Frail Changes In Cycling Policies: (Un)shifting Meanings and Practices In Current Policy Making

Authors: Jean-Baptiste Fretigny*, Universite de Cergy-Pontoise, Caroline Bouloc, Universite de Cergy-Pontoise
Topics: Transportation Geography, Cultural Geography, Social Geography
Keywords: Cycling policies, Mobilities (Cultures of), Practices (Theory of), Transition (Theories of), Mobility justice
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 3:55 PM / 5:35 PM
Room: 8223, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In various parts of the world, authorities emphasize the salience of cycling and show a political will to encourage it. Such discourses are however in striking contrast with the overall persistent (and renewed) dominance of automobilities regimes and the difficulty of alternative mobilities such as cycling to find their way. Major explanations identified for this paradox are the predominant sets of values and norms, the political and economic weight of car-related actors as well as the path dependency of societies and economies. Less attention has been paid to tensions involved in actual policy making as well as to the meanings and practices invested by heterogeneous policy makers in context-specific situations.
Contributing to bridge the gap between social practice and transition theories, this paper focuses on current policy making regarding cycling through the example of France. Drawing on interviews with various actors engaged in cycling policies and on content analysis of institutional documents, both at national and local scales, it highlights and investigates the frailty of current changes. After contrasting them with existing policy objectives regarding health, air quality, mitigation of climate change and social equity, it shows the precarious alignment and adjustment of stakeholders’ positions at various scales both allowing and restricting these changes. It connects them with the contestation of enduring dichotomies undermining the legitimacy of cycling related to alleged ‘hard’ v. ‘soft’ ways of being on the move, questioning the ambiguous relationship with infrastructure assigned to cycling and the difficult recognition of its cultural and social dimensions.

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