1st Edition

Cycling Activism Bike Politics and Social Movements

By Peter Cox Copyright 2024
    302 Pages 6 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    302 Pages 6 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    The first full-length study of cycling activism through the lens of social movement theory, this book demonstrates that, despite tremendous differences, bike activism can be understood as a continuous and connected activity spanning a century and a half and across continents. With examples from street protest to institutional lobbying, it emphasises cycling’s current central importance to zero carbon transport futures, while showing that cycling activism is also not always about the bike or the cyclist, as successive generations of activists have used cycling to articulate different visions of freedom and autonomy. Moving from a consideration of social movement theory as a means to understand cycling activism, the author presents a series of case studies of collective action, organisations, networks and campaigns in order to illustrate and elaborate a theoretical model through which diverse campaigns and approaches to change can be understood. As such, Cycling Activism will appeal to those with interests in mobilisation for social change, mobility and transport studies, and social movement theory, as well as cycling studies.




    A Genealogy


    Cycling as Politics

    A note on language

    Section One: Theorising movement activism

    1) Cycling activism and social movements

    Introduction: Why Cycling activism?

    Cycling practices

    Understanding collective action

    Defining social movements

    Context of analysis

    Cycling studies

    Social movement studies and the politics of knowledge

    Configuring a research question


    2) Movements, Mobilities and Messy Methods


    Defining the field of study: cycling is not a "social movement"

    Framing activism

    Why take action? Achieving goals or simply "being"?

    Mobilities and Movement(s)

    Social change and agency

    Effective action or efficacious activity?

    Campaigns and organisations versus lived experience

    What is research into social movements for?

    Locating the research and outlining method

    Ethical reflexivity in cycling studies


    3) Models of social change

    Introduction: Finding an appropriate interpretative lens

    The political subject and practical difficulties of definition

    Contentious politics and machismo

    Beyond a focus on the state

    Outlining an analytical framework

    The way of reason and the way of subjectivity

    What is the purpose of change?

    Change theories in cycling activism

    Radar plotting as a tool for analysis and action

    Change theories explored




    Institutional change




    Separating change theories from tactical repertoires

    Further thoughts on prefiguration


    4) Ethics, embodiment and experience in social movement research


    Reflexive research ethics

    Activists, academics and knowledge

    Decolonising social movements research

    Rearguard intellectuals

    Practical applications


    The corpus and the body as epistemological locations

    The body and marginality

    Emotions and actions

    The limits of political analysis

    Experiential knowledges

    Conclusion: towards an ecology of knowledges

    5) Post-hegemonic pluralism, everyday resistance and telling stories


    Post-hegemonic pluralism in cycling activism

    Connecting the elements

    Metaphors matter: seeds and bubbles

    Bubbles and political alternatives

    Infrapolitics and hidden transcripts

    Lifestyle movements

    Lifestyle activism and bourgeois individualism

    Quiet activism

    Everyday (quotidian) resistance

    Collective action without intentionality

    Rhetorical agency

    Making Stories

    Thinking about the past and using history

    Stories and biography in movements


    Section Two: Stories of cycle activism

    Introducing the case studies

    Advocacy is politics

    Explaining the case studies

    A note on referencing

    6) The historic politics of UK cycle activism

    Cycles, technology and politics in the latter years of the long nineteenth century

    Context: cycling and political activism

    The formation of the CTC and its first advocacy

    The Road Improvement Association and the Road Board

    Industry activism and conservatism

    Enclosing the commons of the road

    Road deaths in the 1930s

    Cycle path controversies

    Changing tactics: making protest public

    Analysing interwar campaigning by the CTC

    Post war campaigns: boom, bust and an uncertain voice


    7) Transport Politics, Urbanism, Technology and Counterculture

    Changing landscapes of transport policy

    The New Left, 1968 and the Right to the City

    The emergence of political environmentalism

    UK transport politics

    Anti-roads campaigning

    Bicycle Activism Before the Energy Crisis

    The dilemma

    Paris 1972 and Richard’s Bicycle Book

    Cycling and appropriate technology

    After the energy crisis

    8) Environmentalism, innovation and entrepreneurship


    Environmentalism and ecopolitics


    Meanwhile, back in the real world…

    CTC: constructing environments of cycling

    Leisure, pleasure and politics

    Building a DIY cycling counterculture

    Industry, innovation, design

    Spreading the word, shaping the image

    Cycle festivals

    Wider significance: innovation and change


    9) Cycle activism and public space

    Critical Mass


    Interpreting mass actions: carnival and heterotopia

    The right to the city: rethinking rights-based campaigning

    Insurgent public spaces and tactical urbanism

    Cycling through the Covid-19 pandemic


    10) Activism in political space: institutions and internationalism


    ECF and international cycle advocacy

    Antecedents – International organisation for cycle tourism (and sport)

    Formation of the ECF

    Changing governance: changing advocacy

    From national cycling organisations representation to Brussels

    ECF Projects


    Cycling and the SDGs

    EU cycling economy

    The Pan-European Masterplan

    Academia and activism in Brazil

    Feminist cycling research and activism

    Background to Brazil’s upsurge in cycle activism

    Challenging problem frameworks


    11) Supporting everyday resistance, diversity and inclusion


    Everyday cycling: just riding

    Action on diversity

    Connecting varieties of activism

    Cycling and autonomy

    Bike kitchens and velonomy

    Women’s voices in cycle activism

    Ghost bikes and emotions

    Placing everyday resistance in a larger framework



    Peter Cox is Professor of Sociology at the University of Chester, UK. He is the author of Cycling: A Sociology of Vélomobility and Moving People: Sustainable Transport Development, editor of Cycling Cultures and co-editor of The Politics of Cycling Infrastructure, Cycling and Society, and the Routledge Companion to Cycling.