This historiographical essay provides an overview of extensive recent work on the history of cycling to show the diverse ways in which the bicycle was adopted and experienced across Western societies. Two key aspects are explored. Firstly, it discusses the complex relationship between cycling and modernity, including tensions between ideas about cycling as liberating and as a vehicle of social conformity (in relation to gender as well as social class and status). Secondly, it highlights distinct differences in cycling levels, patterns of use and cycling cultures between nations. It is argued that these differences, which have been historically constituted, explain present-day cycling trends as well as the success or failure of policy initiatives across Western countries.
- Bicycle history
- national identity