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Critical Geographies of Cycling: Exploring the Social, Spatial, and Temporal Dimensions of Fear

Authors: Léa Ravensbergen*, University of Toronto, Ron Buliung, University of Toronto Mississauga , Nicole Laliberté, University of Toronto Mississauga
Topics: Transportation Geography, Qualitative Methods, Urban Geography
Keywords: Cycling, fear, emotional geographies, gender, place
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/9/2020
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual Track 13
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Objective and perceived safety, risk, and danger are often identified as barriers to taking up cycling. While a vast literature examines cycling safety, risk, and danger, both at the individual and built environment scale, little research examines fear and cycling, the emotional experience of risk, danger, and safety. This paper addresses this research gap by exploring the fears reported by new cyclists in Toronto, Canada. We demonstrate how there are many different fears associated with cycling, and that these fears are dynamic. We then critically explore how the two most frequent fears described by participants, fear of injury and fear for personal safety, are produced socially, spatially, and temporally. Fear of injury varies across the city and throughout the day; it is also shaped in relation to past experiences cycling and diminishes over time and through experience. Fear of injury can also be social, for instance, gendered access to opportunities to cycle throughout the life course can shape this fear. Fear for personal safety was primarily expressed by women, was often shaped by past experiences of street harassment, and changed throughout the day and across the city. Other fears described by participants included fear of bicycle theft, fear of getting lost, fear of encountering mechanical problems, and fear of getting in trouble with law enforcement.

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