Macquarie University
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Understanding cycling: practices and experiences in Sydney

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posted on 2022-03-28, 21:00 authored by Nicole Kate McNamara
Cycling in highly-automobilised cities is perceived as a marginal mode of travel. Whilst it has well-documented health, environmental, economic and social benefits, little is known about how cycling is practiced, the content and meaning of the journey, and made a part of everyday life. Utilising the lenses of practice, emotion and affect, the study explores the qualitative experience of cycling in Australia’s largest city, Sydney. This includes the way in which cycling is enacted, performed, and sustained by people who cycle, and the way in which people who cycle make meaning through their cycling. I employ a hybrid methodology to record highly personal narratives of cycling, with a focus on the everyday journeys of people who practice cycling(s). The study has two key findings. Firstly, that cycling can be considered as a social practice but is also more-than a practice. The study finds that cycling practices are dynamic, flexible, enfolded into other/multiple social practices, and that people who cycle are not fixed in their cycling practices. Cycling practices develop from an active bundling of materials, meanings and competences that are not wholly related to mobility. Instead, cycling practices shift as they are enfolded into sporting/exercise practices, childcare practices, shopping practices, and working/study practices –serving multiple and overlapping functions. The second key finding relates to the emotional geographies of cycling, as the study finds that the multifaceted emotional and affectual experiences of cycling are embodied, relational, and extend beyond the journey itself. The study uncovers the way in which cycling becomes embedded in the way people navigate the city, but also the way in which they navigate relationships and make sense of their place in the world. Together, these findings contribute to a new understanding of cycling as a relational process of becoming. This notion of becoming with poses a significant challenge to conventional understandings of transport, and reimagines how mobilities and cycling are conceived of.


Table of Contents

Preamble -- 1. Approaching cycling research -- 2. Situating cycling : mobilities, practices, emotions -- 3. Researching cycling : a methodological hybrid -- 4. Locating cycling : Sydney & cyclists in the city -- 5. Cycling practices : elements & bundles --6. Cycling emotions : feeling cycling -- 7. Reimaging cycling as becoming with -- 8. Conclusions and recommendations-- Afterword -- References -- Appendices.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 281-300

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Geography and Planning

Department, Centre or School

Department of Geography and Planning

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Sara Fuller

Additional Supervisor 1

Donna Houston

Additional Supervisor 2

Robyn Dowling


Copyright Nicole Kate McNamara 2018. Copyright disclaimer:




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