Biketivists, hipsters, and spandex queens : bicycle politics and cultural critique in Austin



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This paper uses an interdisciplinary, multiperspectival approach to analyze biketivism and various anticapitalist biketivist projects in Austin, Texas, in the hopes that a “glocalized” exploration of past and current biketivist struggles can help locate potential sites for political agency in ways that more placeless rhetorical studies cannot. Because the form and content of present-day bike politics in Austin are heavily dependent on biketivism’s historically tense articulations with capitalism, a historical analysis of biketivism as an outgrowth of Progressive Era and Appropriate Technology narratives reveals its crystallization around issues of technological, spatial, and social politics. Three case studies then apply this framework to different sites within the Austin bike community: the sales rhetoric of pro-custom bike shops, the debates over installing a Bike Boulevard in downtown Austin, and the missions and forms of several bike-related cultural organizations. Together, these perspectives on Austin’s bike community indicate that the incorporation (and sometimes outright co-optation) of biketivists’ technological and spatial demands and practices into mainstream culture may fragment the movement into physical and social agendas, but this fragmentation does not necessarily silence biketivism’s more radical social politics. At least in Austin, co-optation of biketivism may paradoxically be helping biketivists meet their goal of bringing (pedal) power to the people.