One of the chapters of my PhD thesis on cycling sociabilities will deal with how senses inform and shape the perception of environment amongst cyclists.


It is still a work in progress but at this point is definitely the most coherent piece of writing and the one I am most proud of. I will be sharing my work on cycling and senses at the Cycling and Society Annual Symposium in Manchester, in September, where I was accepted to do a presentation, yey! Here’s the abstract:


The sensescapes of cycling


Visual perception is of uttermost importance for cyclists orienting themselves in urban environments, wherein the imperatives of ‘See!’ (and ‘Be seen!’) can make a dramatic difference between a safe ride and an unfortunate traffic event. Drawing from the work of J.J. Gibson (1938) in the domain of ecological psychology, in this paper I delineate the characteristics of the ‘visual field of safe travel’ in relation to cycling. In doing so, I also expand Gibson’s overtly visual (and car-focused) account by bringing to the fore a plethora of other senses that make cycling a distinctive mobility practice. Arguing that senses not only function as mere sensations and feelings, but as effective ways of ‘making sense’ of the world (Rodaway 1994), I show how cycling sensory scapes are substantially different from those afforded by the car, where indeed one is often completely ‘car-cooned’ not only from risks and dangers, as Urry and Kingsley (2009) argue, but from a more rich and meaningful perception of the environment. The sensory scape surrounding the bicycle rider opens up her body not only to a more unmediated perception of the environment itself, but it makes possible the very articulation of political and cultural discourses about liberation, counter-culture,alternative and green(er) lifestyles or post-capitalist societies. This presentation draws from an auto-ethnography of my cycling experience in London, which is documented with a mixture of mobile methods (Büscher and Urry 2009), featuring video and audio recordings.




Büscher, M. and Urry, J. (2009) ‘Mobile Methods and the Empirical’, European Journal of Social Theory, 12:1, pp. 99-116;
Gibson, J. J. and Crooks, L. (1938) ‘A Theoretical Field-Analysis of Automobile-Driving’, The American Journal of Psychology, 51:3, pp. 453-471;
Rodaway, P. (1994) Sensuous Geographies. Body, sense and place, London and New York: Routledge;
Urry, J. and Kingsley, D. (2009) After the Car, Cambridge and Malden: Polity Press.