This presentation investigates how notions of speed and fast cycling located at the forefront of recent ‘cycle boom’ are entangled with visions of innovative mobilities and urban sustainability. The contemporary institutionally-driven push for cycling stems from concerns regarding health, pollution or global warming as well as from efforts to fight congestion, support urban regeneration and put economies back on track. Faster and seamless cycling mobilities are thus framed as innovations that keep our cities on the move while implicitly assisting their economic growth. The presentation uses a historical lens to problematise current and past discourses, practices and policies on cycling, speed and innovation while advancing slowness and a slow cycling utopia as a heuristic framework to reconsider cycling futures. It uses discourse analysis of past and present cultural representations of cycling, as well as analysis of policy documents to reveal power relations and question the underlying assumptions in currently trending visions of cycling. Two policy areas where cycling speed legitimises the ideology of economic growth are examined: the transport policies in London and the British cycling economy. Science-fiction literature, graphic novels and other artistic representations are alternatively used to suggest that slow cycling futures are equally possible. They are an invitation to imagine and outline alternatives to the current narratives and practices of speed embedded in late capitalist societies.
Dr Cosmin Popan is a Sociologist at Manchester Metropolitan University. His areas of interest are: mobility justice, sensuous and embodied geographies, political ecology, utopianism. He is the author of the book ‘Bicycle Utopias. Imagining Fast and Slow Cycling Futures’ (Routledge 2019). Cosmin is part of the Support Committee for Cycling and Society Symposia (http://www.cyclingandsociety.org/).
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