Bicycology: The bicycle as medium and message

IssueSeptember 2007
Feature by Patrick Nicholson

Bicycology is a cycle activism and education collective that formed after the 2005 G8 Bike Ride. Bicycology is run non-hierarchically through regular meetings rotating around the country.


In 2006, Bicycology organised a cycle roadshow from London to Lancaster, then went on to the Camp for Climate Action near Selby.

This year Bicycology did a tour of south-west England. Around 20 of us cycled from Aylesbury to Exeter over two weeks, stopping in towns to promote cycling and raise awareness of wider environmental and social issues.

Travelling solely by bike, we carried all our equipment with us using panniers, trailers, and load-carrying bicycles. Setting up in public spaces, we offered a range of free activities including cycle maintenance, a renewable energy trailer, bike jewellery, street theatre, a carbon footprint quiz, and film screenings. Zero lycra zone Bicycology's focus on cycling engages people who might otherwise be unwilling or unable to think about the more challenging issues that we highlight.

As cyclists, arriving with all our tat by bike, we are seen as non-threatening, human, open and approachable. We steer clear of the lycra-clad stereotypes, dressing informally and comfortably in Bicycology pink and green.

We want to present cycling as practical, normal and enjoyable. We offer to check and help peoples' bikes, and this simple act is often enough to get people thinking and interested in staying and chatting, exploring what else we have to offer.

Often they find it odd that we should fix their bikes for free, or that we should voluntarily cycle large distances together around the country. The idea begins to grow that there are other ways of doing things.

Two-wheeled utopia...

Bicycology is about providing people with glimpses of alternative futures - futures where cars are the minority users of the roads, where people do things because they want to, where there are genuine communities, responsible, consensual and striving for a better world, where concern for the environment and others on the Earth is a natural, implicit assumption underlying everything else.

Bicycology uses the bicycle as the vehicle to transport us, both literally and metaphorically, to these alternate visions of what's possible. Bicycology itself strives to realise these futures here and now, in microcosm, through its organisation and its actions.

For example, on the roads as it moves from town to town Bicycology consciously reclaims the space from the cars, asserting our right to a substantial safe corridor on the road.

It means that we travel more safely, people see how things could be when cyclists have sufficient numbers to control the road space around them, and the car drivers get a momentary dent in their perception that they rule the roads.

We often travel with music playing, creating a rolling carnival on wheels. Pedestrians generally love it.

Predictably, the occasional motorist gets enraged.

...And how we get there

At our events we make a point of having lots of information about who were are, from how we organise to where we sleep at night, from what we eat to how we fund it all.

We want to present it all holistically and honestly because we're not just about cycling, we're about a whole interconnected set of ideas for different, better ways of living, working, organising, and travelling.

Topics: Green