• Cycling, environmentalism and change in 1970s Britain

      Cox, Peter; University of Chester (2015-02-13)
      Dave Horton’s widely cited paper, Environmentalism and the Bicycle (Environmental Politics 15(1) 2006: 41-58) clearly highlighted “significance of the bicycle to the discourse and practice of the contemporary environmental movement” in Britain. While broadly in agreement with Horton’s discussion, this paper seeks to extend it through a more strongly historicised account of the formation of the particular discourses around the bicycle and cycling. It critically examines the multiple ways in which bicycles and cycling have been explicitly constructed as ‘natural’ allies since the late 1960s and the degree to which this linkage has been simultaneously intertwined with the forging of a broader, counter-cultural identity in the English-speaking world. Focusing on the UK experience, it draws on primary sources from advocacy groups, and contrasts the tensions between longstanding cycle advocacy bodies and the emergent environmental and countercultural discourses through the 1970s and 1980s. In particular, one recurrent question which is opened to scrutiny is the relation of these discourses to both technophilic and technophobic utopianism and the problems both positions pose for integration into a wider pragmatic political agenda. In charting these events and the framing of both the need for change and the methods whereby it may be achieved, it is further argued that this legacy is not entirely unproblematic in relation to current aspirations for an increased modal share for cycling in transport planning.