ArticlePDF Available

Performing the city: A body and a bicycle take on Birmingham, UK

Authors:

Abstract

This paper brings the debate on sustainable transport policy into direct confrontation with the embodied Practice of cycling in a highly urbanized environment. Using the example of a regular journey to work the author undertook in Birmingham, UK during the summer of 2003, Lees' notion of a more performative approach to understanding architecture is extended to a performance of the wider city. Tracing in detail the practice of this journey, the paper uses the notion of affect to highlight the sheer physicality of the bike ride and bow the city is thus remade through the cyclist's experiences. This Performative understanding is contrasted with more traditional understandings of the city, illustrating bow the two reinforce each other. Ultimately the question is posed of whether the thrills and chills of urban cycling in the UK will leave it as a marginalized transport mode for the foreseeable future, despite noises from policy makers about using cycling to solve problems of urban congestion and sustainability.
... E-scooters are subjected to temporal and spatial prescriptions; people who rent e-scooters are restricted in when and where they can ride, because e-scooters are often removed from city streets overnight to be recharged, and due to geo-fencing technology, which creates virtual boundaries within cities. Despite spatial prescriptions in urban landscapes, transport users often move in unintended and improvisational ways, such as 'jaywalking' pedestrians who do not use designated crossings to cross the road (Jones 2005). Furthermore, Tuncer et al. (2020) document how e-scooter riders in Paris 'play' with spatial prescriptions in order to continue moving, such as dismounting to walk across a pedestrian crossing rather than waiting at a red light with cars. ...
Article
Globally, electric scooters (e-scooters) have grown in popularity in recent years. Introducing new transport modes is complex because existing infrastructures and habits do not easily accommodate them, which can lead to conflict between different types of transport users. In this paper, we explore e-scooter riders' and pedestrians' experiences of sharing space in Christchurch, New Zealand. In-depth interviews were carried out with e-scooter riders and pedestrians in 2019. Thematic analysis of the data highlighted the uneven and unfamiliar socio-spatial rhythms between e-scooter riders and pedestrians. We explore the ways that e-scooter riders’ and pedestrians’ rhythms, in interaction with the sensory, affectual and material, create blurry boundaries. These blurry boundaries are evident in the ways that e-scooter riders blur modal status, sensory experiences and the regulations of different transport spaces. It is important to understand e-scooter riders’ and pedestrians’ experiences and interpretations of boundaries in order to plan transport spaces that support active and low-carbon modes of transport.
... This finding is shared by Barnfield and Plyushreva's (2016) analysis of the growing popularity of cycling in Sofia's public space, yet it is important to remember that shared experiences of transport infrastructure do not necessarily result in similar values. Riding to work and cycling with others, for example, may involve 'negotiating and maintaining being together' as part of a 'mobile with', but some cyclists adopt aggressive and competitive attempts to dominate through speed others engaged in this activity (Jones, 2005;Larsen, 2018, p. 52). ...
Article
Full-text available
During the past two decades, there has been a significant growth of sociological studies into the ‘body pedagogics’ of cultural transmission, reproduction and change. Rejecting the tendency to over-valorise cognitive information, these investigations have explored the importance of corporeal capacities, habits and techniques in the processes associated with belonging to specific ‘ways of life’. Focused on practical issues associated with ‘knowing how’ to operate within specific cultures, however, body pedagogic analyses have been less effective at accounting for the incarnation of cultural values. Addressing this limitation, with reference to the radically diverse norms involved historically and contemporarily in ‘vélo worlds’, I develop Dewey’s pragmatist transactionalism by arguing that the social, material and intellectual processes involved in learning physical techniques inevitably entail a concurrent entanglement with, and development of, values.
... The central aim of this chapter is to illuminate ecologically good cycling practices. To this end, I relate cycling practices Watson 2013;McIlvenny 2015;Spinney 2015Jungnickel and Aldred 2014;Jones 2005) with pragmatic sociology, which explores how social practices, actors and objects are publicly justified and morally legitimated by common goods, including ecology (Boltanski andThévenot 2006[ 1991]; Lamont and Thévenot 2000). Ecology, defined here not as a scientific paradigm but as a uniquely non-anthropocentric common good that attributes moral worth to human and other-than-human beings and their habitats (Latour 1998), has faced tremendous difficulty securing such legitimacy, as evidenced by the limited electoral success of green parties. ...
... The central aim of this chapter is to illuminate ecologically good cycling practices. To this end, I relate cycling practices Watson 2013;McIlvenny 2015;Spinney 2015Jungnickel and Aldred 2014;Jones 2005) with pragmatic sociology, which explores how social practices, actors and objects are publicly justified and morally legitimated by common goods, including ecology (Boltanski andThévenot 2006[ 1991]; Lamont and Thévenot 2000). Ecology, defined here not as a scientific paradigm but as a uniquely non-anthropocentric common good that attributes moral worth to human and other-than-human beings and their habitats (Latour 1998), has faced tremendous difficulty securing such legitimacy, as evidenced by the limited electoral success of green parties. ...
Chapter
Full-text available
This chapter examines the public and policy discourse around sustainability and utility cycling, and explores the stated motivations of a minority of car-owners who do already choose cycling as a primary mode of to-work travel in Cape Town. In South African transport planning discourse, these commuters are referred to as ‘choice’ users, people who own or have access to a private vehicle (PGWC, 2009), and are free to make decisions or choices about transport mode . Particularly, I explore the value of pursuing an environmental marketing angle, by considering the priority attached to environmental or sustainability benefits as tropes motiving existing cyclists who ride as transport; I describe this cohort as “intentional cyclists”, people who despite the hegemony of private vehicle travel, have made a decision to ‘leave their cars at home’. After a brief description of its method and theoretical framework, the next section of this chapter (Section 2) traces the (re)emergence of environmental sustainability and sustainable mobility as drivers of cycling advocacy and cycling policy. In national and local transport and climate policies (eg NDoT, 2018) in South Africa, “sustainable mobility” refer broadly to reduced passenger-transport carbon emissions; “liveable” is an outcome of sustainable mobility, with reduced road traffic congestion due to fewer single-occupancy vehicles, more car-competitive public transport, and high-quality walking and cycling facilities and public spaces. Congestion and time-in-traffic are used as “proxies” for travel-related carbon emissions/impact in City strategies such as the Flexible Working Programme (CCT, 2016). Section 3 shares responses from interviewees regarding motivations for choosing bicycle travel, with a view to understanding the importance of the sustainability or environmental narrative in their travel behaviour. Reflections and concluding thoughts follow in Section 4, particularly regarding the extent to which individuals’ utility or commuter cycling practices are influenced by utility or sustainability imperatives. This chapter draws on public policy, media releases, official speeches, city reports and social media, and the personal narratives of intentional utility cyclists. The interview excerpts shared here were conducted during 2019 as part of wider doctoral research that explores the connections and relationships between policy and personal discourses, and the ways in which private car-owners understand their reasons for cycling for transport. For this broader research, in-depth interviews – constituting longitudinal life-course histories – sought to understand the circumstances and factors that influenced ‘choice’ users to start, stop or significantly change their cycling practices, including social, physical, environmental and other contexts that account for change.
... Cycling geographers have highlighted the ways that cycling, as a relatively nimble and "un-disciplined" transport technology provides for creativity and "polite deviance" in the use of street space (P. Jones, 2005Jones, , 2012. Cyclists enjoy the challenge of achieving "ideal conditions" of continuous movement, playfully finding a route amongst both pedestrian and vehicle spaces (Spinney, 2011). ...
Article
In this paper, I present and explain the process of ‘privatising vulnerability’ that cyclists in Dublin engage in as a means of coping with structural conditions of ‘precarious entitlement’ to public space. First, I introduce and situate my study in relation to seminal work exploring cycling mobilities. Second, I describe the context of the study – Dublin, Ireland. Third, I explain the classical grounded theory methodology and approach to qualitative interview data collection employed throughout the research. Fourth, I briefly posit the core category of the grounded theory – precarious entitlement – so that privatising vulnerability can be understood as a process of response and one element of ‘precarious entitlement theory’. Fifth, I delineate the process of privatising vulnerability, and its four variations: anticipating disregard, waiving entitlement, tolerating transgression, and precautionary transgressing. Sixth, I conclude that privatising vulnerability can be understood as a process of pragmatic adaptation and submission to conditions of domination – in particular, to the spatial domination of automobility. Following these perspectives, I delineate the unique contributions privatising vulnerability can make to understandings of cycling experience and practice and toward wider matters of mobility justice.
Article
This article focuses on what may be depleting people’s capacity to ride a bike in cities. ‘Capacity to cycle’ is here understood not as a behavioural trait or in terms of infrastructure provision, but, taking our lead from Deleuze and Guattari, as a desiring cycling-machine. We argue this offers a way to envisage depleting, or enhancing, capacities to cycle as a working socio-material arrangement that make, remake, and unmake cycling-bodies and spaces. The article draws upon mixed-qualitative research conducted with 18 adults who own bikes in 2019, but no longer ride in the City of Sydney, Australia. Three vignettes draw attention to the opposing forces that support and dissolve cycling bodily capacities over the course of repeated, routine city bike journeys. We illustrate those depleting bodily capacities to cycle for transport involve sensations of the self, pedalling through space. It follows that a shift towards cycling mobilities demands related incorporation into planning of the transformative impacts of the near-at-hand and social norms.
Article
In this paper, I present how cyclists in Dublin engage in a process of provoking responsibility in their interactions with other mobile subjects as means of dealing with conditions of precarious entitlement to public space. I begin the paper with an exploration of the extant literature relating to cycling, citizenship and public space, arguing that provoking responsibility can add to such literature on individual and collective cycling mobilities in that it conceptualises how cyclists engage in an individual, everyday struggle for recognition as a legitimate public space user amidst the sharing of public space with differently mobile subjects. Next, I detail the grounded theory methodology, study context (Dublin, Ireland), means of data collection (qualitative interviews), interviewee sample, and ‘precarious entitlement theory’. Following this, I posit the category of ‘precarious entitlement’ to public space – the main concern of utility cyclists in Dublin – and conceptually outline provoking responsibility as a process of dealing with conditions of precarious entitlement, using illustrations from qualitative interviews with cyclists. I include in this outline the key modes of provoking responsibility: accentuating presence, asserting entitlement, indicating transgression, punishing transgression, and displaying responsibility. I conclude that provoking responsibility shows how cyclists can engage in everyday, mobile practices of citizenship in the name of recognition of spatial entitlements and equal status within public space without collective mobilisation; moreover, the category depicts how cyclists engage in not only multisensory practices but also multisensory provocation in their interactions with co-present mobile subjects as means of being recognised and respected.
Article
Diverse social science research investigating the experience of cycling mobilities in relation to driving mobilities strongly indicates that matters of spatial entitlement are a central theme in the confluence (and conflict) of these mobilities, particularly in car-dominated contexts. However, while the experience of this meeting of mobilities from a cyclist point of view has been well addressed in an empirical and evocative manner, there appears to be a relative lack of available empirically grounded theory to make sense of such scenarios. Drawing on grounded theory research and interviews with utility cyclists in Dublin, we present the phenomenon of ‘precarious entitlement’ to public space that cyclists in Dublin must negotiate and its associated properties: insecure space, spatial disregard and police neglect. Precarious entitlement as a category provides a theoretical account of cycling experience in Dublin that consolidates a concern with right and risk as a mobile subject travelling in and through public space. Furthermore, this category indicates a unique structural vulnerability and problem of ‘misrecognition’ that utility cyclists in Dublin – and potentially beyond – may encounter and contend with.
Article
Full-text available
The 'problem' of skating has been conèated with a 'problem' with young people in public spaces, reèecting a rise in fear of crime from the mid-twentieth century and referencing more general questions about public space and citizenship. My task in this paper is to highlight some of the tensions between skating and urban governance in Franklin Square, Hobart, the capital city of Tasmania in Australia. This task is indebted to ideas about governance and citizenship advanced by Nikolas Rose; about the proper city as conceived by Michel de Certeau; and about fortress strategies and species of spaces promulgated by Stephen Flusty. Franklin Square functions in two ways in this work. First, its examination encourages consideration of local cases. Second, it can be deployed as a heuristic device through which to explore the edges of public space and citizenship. The essay is intended to make two contributions to social and cultural geography, one enlarging on some well-rehearsed debates about situated and contested socio-spatial relations in what I hope are innovative ways, the other unsettling particular strategies that place skaters 'on the edge' and yet draw them into particular domains of citizenship via speciéc practices of urban governance.
Article
Full-text available
This paper argues that an architectural geography should be about more than just representation. For both as a practice and a product architecture is performative in the sense that is involves ongoing social practices through which space is continually shaped and inhabited. I examine previous geographies or architecture from the Berkeley School to political semiotics, and argue that geographers have had relatively little to say about the practical and affective or 'nonrepresentational' import of architecture. I use the controversy over Vancouver's new Public Library building as a springboard for considering how we might conceive of a more critical and politically progressive geography of architecture. The library's Colosseum design recalls the origins of western civilizagion, and is seen by some Vancouverites to be an insensitive representation of multicultural city of the Pacific, I seek to push geographers beyond this contemplative framing of architectural form towards a more active and embodied engagement with the lived building.
Article
The Midland Setting: Birmingham's Origins and Early Development. The Manufacturing Town 1760s-1851. The Industrial City 1851-90s. At the Turn of the Century. Between the Wars. The Forties. The Post-War Economy. Post-War Housing. The Planning Machine: Land, Roads and People. The City Centre. Reflections. References. Index.
Article
In this introductory paper-which follows the course of the papers included in this special issue-we argue that there are currently four main apprehensions of performance. The first of those apprehensions is provided by the work of Judith Butler on performativity. We then move to a second apprehension-the rather more general notion of performance found in nonrepresentational theory, using as an example the work of Gilles Deleuze. The third apprehension of performance is that taken from work found in the discipline of performance itself. Then, the fourth apprehension concerns the reworking of academic practices as performative.
Article
For the appreciation of difference requires the acknowledgment of some point beyond which the dancer cannot go. If she were able to go everywhere, there would be no difference, nothing that eludes. Denial of the unity and stability of identity is one thing. The epistemological fantasy of becoming multiplicity - the dream of limitless multiple embodiments, allowing one to dance from place to place and self to self - is another. What sort of body is it that is free to change its shape and location at will, that can become anyone and travel anywhere?' (Susan Bordo, quoted in Foster, S.L., 1998: 29).
Article
Biography 24.4 (2001) 935-938 Geography matters, as Doreen Massey and John Allen put it back in 1984. This collection goes some way towards proving that this is true for autobiography. Placing Autobiography in Geography consists of nine essays by geographers at diverse stages of their careers, together with two framing essays by the collection's editor, Pamela Moss. Moss's intention is threefold: to use "autobiography to chronicle the discipline, as a methodological approach, and as an analytical method" (192). To this extent the collection is partially successful, but it suffers from a (not entirely productive) tension between the sophisticated feminist analysis of the potential that autobiography has to offer critical geography, which Moss discusses in her introduction, and the more uneven material produced by the contributors. Moss groups the essays to follow her three broad aims. Thus the essays by Anne Buttimer, John Eyles, Kevin Archer, and Janice Monk all address the idea of how to chronicle the changing intellectual paradigms and institutional practices within a discipline (in this case geography) through the lives of geographers -- a practice already familiar to geographers (7-8). The second aim is covered via the essays by Rachel Saltmarsh and Robin Roth, who both consider how who they are affects how they undertake research, the kinds of approaches they favor, and the choices they make over areas of research. Lawrence Knopp, Ian Cook, and David Butz provide examples of how autobiography may offer an analytical method, although how this differs from the methodological approach is only a matter of emphasis. Autobiography is no stranger to geography, but Moss intends the collection to generate discussion that takes autobiography beyond its current status as "either a bias-screening method or a source of information" (9). The second half of her introduction sets out some of the ways autobiography has been used and analyzed, focusing in particular on the notions of legitimacy and reflexivity. This introductory background draws attention to the range of styles and approaches chosen by the contributors. Certain essays are written with authority, by authors who appear to know everything, while others attempt to call into question the very notion of their authors' institutionalized authority, the idea that they might know anything with certainty. In conjunction with these diverse approaches is the geographical range of this collection. The USA, Canada, Britain (including Wales and Scotland), and Australia (just) are all represented. Geographers, however, do not sit still. Sweden, Ireland, Pakistan, Belgium, France, and a village somewhere in the undifferentiated (by Roth) "Majority World" are covered by these itinerant intellectuals. With the notable exceptions of Archer, Knopp, and Butz, however, these transnational shifts in location do not have any discernible impact on the contributors, although Moss suggests that they do (189). The contributors chronicle their interactions with other academics and university administrators, not with the places they inhabit. Moss is heavily influenced by feminist analyses of self-reflexivity, life writing, and the idea that the self is not a unitary being, self-contained and looking out on the world from the Cartesian vanishing point inside its own stable head. On the whole her contributors do not seem to have been influenced by the same critiques. In other words, they appear to move through their own lives as though nothing -- or very little -- affects or touches them. This is particularly true of Buttimer and Eyles (the latter's rather bitter rejection of geography remains unrelenting from beginning to end even as he documents what was a developing disappointment with the discipline). The title of this collection is therefore misleading. It suggests a more geographic engagement with place, the idea of a tension between place-based senses of self and a spatial discipline. When people are grouped (by themselves or others) along the lines of their differing identities they are often expected to have particular links to particular places. This notion is exemplified by Saltmarsh in the case of British working-class mining communities, and by Knopp in the case of gay male communities. Both...