September 2007, Guildford, UK
This symposium is the fourth in a series that originally came about when several people working independently on cycling-related research began to realise they were not alone. This year’s ten papers spanned topics ranging from the inter-war period to the present day; from psychology and history to statistics and design; from everyday cyclists’ interactions with drivers to the use of new off-road data gathering techniques; from the formula for calculating the effort needed to pedal uphill to the benefits of community cycling projects; from historical committees defining policy to designers working on different kinds of bikes or anti-terrorist cycle storage facilities.
As well as providing a great deal of food for thought, the Guildford event marked a turning point in two ways. Firstly, it was decided this time to bring cycling researchers together with policymakers and cycling campaigners in order to see how the three groups might work together. The event was hosted by CTC (Cyclists’ Touring Club), and closed with a panel discussion that juxtaposed the three different perspectives. There were a fair number of local government, campaigning and consultancy participants present alongside academics, so to that extent the event was successful (and the venue was full!). How much impact this engagement will have in the longer term is hard to anticipate. A key issue will be whether academics with a research interest in cycling can address the research needs of groups geared up to policy timetables.
Secondly, the symposium marked the launch of the edited collection (Cycling & Society, eds. Horton, Rosen & Cox, Ashgate 2007) originating from the first symposium, which had been held in Lancaster three years earlier. Whilst the book features almost as wide a range of topics as the latest event, it’s interesting to note that of its nine chapters only three were by people presenting at this year’s meeting. Likewise, about half the 2007 presenters were new to the small but growing Cycling & Society Research Group responsible for the symposia. There are signs, then, that as well as engaging better with the cycling world, those involved are beginning to network better amongst themselves and establish a role for cycling research within the wider research community.