The Bicycle as a Political Technology

equador-quito-bike-vs-carsMy Arts & Science course, “The Bicycle & Society,” is turning its attention to political activism next week. While much of our readings will focus on recent forms of activism in the Canadian and American contexts, and examine the nature of critical mass rides, etc., I wanted to stress that cycling activism is not just a developed-world phenomenon, and that it also happens elsewhere. A friend sent me this fascinating Al Jazeera documentary on cycling activism in Guadalajara, which movingly stresses both the obstacles in establishing bicycle-safe urban infrastructures everywhere, but also instills hope. For the class’ purposes, it breaks us out of our concentration on urban planning and the bicycle as being a phenomenon of the twenty-first-century affluent activism to think more broadly and globally. Link to the film here.

Also, too, bike shares are growing in many urban areas. This is less overtly political in its conception, but it does stress the need for infrastructural overhauls in order to ensure safe spaces for bicycles on roads and lanes. Here, too, this is not uniquely a developed-world issue. See this account of happenings in Manila.

Video: The Bike in the City

On January 17, Dr. Jim Longhurst (University of Wisconsin – La Crosse) visited McMaster as part of the McMaster Rolling Seminar: La Vie Vélo. His presentation was a part of his current research on early cycling politics, and focused on debates over the creation of sidepaths in a number of North American cities.

The talk was filmed, and I share it here for public consumption. Students in my two bike-y courses might find much of the presentation quite helpful.