Creating City Cyclists
: Understanding Why People Start, and Sometimes Stop, Cycling in South London

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Cycling can be framed as a means of practically re-ordering movement, connection and experience. Drawing upon readings in mobility and urban studies, the thesis addresses deficiencies in practice theory by investigating how to better conceptualise dynamic change, socio-technical multiplicity, and embodied experiences of technology. Investigating people’s experiences of using bicycles to live in a city, it asks how the take up, alteration and divestment of different practices might influence how urban times and spaces are practically ordered.

The study develops disciplinary debates on place and practice by engaging with the theoretical concepts of emergence, encounter and cosmogony. It empirically investigates three sub-questions: how are cycling-journeys experienced in London; how do experiences of cycling the city alter urban practice; and how does cycling influence the practical remaking of urban place? Methodologically, 20 participants were recruited for a year’s fieldwork comprised of 3 methods; ride-along with videoelicitation, diary-interview and focus groups. This iteratively investigated three practices; civility, navigation and placemaking.

Understanding the urban as a means and outcome of systematised contingent ordering - a machinic complex -the study suggests that cycling reconfigures how such ordering occurs. Rather than investigating practices of cycling it investigates how urban practices incorporate experiences of cycling and might bedisseminated, intensified, disrupted, or reconfigured. By decentring cycling and fracturing the study’s focal point, the framework facilitates a conceptualisation of urban practices as traversing an array of contingent situations, via a variety of technologically-mediated engagements.

The findings explore how quotidian mobility creates durable social forms and places through transient, mounted but systematised and repeated meetings in the street. This refines our understanding of the spatial and performative. It argues that creative repairs making modest alterations to elements of skill, meaning and infrastructure might catalyse more radical systemic reconfigurations of their links, or initiate self-perpetuating trajectories of further change.
Date of Award2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Open University

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