Bicycle Freedom: Transgressing physical, spatial and cultural borders.

Project: Research

Project Details


This project aims to investigate the bicycle as an instrument for transgressing borders – physical, spatial and cultural – from 1880 to present time. The project starts with the questions what a bicycle can be used for, how this can be done and by whom. It focuses on two arenas: the Political Cyclist and the Adventure Cyclist. The first centres on the use of the bicycle within popular movements, such as the worker’s movement, the eco movement, and the options and restrictions for women’s mobility in public space. The second focuses on how individuals use the bicycle to widen their space and create new opportunities, on both a factual and symbolical level.
We apply a combination of materials and methods, such as close readings of archival records on cycling, diaries, memoirs, observations, and answers to open-ended questionnaires and interviews. The study is based on three theoretical concepts: 1) materiality, where we use theories on technology and how people relate to biographical objects, 2) borders, where we use theories on rituals as well as theories on gender and generation, and 3) space understood as physical as well as social space. The historical perspective elucidates change, differences and similarities, consistencies and discrepancies. Our aim is thus not to write the history of cycling in itself but to explore it as a tool for collective and individual emancipation, and social and cultural transformation.
The ambition is to contribute with knowledge about not only the logistic potential of cycling but also its cultural values, practices and possibilities in a societal situation where cycling has gained general importance.
The project will be conducted over four years. The two researchers will work with both arenas focusing on the Political Cyclist the second year, and the Adventure Cyclist the third.

Layman's description

Bicycle Freedom is a project that focuses on various aspects of cycling, past and present. Themes included are, for example, cycle sports, the use of bicycles as tools for transportation and for recreation and leisure, and sustainability and environmental impact. Factors such as gender and class, as well as the relationship between the local and the global, are essential for the project.
Effective start/end date2016/01/012021/12/31

UKÄ subject classification

  • Ethnology