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auto-mobility – a manifesto for bicycology

You can download and print the information below as a beautiful illustrated A5 Flyer: Guide pages

"Ivan Illich once calculated that if you add up all the time you spend on a car, including the trips to the garage and the time spent earning the money to buy the fuel and maintain the vehicle, and divide by the number of miles you travel, then your average speed is 5mph. You would be faster on a bicycle."

Bicycology is a living alternative to automobility. Many people in the UK today assume that there is no alternative to the automobile. People assume that the car is the only way to get around, even for short trips to the shops or a friend’s house. Cars – along with the roads, car-parks, driveways and garages they bring with them – dictate the structure of our cities and countryside. Car-culture shapes our physical environment by demanding ever more multiple lane motorways and bypasses, out-of-town supermarkets and retail-parks and in-town car-parks. These changes have also changed our psychological environment. From a place of community and play the street has become a place of danger and violence. Compare the small residential road of today with that of 30 years ago. Just one generation ago kids still played in the street. Today the roads are given over to cars and parents fear to let their children out of the back garden (if they are fortunate enough to have one).

What used to be a short walk to the local shops, where you might bump into a neighbour and catch up on local gossip, is often no longer possible. Many local shops have been forced to close because of competition from large supermarkets like Tesco. Most of these are hard, if not impossible, to reach without a car and they encourage you to buy more on each trip so that a car is necessary to take all of the BOGOF's (‘buy-one-get-one-free’s) home. With the loss of the local shop and the street, people are increasingly imprisoned in their houses and cars. Many people today live their lives in small, self-contained boxes as they move from home to work to Tesco to home, each journey made in a car that gives its passengers an illusion of separation from the outside world.

But the separation is an illusion. The automobile was supposed to make people more independent, more autonomous, more free. The reality is that cars make us ever more dependent on big-government and big-business. Cars need roads. They need car-parks, traffic lights, transport police and the DVLA to ensure that they can get from A to B without crashing too often.They need congestion charges and toll-motorways to prevent gridlock from rendering the automobile immobile. They need large corporations to make the cars in the first place, to refine the oil to keep them running, to build the supermarkets and retail-parks with car-parks big enough to cope with them.
They need wars to secure access to diminishing oil-reserves and to politically
‘stabilise’ areas where the pipelines will pass through. Given free reign the automobile has taken less than 100 years to completely transform our lives and our environment, from the daily experience of feeding ourselves and getting to work to the global sphere of politics and economics, and the eco-system.

Compare this state of helpless dependency with the images you see in automobile adverts. TV screens show fast cars on beautiful empty mountain roads but as soon as we leave the showroom we find ourselves on a congested ring-road, closing the windows against the pollution and wondering how long it will take us to get home.

To a world ruled by ‘automobility’ we offer the alternative of ‘bicycology’.
Automobility offers the illusion of autonomy and independence but ties us closer to big business and central government which come to dominate our lives and take away our freedom and autonomy. Bicycology offers a different kind of freedom. The semi-amputated existence of the car dweller (a twitch of the foot; a light pressure applied to the power-assisted steering wheel; a flicker of the eyes to the mirror), separated from the world ‘outside’ by a glass and steel cage is replaced with a full-bodied experience: our physical strength, the sensation of speed, the smells of the wheat-fields as we ride past (or the stink of the BMW trapped in a traffic-jam as we pass by), the feeling of the sun, wind and rain on our faces.

Bicycology reconnects us to the environment we live in, and help to shape by our transport decisions. Automobility communicates with red brake lights and amber indicators whilst actual people remain hidden behind a screen. Bicycology communicates with a wave, an arm, a smile (or frown). Bicycology stops at the side of the road for a chat with a passing friend because it doesn’t have to worry about slowing down ‘the traffic’. With bicycology the illusion of autonomy can’t be maintained: we have to recognise others on the road. If we have an accident we might be hurt as well. Whilst the driver of an SUV can speed through residential areas at 40mph and assume that kids will get out of their way (‘or else...’) the bicycologist stays below 20 mph with their ears and eyes open to the lives going on around them. Bicycology has no screen with which to insulate itself from the outside. Bicycology lives in, and takes responsibility for, the world it inhabits and moves through.

Latest: build a pedal generator, build an energy trailer

"Bicycology uses creative methods to encourage environmental responsibility.
Its aim is to promoting cycling as a healthy, practical and enjoyable alternative to high-carbon lifestyles, and to challenge the politics and economics that have led us down the road to environmental destruction and massive global injustice"