The Politics of Bicycling

Join Professor Sujith Kumar at BicycleSPACE Adams Morgan on November 18th from 7:30 to 9:30. 

Sujith Kumar lived in London, England for eight years, where he did his PhD at the London School of Economics… and took his first bike shop job. Since then, he has held teaching posts in Political Science departments around the US, and has worked in several bicycle shops. His research concerns the moral and political thought of John Stuart Mill, culminating in his recent book, John Stuart Mill: A Guide for the perplexed (Bloomsbury). Several years ago, Kumar was able to combine his personal and professional interests at DePaul University in Chicago, where he taught the course, Bicycling and Politics. Now teaching at University of Maryland, University College, Kumar continues his efforts to build bridges between bicycle advocacy and Academia. 

His talk, The Politics of Bicycling, argues that as bicycling becomes a regular form of transportation in urban areas, it becomes a mode of transportation in competition with other modes of transportation for public goods. Kumar describes how the essential public resources of funding and street-space are currently distributed between the modes of transportation, and questions if proportionality should form the basis of equity. He then describes how the law can explicitly and implicitly favor one mode of transportation over another, and argues that the car has legally dominated the other modes to the point where it is taken for granted in this country, at the expense of safer and more efficient legal frameworks. Lastly, and following Aristotle, Kumar examines how honor is distributed in our society. By critically examining popular culture and language, Kumar argues that culture plays a crucial role in the adoption and valuation of modes of transportation. 

To be clear, Kumar is by no means anti-car. He loves his very fast and very practical car, and drives it mindfully between home and his children’s daycare, which is the only use that it sees.