Performing resistance? Re-reading practices of urban cycling on London’s South Bank
Despite a burgeoning literature on mobilities in general and cycling in particular as a transport, leisure, and political practice, there remains a lack of research on cycling in pedestrian public spaces. There is, however, a substantial body of literature in relation to skateboarding in public spaces which with few exceptions theorises it as resistant to preexisting dominant design codes and social norms. Using the example of London’s South Bank this paper focuses on the urban cycling practices of bike trials and BMX in order to illustrate that these practices are perhaps not as ‘resistant’ as previous accounts have argued. Whilst accounts of skateboarding have tended to draw upon a body – architecture dialectics and subcultural theory, using ethnographic methods this paper discusses the practice and reception of display, sociality, and authority inherent in these public performances. In doing so the paper demonstrates that these styles of riding largely perform the social and cultural norms enshrined in the redevelopment of the South Bank. The result is a performed reading of these practices and spaces which sees power as always becoming. In line with this, the paper also questions the logic of current strategies which seek to displace riders and skaters to peripheral ‘private’ skate parks based on an erroneous reading of such practices as always resistant.
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