Picture of Tiffany Lam
Tiffany Lam

A guest post by Tiffany Lam*. Tiffany is running an interactive online workshop for the ATA on the morning of 30th July on Cycling & Intersectionality, and after inviting colleagues, we have several places left. Interested in attending? Please drop activetravelacademy@westminster.ac.uk an email with a couple of sentences about why you’d like to attend.

About the workshop: ‘Inclusive cycling has been rising on the urban policy agenda, especially with cities worldwide promoting cycling as a key part of a green and just Covid-19 recovery. However, without an understanding of existing inequalities in cycling, such as the gender gap, further investments in cycling risk perpetuating these inequalities. This workshop on Intersectionality and Cycling will provide an overview of the concepts of intersectionality, power and privilege as they relate to city cycling, highlighting the importance of integrating an intersectional perspective to cycling projects in order to make cycling more inclusive. It will conclude with a discussion of how to apply intersectionality meaningfully in practice so that cycling can be more diverse and inclusive.’

When I started cycle commuting in Washington, DC in 2013, I felt liberated from street harassment. I was never still long enough to be approached by a potential harasser and even if I were, I could get away so much more quickly on two wheels than on two feet. But as a cyclist, I was vulnerable to road traffic in a way I previously hadn’t contended with as a pedestrian or public transport user. Close passes. Dooring. Left and right hooks. I started to experience these things on an almost daily basis as a cyclist, which was always stressful and jarring. This unfair tradeoff between safety from street harassment and safety from road traffic danger underscores the importance of the right to safe urban mobility. We all need to be able to move around the city without fear of harassment and traffic.

How, when and where we get around — and whether we feel safe when we’re out and about — are shaped by power, privilege and oppression. But too often, urban and transport planning are framed in a technocratic way. This makes it seem like how we build our cities and transport systems are matters of engineering, economics and technology, which leaves little room for considerations of social inclusion and the diversity of people’s lived experiences. If infrastructure is to fulfil societal needs, then social inclusion — and the uncomfortable realities of power, privilege and oppression — must feature more prominently.

Cycling around Washington, DC, one of the most racially segregated cities in the US, allowed me to see, feel and experience how infrastructure and the built environment bake in inequalities. It’s no coincidence that poorer neighbourhoods where more people of colour live lack decent access to public transport, supermarkets with healthy food options, or clean parks and green spaces. It’s also no coincidence that newer cycling infrastructure and pedestrianisation projects tend to be concentrated in areas with whiter, more educated and more affluent populations. Historical legacies and ongoing realities of systemic racism and economic injustice manifest spatially in our cities. And there are no spatial fixes for structural inequalities. So, we can continue to advocate for more cycle lanes and parklets, but risk sounding tone deaf without acknowledging and confronting socio-spatial inequalities.

Even before the Covid-19 crisis, the climate emergency had prompted cities around the world to pledge ambitious investments in cycling infrastructure. More cycle lanes and secure cycle parking would certainly be welcome, but the more fundamental barriers are social, cultural and economic. And we can’t get more people — and more diverse kinds of people — cycling without confronting the ways in which power, privilege and oppression contour urban mobility. To realise the potential of cycling in enabling a green and just Covid-19 recovery, and to ensure that we all have the right to safe urban mobility, diversity and inclusion must be at the front and centre of cycling projects. Otherwise, we’ll miss this opportunity and risk fortifying social, spatial and economic inequalities.

*Tiffany is a Consultant at NEF Consulting with expertise on inclusive cycling. Tiffany is currently working with Sustrans as a Strategic Adviser to ensure inclusive design and delivery of Healthy Streets for London, and the City of Bogotá on a gender analysis of new cycling infrastructure. She is also a lead Theory of Change trainer at NEF Consulting and her other projects at NEF Consulting revolve around the Green New Deal, health inequalities and inclusive local economic development. Tiffany holds an MSc in City Design & Social Science from the London School of Economics and a BA in Women’s Studies and Peace & Justice Studies from Tufts University

Here’s a reading list from Tiffany of ten pieces related to cycling, inclusion, & social justice:

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