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'Resistance was futile!' Cycling's discourses of resistance to UK automobile modernism 1950-1970

Lookup NU author(s): Rorie Parsons, Professor Geoff Vigar



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


This paper investigates the place of utility cycling[1] under urban modernism in the UK. In many western contexts the dominant feature of urban modernism was its emphasis on accommodating private vehicles to the neglect of other forms of mobility. The result was the production of a ‘car-system’ with significant change to urban and rural environments. This paper assesses resistance to what we term ‘automobile modernism’ during the high watermark of its planning and implementation (1950-1970), using the UK Cyclists’ Touring Club[2] archive. We make three contributions. First, and primarily, we highlight how cycling advocacy contested automobile modernism’s claim that cycling was ‘outmoded’. In so doing we note significant continuity in policy debates and political advocacy regarding cycling’s place in the road environment around issues such as segregation from motor vehicles. Contemporary attempts to promote cycling, as well as a wider urban sustainability agenda, are heavily influenced by this history. Second, we highlight a commonality between cycling and other resistance to automobile modernism in terms of rural and urban landscape impacts. Third, we highlight how the CTC ‘professionalized’ its advocacy to resist automobile modernism.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Parsons R, Vigar G

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Planning Perspectives

Year: 2018

Volume: 33

Issue: 2

Pages: 163-183

Online publication date: 16/07/2017

Acceptance date: 01/06/2017

Date deposited: 06/06/2017

ISSN (print): 0266-5433

ISSN (electronic): 1466-4518

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/02665433.2017.1348973


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