By Jenny Lunn
Promoting cycling as a form of urban transport is lauded by politicians and planners as one way of creating sustainable cities. Despite efforts to establish more cycle lanes and networks, Britain’s cities are still not bike-friendly environments and anyone who takes to the saddle needs to be “a rugged fearless individual, wholly responsible for your destiny”, according to Janice Turner in an article in The Times.
Justin Spinney’s research focuses on urban cycling in a western context. His latest article in Geography Compass, suggests that most geographical research into cycling has focused on why people choose that particular mode of transport to get from A to B and what routes they take. Instead, he draws attention to a neglected area: the line between A and B and the experience of travelling. He seeks to draw transport geography into a dialogue with cultural geography by proposing different research methods for investigating “less tangible aspects of daily mobility”, in particular using video.
But I wonder what the video-journey of an average London cycle commuter would reveal. Two wheels having to share the tarmac with 18 metre long bendy buses; illogical one-way systems; drivers turning left without using their mirrors; the struggle to find a safe place to park your bike when you arrive at work; the stolen wheel when you return to collect your bike. Equally, it could show some of the bad behaviour of cyclists: listening to music on headphones; jumping red lights; using pavements; not wearing safety helmets. Spinney’s proposed research methodology could reveal as much about the state of society as about the experience of mobility.