Accepted Paper:

"I love Budapest, I bike Budapest?" An anthropological contribution to the study of urban cycling cultures in post-socialist cities  


Katalin Tóth (Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich)

Paper short abstract:

Cycling as a mode of everyday transport has quickly grown in Budapest, Hungary in the 2000s. This phenomenon has until now been unique to this city, and hasn't reached the other capitals of region. This paper investigates meanings of cycling in the urban life and imagination of Budapest.

Paper long abstract:

Within the last decades the number of cyclist has grown yearly over 50% in Budapest, Hungary. This remarkable change in mobility behavior has its roots less in the built environment than in the socio-cultural changes in city life. In contrast to the development of cycling practices in Western European cities, in Budapest, planners and policy makers began to concern themselves with this issue only after the fact. Cycling started as part of a local subculture and its social acceptance as a mode of everyday transport was promoted by grassroots movements. This paper investigates the role of cycling in the changing practices of urban life and imagination of Budapest. I focus on social acceptance as a discursive practice and regard the process of urban transformation as rooted in the changing lifestyles, environmental issues and social disparities of urban life. The paper analyses the spread of cycling in Budapest through the lens of urban anthropology and critical geography, focusing in particular on the production of urban spaces, regulations, and practices of making sense related to cycling. My discussion unfolds at two levels: First, I examine the representations of cycling promotion by the local government and NGO's. Second, I investigate the motivations and the spatial experiences of individual cyclists. My analysis makes a unique contribution to the study of mobility cultures in post-socialist cities by putting the emphasis on the role of anthropological aspects in the shaping of cycling geographies.

Panel P52
Cycling: past, present and future