Social movements and the bicycle

I love this image. It’s by the San Francisco-based artist Mona Caron; see www.monacaron.com. I originally asked Mona’s permission to use it in an academic article, ‘Social movements and the bicycle’, which I’ve just now added to the ‘Pages’ section of this blog. To me, Mona’s picture beautifully exemplifies the different worlds of the car and the bicycle. It forms the cover of the book published to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Critical Mass, Critical Mass: Bicycling’s Defiant Celebration (edited by Chris Carlsson 2002, AK Press). (I’ll also put the short chapter which I contributed to that book up here, as well as some of my other writing, when I find more time.) Car culture results in the grey, grim, polluted urban present. The world of automobility is dark, oppressive, bad. In contrast, pedalling bicycles produces an ecological city, full of fresh air, trees and sunshine. The world of the bicycle is light, airy, good. The contrast is not of course merely between types of vehicle, but between the types of society which they tend to produce.

Anyway (the trouble with blogging is, once I get started, there’s always so much to say, and a need to limit myself … ;-)), here’s the abstract for ‘Social movements and the bicycle’. If it captures your imagination and/or curiosity, please just click on to the full (10,000 word) article over in ‘Pages’:

This paper examines the bicycle’s role in the oppositional cultures of four British social movements; feminism and socialism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and anarchism and environmentalism from the 1960s until today. It argues that the bicycle powerfully enabled the expansion in the geographical, social and political horizons of both feminists and socialists at the turn of the twentieth century. In contrast, within environmentalism and anarchism since the 1960s, the bicycle both symbolises and produces a desired compression of everyday life, fitting an expressive politics concerned with authenticity, community, and elevation of ‘the local’. The changing role of the bicycle in these movements points to the shifting landscape of political resistance, and to differences and continuities between so-called ‘old’ and ‘new’ social movements. The case of the bicycle also demonstrates the importance of ‘ordinary’ materialities to the production and reproduction of cultural and political identities.

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