Contested mobilities: politics, strategies and visions in Swedish bicycle activism

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Dag Balkmar

Cycling is currently the focus of considerable political and public attention in many urban areas. As more and more cyclists claim space on the roads, new forms of political engagement in cycling issues beyond traditional bicycle advocacy have also emerged. Beyond focusing on cyclists' perspectives and rights, these expressions of bicycle activism show the ways in which bicycles - as potential vehicles for sociopolitical change - are contested political and cultural symbols.

The purpose of this paper is to describe and analyse the ways in which bicycle activists and advocates in Sweden construct their politics and practices. Empirically the paper addresses three expressions of contemporary bicycling activism and advocacy: the well-established Swedish national cycling advocacy organization Cykelfrämjandet (Cycling Sweden), the ad-hoc Ghost Bike Sweden, and the online-based Bike Maffia-initiative. The empirical material of the paper consists of qualitative interviews with the leading representatives from each organization or initiative, as well as written and video materials. As arenas for cultural politics, the organizations or initiatives are diverse, exemplifying highly different views concerning conflicts in urban space, strategies for addressing these conflicts, and views of cyclists as subjects of bicycle politics.

The paper addresses these issues in a specific Swedish context, also exploring the implications for understanding how political activism is shaped more generally. It is argued that bicycle activism can be viewed as a way of practising cycling citizenship, a perspective that provides a conceptual linkage between new social movement theory and activism more generally.

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