Analysing cycling as a social practice: An empirical grounding for behaviour change

Fiona Spotswood*, Tim Chatterton, Alan Tapp, David Williams

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

139 Citations (Scopus)


Despite significant national and local efforts over the last decade to stimulate uptake of cycling in the UK, levels of cycling (particularly utility cycling) remain at around 2% of journeys. Understanding of cycling behaviour and subsequent development of interventions has typically been undertaken using an individualist approach, often relying on psychologically based models of behaviour. This paper argues that Social Practice Theory (SPT) may be a valuable addition to practitioner's toolboxes by providing an alternative means of understanding the complex dynamics between the elements that constitute the practice of utility cycling, allowing it to be considered as a social issue, rather than focusing solely on individual behaviour. This is demonstrated within the paper by the use of SPT to reanalyse quantitative and qualitative datasets that explore views and experiences of both cyclists and non-cyclists. Therein, the practice of utility cycling is described according to its three elements; materials, meaning and competences and the potential benefits of this approach are discussed; particularly its ideological shift away from 'victim blaming' and its natural support of interdisciplinary intervention design.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-33
Number of pages12
JournalTransportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour
Early online date21 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Part of this work has been carried out by Tim Chatterton under an ESRC Follow-On Fund Award ‘Enriching understanding of climate and energy related behaviours’ ES/J010669/1, and by David Williams as part of a PhD studentship funded under the EPSRC/RCUK Energy Programme project ‘Disruption: The raw material for low carbon change’ EP/J00460X/1.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 The Authors.

Structured keywords

  • MGMT Marketing and Consumption


  • Behaviour change
  • Social practice
  • Utility cycling


Dive into the research topics of 'Analysing cycling as a social practice: An empirical grounding for behaviour change'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this