(2019) Dancing with shackles? The sociopolitical opportunities, achievements, and dilemmas of cycling activism in Guangzhou, China [EN]

Friday 10 May 2019, by Miguel Angel Martinez

All the versions of this article: [English]

Hongze Tan & Miguel A. Martínez López (2019): Dancing with shackles? The sociopolitical opportunities, achievements, and dilemmas of cycling activism in Guangzhou, China, Journal of Urban Affairs, DOI: 10.1080/07352166.2019.1592650


Over the last decade, urban cycling has re-emerged as a popular mode of transportation in Chinese cities. This article examines how grassroots activism contributed to this cycling renaissance by considering the case of Guangzhou. In the wake of rapid economic development, the Chinese gov- ernment modified its transportation policies such that cycling was revived, with Guangzhou playing a role in the “rise, fall, and re-emergence” of China as a “cycling kingdom.” We contend that these sociopolitical circumstances of economic development and political opening up provided a structural opportunity for cycling activists, who gained public visibility and institutional recognition through their strategic interaction with both governmental and nongovernmental actors. In addition, activists empowered themselves by accumulating and transforming their social capital. Their example resonated with other marginal organizations and the resulting alliances enhanced the legitimacy of cycling as a movement. Finally, we identify the dilemmas and limitations of cycling activism in urban China due to the closure of local governance channels and the perception that cycling issues are “nonurgent.”