Summary of Cycling and Society

by Lou.D. on May 24, 2014 - 10:45pm

The book I shall be using is called Cycling and Society. It was published by Dr Peter Cox, Dr Dave Horton, and Dr Paul Rosen and was published in 2007. The book attempts to bring a social scientists perspective to cycling, which is largely unexplored. It attempts to to show the significance of cycling when it comes to social and political debates in the United Kingdom.       

In the past couple of months, the Montreal bike sharing program, also known as Bixi bikes, has had a lot of economic troubles. Since the company mainly used credit cards to allow individuals to use their bikes, the company was owed over 50 million dollars in debt. This made them unable to pay the fees that they had too, leading them to bankruptcy. Although a new company has taken over the bike sharing project, a city such as Montreal offers many problems to cyclist. For example, roads mainly focus on cars while cyclist need to adapt, instead of the Dutch system where bike paths are constructed allowing a maximum of security to cyclist. I am attempting to learn more about cycling in the Montreal area and if a system similar to the one in the Netherlands can be applied. This is why I am reading this book because it offers details about the reason why people cycle and how it affects society. More precisely, I will put most of my focus in the Quantitative Methods in Cycle Planning part of the book.

            An important point that the book mentions is that the most significant resource used in cycling is effort expended by the cyclist. What this means is one of the most important considerations that an individual goes through when wondering if he or she is willing to cycle is the effort that it will take to go to point A to point B. If the level of effort to that specific individual is too high (considering that the level of effort can vary from one individual to another), then he or she may choose to use an alternative method of transport. This is important to applying the Dutch system to Montreal since Montreal is built around a mountain, and the inclines in the roads can prove to be a significant effort to certain individuals. This may have a negative effect on a bike sharing system since if the majority see the inclines as too much of an effort, then the system will be unpopular and will go into bankruptcy as seen with Bixi. Another point that the book makes is that “the environment through which a cycle travels is the cycling equivalent of in-vehicle space” (Cox, 70). When saying in-vehicle the book means car space or the area of the vehicle that separates the user from outside. So what this means is that the weather, when cycling, is the equivalent of the interior of a car, and this can have a major effect when questioning whether or not to cycle. For example, in a hot day, a driver can put air-conditioning inside his car to keep the temperature agreeable. A cyclist, on the other hand, needs to deal with the heat, so if he or she is going to an important event such as a job interview this may cause a problem. This applies to Montreal because half of the time the city is too cold to cycle thanks to winter. People who would normally cycle are forced to use alternative means of transport because the “in-vehicle space” for bikes have now become unbearable for most.


As we can see in the article, there are many characteristics in the city of Montreal that can lead to the decision of using another mean of transportation for a cyclist. These factors are mainly weather and the inadequacy of the roads for sharing the way with motorized vehicles. I think that the BIXI issue is not really a problem in my opinion, because, as a cyclist myself, I feel like I would rather ride my own bike and lock it in an appropriate way than ride any other bike.
I am personally very disappointed that I live in a country that has to deal with a lot of snow during winter because it only makes me hope for the first day of spring, on which I will gladfully ride my bike around town.

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