobilities research to inform constructive responses to these transformations. As a new mobile century is taking shape, international scholars explore motivations, experiences, insecurities, implications and limitations of mobile living, and opportunities and challenges for design in the broadest sense, from policy to urban planning, new media and technology design. With world citizens expected to travel 105 billion kilometres per year in 2050, it is critical to make mobilities research and design inform each other.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General