Exploring the Socio-Cultural Significance of Cycling in an Irish Regional City

In partnership with Cork Environmental Forum and the Cork Cycling Campaign, this study investigates the socio-cultural meanings of cycling with a view to informing effective pro-cycling policy in Irish regional cities.


Cycling’s popularity has flourished during the Covid-19 pandemic. Public health guidelines and the World Health Organisation stressed the importance of physical distancing, working from home, the dangers of public transportation, the relative safety of outdoor spaces, and the benefits of exercise. In current policy and planning discourse, there is great interest in reimagining and redesigning cities as more cycling-friendly spaces. In Ireland, government and local councils have recently announced significant investment in long-awaited cycling infrastructure. While positive, it remains to be seen how effective these interventions will be in promoting and sustaining cycling for transport and leisure. Ireland currently has a low cycling uptake in comparison to other European countries with a strong cycling culture, such as the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany. The most commonly-cited barrier to cycling is road safety and therefore improved cycling infrastructure is key to promoting bike use. However, research indicates that investments in the built environment are not enough to increase cycling rates. Social and cultural factors are also significant in determining the strength of a city’s cycling culture but are complex and inadequately researched in policy-making contexts. This project addresses this research gap in the Irish context.

Aims and objectives

This project’s aim is to contribute to knowledge about cycling as a social practice in Irish regional cities. Its objectives are:

  • to engage in individual and focus group interviews that elicit the socio-cultural meanings people attach to bicycles and cycling;
  • to explore the sensorial, affective, social, spatial, and environmental dimensions of cycling experiences;
  • to consider the implications of the research findings for understanding – and enhancing – the impact of cycling advocacy and pro-cycling policy and planning in Cork, Ireland and beyond;
  • to advance social scientific knowledge on cycling and disseminate the research findings in academic, policy, and community contexts.

The research comprises three key elements: a short online questionnaire examining current attitudes towards cycling; qualitative research with 15 participants, including cyclists and motorists; narrated journeys in which 15 cycling participants will be invited to record a particular journey of their choosing, using a GoPro camera attached to their bicycle.

Events and Outputs

Hogan, E. and Jeffers, B. (2023) A sense of freedom: Exploring everyday experiences of cycling in an Irish regional city. Cork: Institute for Social Science in the 21st Century, University College Cork.

A video to launch the Socio-Cycle research report is available here

For details on the Socio-Cycle: Cycling Symposium 3rd-4th February, 2023 click here: socio cycle


Project Funding and Dates

The research project is funded by the Irish Research Council’s New Foundations programme and runs from December 2021 to March 2023.

Project Team

Dr Eileen Hogan (PI) and Becci Jeffers, School of Applied Social Studies, UCC. The researchers will work in partnership with Dr Dean Venables, School of Chemistry, representing the Cork Cycling Campaign and Bernadette Connolly, representing the Cork Environmental Forum.

Contact: Dr Eileen Hogan

Institute for Social Science in the 21st Century (ISS21)

Top Floor, Carrigbawn/Safari Building, Donovan Road, Cork, T12 YE30