"It feels like being pushed in...": Contributions of Sociology of Mobility on bicycle use in the city of São Paulo
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Carolina Abilio: Society and Technology Study Center (CEST USP)
No 43sb5, Thesis Commons from Center for Open Science
The use of the bicycle in the city of São Paulo for purposes of mobility is not a new phenomenon, much less brought and/or based on existing infrastructure. Cyclists have faced the city streets for more than 10 years, and have had growing influence in the participation of public mobility policies concerning cycling. However, the inclusion of cycling as a key element in the design of municipal policies during the years 2012-2016 gave academic, social, economic and cultural visibility to the bicycle. This emergence gave way to a wave of new cyclists and affected the urban bike scene in the city. This research contemplated two objectives: the first one was to understand how the bicycle is used by the various social actors of the city, and its impact regarding lifestyles, sociabilities, appropriation of urban space, and the intrinsically corporal aspect that tangents the cycling experience. The second objective was the differentiated empirical construction of a contemporary research problem guided by the New Mobilities Paradigm and the Mobile Methods, supported by the recent field of knowledge of the Sociology of Mobility. Unlike the predominant discourse relatedto the bicycle, in which the "new" modal is associated with freedom, simplicity, economy, ease, and practicality, the results found point out that this is only one facet of the experience of cyclists in a city with a high index of inequality as São Paulo,circumscribed to a group of cyclists that circulate in certain social spaces. Making use of the concept of motility arising from a critical view based on the New Mobilities Paradigm, it is argued that although the bicycle has been associated in recent years with freedom and right to the city by its users, in many cases the city experience by cycling is aggressive, uncomfortable, dangerous and harmful to health. The bicycle is the only instrument through which an impoverished portion of the population, living in peripheral regions, is able to access work, leisure, goods, and services of the city. On the other hand, residents of central districts enjoy the largest percentage of existing bicycle infrastructure and use the bicycle as another mode of transportation in their range of options. The research also enabled some methodological innovations, in the form of a tool developed for data collection. Finally, when thinking about the planning of a public policy that concerns the Urban Mobility System, it is necessary to pinpoint the bicycle as one more device inserted within a collective transportation system that did not include the exponential growth of the city and its metropolitan region, making it disconnected, obsolete and at the margin of the daily needs ofits users. In order for the bicycle's benefits to impact the city's population on a large scale, it is essential that it be designed and planned as an element adding to the complex mobility network of São Paulo –amid transport rail systems, buses, private cars, and walk –, and not simply as a tool that serves this systems.
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