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Biking Bad: The Social Psychological and Interactional Difficulties of Being a Bicyclist

Authors: Aaron Samuel Johnson*, Colorado State University - Pueblo
Topics: Transportation Geography
Keywords: Bicycling practices, Barriers to bicycling, Social psychology, Deviance, Advocacy
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Every day we are compelled to move our bodies from place to place - from home to work, school, shopping, and back again. Most people in the U.S. and other Western societies accomplish this essential task by driving cars, but at a heavy cost to our health, economy, environment, and the social fabric of our communities. And though bicycling as an alternative to driving represents an effective means of reducing these costs, rates of bicycling remain low. Drawing on data garnered from a mixed-methods, multi-study research project, this paper uses the theoretical lens of deviance to examine the social psychological and interactional difficulties people who ride bikes experience and thus inform their riding practices, or lack thereof. The paper finds that not all people who ride bikes are "bicyclists", and that being a successful bicyclist is as much a social accomplishment as it is a logistical and physical feat. In addition to overcoming practical, logistical, and physical challenges, to be a successful bicyclist people who ride bikes must also resolve role conflicts, avoid or overcome antagonistic interactions with other roadway users, and manage the potential stigma that comes with riding a bike as an alternative to driving a car. The paper concludes by presenting the Bicycling as Deviance (BaD) framework, a new approach to understanding the riding practices and experiences of bicyclists, and uses it to make recommendations for innovations in bicycling infrastructure, governance policy, and advocacy.

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