Encountering the city : waymaking and the mobile practices of cycling
thesisposted on 2023-05-27, 12:02 authored by Vreugdenhil, RM
Every day, tens of thousands of Australians don helmets and set out on bicycles to commute to work or school. On average, though, just one in every one hundred Australians chooses to commute by bicycle rather than drive, walk or catch public transport. Cycling is a healthy, inexpensive and sustainable means of urban travel, and significant societal, environmental and personal benefits can result from even a modest increase in the rates of people regularly cycling in cities. In order to boost participation levels in Australia, a national cycling strategy was implemented in 2011 with the aim of doubling the number of people cycling by 2016. The strategy adopted the dominant instrumental approach to transport planning in modern societies: build it and they will come. However, while the extent and quality of cycling infrastructure has improved in Australian cities over the past five years, there has been no significant change in cycling numbers. The reasons remain unclear but invite further and perhaps more novel approaches to understanding this particular mode of transport. This thesis moves outside the dominant scripts of instrumental transport studies, taking inspiration from the attention to mobile practices found in the emerging fields of mobilities studies and non-representational theory. The research focuses on the doing of cycling. More-than-instrumental knowledge of how cycling practices are produced in the daily throng of cities was sought by foregrounding the embodied and relational experiences of being in the bicycle saddle. The regular commuting trips of eighteen cyclists in two Tasmanian cities were recorded using a bicycle or helmet-mounted video camera. Participants were then interviewed using the video footage as stimulus material. Video and interview data were analysed thematically using NVivo software. The analysis included the mapping of haptic or 'felt' surface geographies when the excessive shaking and rattling of several of the video recordings was investigated rather than dismissed as nuisance 'white' noise. The co-agential entity of the 'bike-rider' was employed to explore how temporal, spatial and bodily phenomena gather together in cycling practices. Central to the findings is the concept of waymaking, or the ways in which journeys are brought into being. Waymaking was synthesised from themes interpreting the timing-spacing-acting practices of cycling. In their mobile practices of waymaking participants became 'fused' with their bicycles, a form of more-than-human agency focused on maintaining balance amidst the instability and turbulence of city cycling. Participants brought heightened sensory and situational awareness to the immediacy and intensity of unfolding events by 'being in the moment'. They also exhibited a high degree of relational interaction, particularly in collaborating with drivers to manage on-road encounters. Participants smoothed the space and time of their journeys by pursuing the flow of desirable trajectories or 'lines of desire'. The importance of riding surfaces to cycling was also highlighted through the frictional affects and effects of surface rhythms. Through the lens of waymaking, cycling is understood to be a highly affective, sensual and generative encounter with the city, a process in which cyclists balance and smooth the frictions, intensities and events of their rides. This thesis advances understandings of the mobile practices through which cycling is enabled, constrained and accomplished in cities. Cyclists generate urban worlds through the mobilities of flow, friction and turbulence. Foregrounding embodied and relational practices to enable more-than-instrumental accounts of everyday cycling opens up new possibilities for knowing and doing cycling.
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