Cycling in the city

After nearly a year of workshops, community consultations and research interviews, MyPlace researchers finalised their ‘Cycling in the City’ report. The main aim was to explore the potential of digital tools for those new to cycling in Newcastle upon Tyne. Rachel Clarke, Wilbert den Hoed and Pete Wright report on the use of social technology to increase confidence among new cyclists and the discovery of new routes.

The report outlines two phases of a design study to explore the potential for digital technology to support local cycling knowledge for new cyclists within the city of Newcastle upon Tyne. Our purpose was to understand how new cyclists describe particular preferences for routes, their technology use and how they plan journeys to support confidence when choosing rides.

We found perceptions of route finding were part of a much wider ecology of activities involving formal and informal training and confidence building. All cyclists described the desire to find new routes, as driven by changes in circumstance, including ageing, health, family and retirement. The impetus to explore was important for people to continue to cycle but depended on geographical, embodied and technical knowledge to guide decision- making. The technology used to support such activity included a range of devices and platforms but focused on connecting and compiling information to build confidence in dealing with issues of safety, complexity and uncertainty. While some people also described their use of fitness tracking devices, others reported using technology to aid distraction and curate the sensory and social experiences associated with cycling. Technical and improvised work-arounds to connect, compile, make-sense of and accommodate the lack of specific localised knowledge of available routes were also reported.

We conclude with possible ways to further develop integrated mobile phone and web platforms, that capitalise on local grass-roots knowledge and sharing of places and routes while respecting the diversity with which new cyclists experience routes. We suggest connecting with existing platforms that support social rides and route discovery to encourage opportunities for curation around a broader set of search terms such as feelings of freedom, views and satisfaction associated with wellbeing rather than searches determined by efficiency, safety and fitness could support greater confidence for new cyclists.

For more information please contact Wilbert den Hoed. This post was originally published on the MyPlace website, where you can also view the full report. MyPlace is a project to explore issues around mobility and place, with a particular focus on age friendly cities, and fits within the wider digital civics theme of digital local democracy and community.

Author: Wilbert den Hoed

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