University lecturer ‘pedals’ his cycling message back where it all began.

Posted on 13th June 2017

As the invention of the modern bicycle celebrates its 200th anniversary this month, a leading expert at the University of Chester is ‘pedalling’ his message about the humble bike’s importance for improving social justice and sustainability at a number of international events, held to mark the occasion.

Dr Cox at the World Bicycle Forum in Mexico City.
Dr Cox at the World Bicycle Forum in Mexico City.

Dr Peter Cox is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology, and the Editor of Cycling Cultures: studies in diversity and practice by the University of Chester Press. 

This year marks 200 years since German inventor Karl Von Drais unveiled his ‘running machine’ (called ‘Laufmaschine’ – and also nicknamed ‘the dandy horse’), the two wheeler which stands as the precursor to all bicycles. 

This month, Dr Cox has been the guest of the German Environment Agency, taking part in jubilee celebrations in Mannheim – the home of the invention, where he has also been invited to give a public lecture. This week, he has been a presenter at the International Scientists for Cycling Colloquium in Nijmegen in the Netherlands. He is also one of the speakers at Nijmegen’s International Velo-City Conference (www.velo-city2017.com/) and will be taking part in two expert panels. The first is Science Meets Practice: Making Research Relevant, which will focus specifically on closing the gap between research and practice; the second is on Cycling as a tool for a more equitable and inclusive society. 

Dr Cox has also been working with the organisers of a special exhibition at the Deutsches Museum (the world’s largest museum of science and technology) in Munich, called Balancing Act: 200 years of the Two-Wheeler. Part of his contribution is an essay for the exhibition catalogue book, which is titled “Bicycles, protests and change: cyclists as designers of cities and machines”. Dr Cox is attending the opening in late July, and will also be giving a public lecture as part of a series there. 

Then, in September, he will be attending the International Cycling Conference in Mannheim. 

Earlier this year, Dr Cox was also the keynote speaker in Mexico City at the World Bicycle Forum, where he gave a presentation entitled Cycling Cultures: Diversity and Change, in which he talked about some of the ideas in the Cycling Cultures book (University of Chester Press 2015).

Dr Cox said: “My presentations draw on the themes from my book Cycling Cultures and take up the core themes of diversity and power, showing how difference can be managed in ways that decrease inequality. The quality and detail of the physical environment is so important in people’s choices to travel by bike, and studying actual cycling practices using sensory ethnography (the studying and writing about people’s lives and activities, specifically paying attention to the sensual world of experience, not just outward actions) proves that. 

“It’s been an honour to have received so many invitations in such a key year in the history of the bicycle. These are allowing me to take sociological research into bicycling to the very heart of the global cycle industry. It's a clear endorsement of the worth of social scientific approaches in what is often thought of as simply a planning or engineering issue.” 

Dr Meriel D’Artrey, Head of Social and Political Science at the University of Chester, said: “We’re thrilled that Peter’s work in the field of cycling and sustainability has been recognised at an international level; to be asked to attend so many key events this year is proof of his outstanding reputation in his field.”

Prior to re-entering academia, Dr Peter Cox ran his own cycle business and was involved in a range of cycle campaigning and community organising projects, particularly linked with issues of social and environmental sustainability.

As Senior Lecturer in the Department of Social and Political Science at the University of Chester, Dr Cox specialises in the area of social change and sustainability and the impacts and processes of globalisation. He continues to actively research the problems of sustainable mobility, especially the vital contribution of cycling and its importance for social justice.