WPS No.24 | Boterman, W.R. (2017)| Cargo bikes as a lens for gender, class and urban transformation in Amsterdam

This paper uses the cargo bike as a lens to discuss the transformations of urban space from the perspective of class and gender. It argues that, while continuing to acknowledge the importance of class, gender is an equally important yet neglected dimension of the production of urban space and that it is particularly relevant to study how class and gender intersect.

In Dutch inner-cities ‘cargo bikes’ have become a popular modes of transport for urban families. This popularity seems to be associated with the class-based transformation of the urban space (gentrification), and particularly to the growth in numbers of urban middle class families, a phenomenon labelled ‘family gentrification’. In public discourse the cargo bike has become the symbol of these urban middle class families and is often used as a marker of gentrification.

Based on a combination of qualitative, quantitative and spatial analysis it demonstrates that the symbolic meaning of a cargo bike is related to its properties as an object - a status symbol not dissimilar from luxury cars- and also to the practice of urban cycling, as a specific embodied form of time-space behaviour. Cargo-bike drivers are portrayed as ‘yuppies’ or ‘elitist’ which is related to the class position but they are also often described in terms of specific gender roles: cargo-bike mothers are often described as career-focussed mothers who are assertive and self-confident, while cargo-bike dads are portrayed as ‘soft’ and emancipated fathers. These labels attest to the very different expectations and normativities around being a ‘good’ mother or father. The cargo bike is therefore a symbol of the way in which middle-class mothers and fathers challenge and negotiate these dominant norms around parenthood, thereby remaking the city.

This paper has now been published in Social & Cultural Geography (open access).

Published by  CUS

9 July 2018