I have just heard that an article of mine has been accepted for publication in Mobilities journal. Once it’s in press, I can upload an author version. In the meantime, I am happy to send anyone who’s interested a copy. Here’s the abstract:
This paper discusses how dominant policy paradigms promote a ‘utility’ model of transport, prioritising the destruction of distance and the minimisation of time spent travelling. It suggests that within low-cycling countries, this framing has reinforced the policy marginalisation of cycling, which is cast as having problematic associations with leisure and pleasure. Hence, while the multiple benefits of cycling might seem to mandate policy support, these benefits (including health and equity impacts) seem tainted by association with cycling’s non-transport connotations. The paper analyses interview data from the Cycling Cultures project to explore how cyclists and cycling stakeholders negotiate the landscape of ‘utility cycling’. It examines how people appeal to a ‘utility narrative’, while often simultaneously appealing to considerations that apparently contradict it. Conclusions for cycling and broader transport policy are drawn.
and, from the conclusion (much improved thanks to three very helpful peer reviewers…)
‘The underlying problem for cyclists is that – within dominant transport paradigms – their behaviour can always be interpreted as not ‘proper transport’, to a greater extent than those using other modes. Motorised travel is assumed to represent a pure time loss, balanced by a utility gain in some other respect, usually by accessing an activity. However, for cycling, the multiple benefits often cited are then problematic. Because cycling is a ‘good thing’ for so many reasons, cyclists are always at risk of falling outside the ‘pure utility’ paradigm. Hence the pressure to cast health benefits as monetary gain, rather than linking them to less easily quantifiable (and more contaminated, from the point of view of a ‘utility’ paradigm) emotional benefits. Yet focusing on ‘utility’ trips marginalises those who could gain the most health benefits: older people, whose cycling is unlikely to be ‘commuter’ and may not even be ‘utility’.
It might seem that the social, health, and environmental benefits of cycling are the mark of a good citizen. However, within transport, citizenship obligations are rather etiolated. The rational actor, elsewhere a threat to citizenship, rules the transport paradigm, despite internal critiques. This is then something for cyclists to live up to. However, for stigmatised modes such as cycling, the rational actor model can easily become negative. The figure of the hardened fast cycling commuter is criticised as being aggressive, thoughtless, selfish, risky and so on within cycling advocacy movements and by the media and the public. Yet this is the model that cycling is still often made to fit, in order to be considered within transport planning and modelling.’