Dissertating About Urban Cycling

An interesting little tidbit arrived in my inbox this week.   It was an email from Lund University in Sweden about a study on mobility, planning, and cycling.   The study, officially titled “Velomobility – A critical analysis of planning and space”, was conducted by PhD student Till Koglin at Lund University.

It’s a comparative analysis of urban bicycling and planning issues between Copenhagen, Denmark, and Stockholm, Sweden, and it delves into how cycling infrastructure and planning evolved in different ways between the two cities resulting in Copenhagen being a “better” (their phrasing, not mine) city for cycling than Stockholm.

My first reaction upon reading this was, “Oh gee, another person raving about how great Copenhagen is for cycling.   I’ve never been there, but it sure looks amazing, so stop rubbing it in already!”

But then I realized there was a lot more going on in this email.   This study actually attempts to explain why and how Copenhagen became such a great place to ride a bike, but there were a few other things about it that caught my attention, as well.

One, I also happen to be working on my PhD, and I don’t believe my university goes around sending out press releases about recently completed dissertations to the types of individuals and organizations who might be interested in the results.   Though quite frankly, that’s genius.   It’s like, “Hey, let’s actively work to deliver science beyond the academic realm!”   Yes, please and thank you, I’d like some more of that!

Two, this recently completed dissertation was being circulated with a nice press release and a video.   A video I tell you!   All right Lund University, now you have my attention.   Because honestly, though a reluctant academic I may be, I’m more likely to watch the video than read the whole dissertation.   In fact, it sort of reminds me of the “Dance Your PhD” Contest…only not.   Anyhow, it’s pretty darn cool that this PhD student took the time to make a video about his dissertation.

Let’s take a moment and watch said video.

Ok, the video does leave a little bit to be desired.   For one, it doesn’t say anything about the actual study, nor does it mention Stockholm.   However, the associated press release definitely gives more details on the research.   I’m a bit curious about the origin of this video and press release.   Is this something all students at Lund University are expected to produce?   This is the first such thing I’ve seen, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been missing out on something.

Anyhow, since I know how incredibly hard it is to finish a dissertation in the first place (ok, I don’t know, since I’m not done yet), I’m still super impressed that Mr. Koglin took the time to make a video.

Three, the press release is somewhat jargon heavy: “power relations”, “urban mobilities”, “spatial dimension”, “urban space”.   This is somewhat counter to the idea of sharing the science, since it’s still a little hard to dissect.   But it still grabbed my attention, since I’m a Geographer, and Geographers love to talk about space.   No, not outer space, but space as in the places in which we exist and where earthly phenomenon occur.   Our space impacts us, and we impact our space.

So the overall gist of Mr. Koglin’s dissertation is that if space isn’t constructed to favor cycling, cycling will not be as, well, favorable.   He’s arguing that cyclists are often marginalized in space due in part to certain historical conditions that either empower or disempower cycling and cyclists.

I’m not sure if I managed to de-jargonize that or not…

Anyhow, I found this particularly interesting, as I’m planning to dive into a series of posts here about my experiences cycling in two Arizona cities: Tucson and Flagstaff.   I recently relocated from Tucson to Flagstaff, and my experience commuting by bike has been drastically different between the two.   So in the spirit of this dissertation and my new bike commuting environment, I’ll be embarking on a comparative study of bike commuting in Tucson and Flagstaff in the coming months.   But I’ll keep it jargon-free!

So what do you think of the video, press release, and the dissertation if you looked at it?   And congrats to Mr. Koglin for finishing that dissertation.

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