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
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
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
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
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, Despacio.org
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