Thursday, July 17, 2008

It's culture, stupid!

Some random quotes from various readings.

Culture, custom and habit are important. While other factors listed below help explain which forms of travel behaviour become widespread and thus considered “normal”, countries with unbroken traditions of utilitarian cycling have an easier time maintaining that tradition. Where cycling is viewed as normal, people consider doing it when it is convenient, and they have access to the necessary equipment and knowledge. Similarly, motorists exhibit more respect towards cyclists, partly because they are more likely to cycling themselves or know others who do. In general, where there are few cyclists, cycling is considered abnormal and this climate tends to be self-perpetuating.
… cyclists suffer from a renegade image associated with disobedience of traffic laws, and a pervasive sense of cyclists as an alien presence on roads intended for cars. Indeed, the various images of cycling are so heavily determined in relation to automobiles that utilitarian cyclists are variously seen as too poor to own a car, “anti-auto”, eccentric, or deviant. The perception of cycling as lying outside he mainstream of American life discourage bicycle use.
Pucher, John, Charles Komanoff, Paul Schimek (1999) "Bicycling renaissance in North America? Recent trends and alternative policies to promote bicycling", Transportation Research Part A, 33, pp625–654.

In the UK during the twentieth century, cycling gradually moved from being a major mode of mobility to being a minor one. As the volume, speed and dominance of motorised vehicles grew, cycling was designated even more marginal road space…
The seemingly taken-for-granted dominance of automobility saw UK cycling in a perilous state across the latter third of the twentieth century. By the century’s end, cycling was spatially in the gutter… The cultural acceptability of cycling’s spatial marginality, particularly when combined with the cyclists stigmatised identity, is highly consequential. It means that those cyclist’s who do not stick to the margins, but either consciously or unconsciously attempt to ‘centre’ themselves, are experienced as threatening and unsettling, and are demonised – most visibly and powerfully within the mass media. So cyclist’ collective protests, such as Critical Mass, are particularly vilified. But even the least ‘political’ of cyclists will sometimes break from the invisibility of the margins and therefore challenge automobility’s spatial monopoly.
Horton, Dave (2007) “Fear of Cycling” in Paul Rosen (ed) Cycling and Society, Ashgate, 2007.

Reducing car-dependence is not just a case of providing better public transport and cycling facilities, improving cycling infrastructure or the design of bicycles. It also requires the much harder job of unpicking the ways in which cars – far more than bicycles and other modes of transport – form part of the identities of individuals, organisations and indeed the wider culture. (p95)
David Skinner and Paul Rosen (2007) "Hell is Other Cyclists: Rethinking Transport and Identity", in Paul Rosen (ed) Cycling and Society, Ashgate, 2007.

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