Bicycle Utopias : Imagining Fast and Slow Cycling Futures book cover
1st Edition

Bicycle Utopias
Imagining Fast and Slow Cycling Futures

ISBN 9781138389182
Published December 4, 2018 by Routledge
202 Pages

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Book Description

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.

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


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



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