Cycling on the streets of London: What do cyclists' perceive of biking in London?

Mark Deloughery

Studenteropgave: Speciale


Cycling in London is getting increasingly popular, and the borough of Hackney, in East London, is leading the way of the apparent cycling revolution, taking place in the capital, with an impressive average of 15% of people riding their bikes to work. In Hackney it seems that the bicycle has in this way become a common mode of transport to work. Wanting to understand the perceptions of cyclists in London, to get an idea of what is driving the growing number of cyclists on the streets, and what cyclists think of the infrastructure and road culture they are presented with, the aim of this dissertation has been to examine what cyclists perceive of riding in the free-flowing system, of mostly non-segregated traffic. The factual developments of increasing levels of cycling as well as safety concerns over the increasing number of cycling deaths and serious accidents in recent years have been a cause for concern for many cyclists, politicians, planners and the general public alike. But there are many issues at play for cyclists forming their perceptions, such as increasing the level of awareness, increasing mutual respect, improving road design and layout as well as educating drivers about the responsibility that they have towards cyclists and pedestrians. Through the use of Lefebvrian notions of space and performativity, and by utilising Michel de Certeau’s conceptions of tactics and strategies it is argued that individual actions can be analysed, as space is manifested through the actual performativity of individual behaviour. As space becomes endowed with history, culture, design, intent and power, one can observe framing structures of behaviour, and start to conceptualise how to discern perceptions, hierarchies and rhythms of the road. Summing up the findings through the use of various ethnographic methods, one could say that as a cyclist you have to be confident when you are riding, being assertiveness, “occupying space of the road”, but there is also a need to ride defensively to avoid dangerous situations, through using forward vision to predict traffic. The problem concerning the current infrastructure and road culture therefore seems to revolve around it being dependent on the individual cyclists being assertive, as well as on other road users being considerate and accepting of cyclists legitimate claim to safe passage through the city. However, the cyclists’ very presence on the road means that traffic is forced to behave differently and although being the weakest vehicle on the road, it has been found that the bicycle is not necessarily placed at the bottom of the road hierarchy, considering infrastructural prioritisation and the performativity of the growing mass of bicycle. Cyclists’ position in the hierarchy, and perceptions of cycling in London is conclusively fluid, dependent on internalised perceptions. However, as cyclists are aware of their precarious position, as the weakest vehicle among giant metal boxes, and perceive their positioning according to internalised utilisation of tactics, the different cyclists vary in how they seem themselves in the hierarchy of the road.

UddannelserGeografi, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) Kandidat
Udgivelsesdato28 jan. 2014
VejledereJonas Larsen


  • Ethnography
  • Cycling