Dr Eileen Hogan, Socio-cycle: Exploring the socio-cultural significance of cycling in an Irish regional city

Socio cycle project team with bicycles

Dr Eileen Hogan’s project Socio-cycle: Exploring the socio-cultural significance of cycling in an Irish regional city stems from a surprising positive brought about by the Covid-19 crisis—a boom in cycling. Pandemic public health guidelines emphasised the importance of physical distancing and exercise for health and wellbeing, and a cautionary approach to public transport was recommended to minimise the risk of infection. As a result, we have witnessed a significant increase in uptake of cycling, impacting not only our lifestyles and habits but also highlighting a need for national investments in urban cycling infrastructure.

In her 2021 New Foundations project, undertaken with UCC colleague, Becci Jeffers, in collaboration with Cork Environmental Forum and the Cork Cycling Campaign, Dr. Hogan addressed this phenomenon of a ‘cycling renaissance’ (Daly et al. 2021) and examined its social, cultural, and policy implications. The urgency of this project in addressing the reimagining and redesigning of Irish cities as more cycling-friendly spaces is especially significant given the relatively low cycling uptake in Ireland when compared with other European countries with a strong cycling culture.

Socio cycle outdoor event

Image: A presentation by conference delegate, Itsi Alveano Aguerrebere, on children’s cycling at the Cycling Research Board Annual Conference

During the lifetime of the project, the team organised a very successful symposium in association with the Urban Cycling Institute at the University of Amsterdam. This was crucial in advancing social scientific knowledge on cycling in Ireland and beyond, but also in disseminating the research outcomes in policy and community contexts. The symposium included presentations by leading national and international cycling researchers alongside representatives from cycling advocacy organisations across Ireland; an open and inclusive approach to the conference planning allowed us to bring together activists, policymakers, academics, and planners into a unique research- and practice-informed discursive space.

One important outcome was that the symposium captured the attention of Cork’s new Lord Mayor, Cllr. Kieran McCarthy, who is supporting the publication of a cycling policy brief that will be published by Cork City Council and disseminated to Cork City and County Councillors, urban and transport planners, and the public. Numerous other outcomes of the project, including a short documentary on pro-cycling policy and a final report, contribute to a deeper understanding of cycling as a social practice in Ireland and to policy recommendations which feed into the Government’s recent announcement regarding investment in sustainable travel infrastructure.

Watch a video of the project’s launch event here and short documentary film which was released in 2023.

Socio-Cycle event at Cork City Hall

Day 1 of the Socio-Cycle symposium in Cork City Hall

Commenting on the importance of this award on both her career path and the broader civic engagement and policy work Dr Hogan said:

The Irish Research Council’s New Foundations award for the ‘Socio-Cycle’ project was beneficial in many ways. With respect to my academic career, it afforded me the opportunity to enter a new field of enquiry and to explore research ideas that had been germinating for some time. More broadly, the civic engagement focus of the funding scheme enabled the establishment of a new collaboration with two partners organisations, Cork Environmental Forum and the Cork Cycling Campaign. These were instrumental for developing connections within Ireland’s cycling advocacy community, both formal and informal. In turn, the research helped to highlight and give weight to the efforts of the partner organisations in advancing pro-cycling policy and sustainable travel in Ireland. The symposium hosted by UCC as part of the project facilitated connection with national and international experts in cycling research, including the development of an important relationship with researchers in the Urban Cycling Institute in Amsterdam. Through the project, we have also been able to establish a positive relationship between the research team and Cork City Council, with whom we are now collaborating to disseminate cycling research to councillors and the public. This social and policy impact of the research project is particularly gratifying.

Dr Eileen Hogan
Dr Eileen Hogan

Dr Eileen Hogan

Dr Eileen Hogan is a Lecturer in Social Policy at the School of Applied Social Studies and a member of the Institute for the Social Sciences in the 21st Century at University College Cork. Eileen holds a degree in Arts (Music), a degree in Social Science, and a Masters in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education from University College Cork. She was awarded a PhD through the Institute for Popular Music Studies, University of Liverpool in 2015. Her research interests sit at an intersection of urban geography and social policy, and she is interested in exploring the relationship between well-being and people’s sense of place in urban environments, often through a social practice theory lens. Previous work has focused on creative labour, socially engaged arts practices, and cultural policy. She is particularly interested in ethnographic and participatory modes of inquiry, and values community-engaged research practices in producing and disseminating new social scientific knowledge that can contribute to policy-making for a more sustainable and equitable society.

Through this IRC funded New Foundations project, Dr. Hogan outlines the criticality of engaging in research that impacts policy at both local and national level. 

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