Women activists’ experience of local cycling politics

Leyendecker, Katja (2019) Women activists’ experience of local cycling politics. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

Text (Doctoral Thesis)
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The aim of this research thesis is to explore the experiences of women activists who advocated for cycleways in Newcastle, UK, and in Bremen, Germany, in the 2010s. Using an autoethnographic approach I bring my own campaigning experience to bear, combining my personal account with interviews and policy analysis to navigate and form a critique of the socio-technical landscape of transport politics.

Cycling is generally seen as a good thing for health, liveability and the environment, but cycling numbers have been largely stagnant over recent decades in the UK and in Germany. Cycling also suffers from an image problem, especially in low-cycling contexts such as the UK. For cycling to have a larger share as a mode of transport, cycleways, dedicated spaces for cycling, are needed. This is what the women activists demanded from their local decision makers.

The findings from this study suggest that women activists experienced systemic exclusion as the politicians ceded control to the technical experts and the vehicular-cycling campaigners’ liberal demands supported institutional practices of designing for the car. In Newcastle, post-political circumstances were present in transport planning. It is this institutional automobility that is holding back the development of cycle- and people-friendly urban environments. Its technocracy can harm local democracy. I argue that social automobility (people’s car use and dependency) is largely a consequence of institutional automobility. A cultural transformation is needed, expressly at the technical-political level to overcome institutionalisation in Bremen, and, in addition in Newcastle, post-political detachment. Cycle campaigning should continue to express radical demands in support of spatial redistribution and dedicated cycleways.

To understand how institutional automobility works and manifests itself is important if we want to democratise and humanise urban spaces. It is proposed that politicians who are more aware of the phenomenon would more readily work with cycleway campaigners to reform technical processes for the common good. Future research could involve the sociology of transport engineers and political party orientations in relation to institutional automobility.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: auto-ethnography, post politics, transport, spatial planning, human geography
Subjects: F800 Physical and Terrestrial Geographical and Environmental Sciences
L700 Human and Social Geography
L900 Others in Social studies
N800 Tourism, Transport and Travel
Department: Faculties > Engineering and Environment > Architecture and Built Environment
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: Rachel Branson
Date Deposited: 10 Feb 2020 12:06
Last Modified: 08 Aug 2022 12:00
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/42075

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