A Look at “Beyond ‘bikelash’: engaging with community opposition to cycle lanes”

Published: 7 March 2023

Written by Anna Lefrançois | LinkedIn

As cities are expanding their bike lanes and adapting their infrastructures to cycling friendly mobility, these urban projects are sometimes met with community opposition often referred to as  “bikelash,” that surprises urban planners and cycling advocates. With this playful word, Wild, Woodward, Field and Macmillan explore the complex social phenomena hiding behind the eruption of transport conflicts and the need to better consult residents and users. The reallocation of public space for the creation of a cycling lane reveals the underlying power dynamics of who shares the road and how. 

Noting the failures of the “build it and they will come” dogma (p.2), the authors challenge the still dominating technocentric vision of cycling lanes which omits “larger social and economic processes of accumulation and exclusion within the city (p. 12).” The creation of a cycling lane cannot be understood as a neutral initiative. By relocating public space, city governments need to bear in mind the underlying power dynamics of who shares the road and how. Reflecting the diversity of mobility cultures, bikelash causes are often rooted in deeper concerns of fear of marginalization, displacement, or clash with ideological and political values. 

Thus, this article contributes to show how a technical one-size-fits-all approach will fail to build trust with skeptic communities and ultimately lead to bikelash. City governments should learn from these results and seek to build trust and recognize the local expertise that residents can hold. This can be achieved through conventional communication strategies as well as the use of social media and ongoing feedback consultations. 


Wild, Kirsty. et al. (2017) “Beyond ‘bikelash’: Engaging with community opposition to cycle lanes,” Mobilities, 13(4), pp. 505–519. https://doi.org/10.1080/17450101.2017.1408950

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