To understand relationships between the urban environment and cycling practices we need new ways to face complexity and multidimensionality. Neither measurable environmental variables, nor thickly descriptive, particularistic, or overtly theoretical contributions provide satisfying recommendations for cycling policy and practice. We propose the development of a pattern language for urban cycling environments, together with a supporting methodology – named Embodied Making – for the development of novel patterns. We define an individual pattern as “a honed solution that successfully resolves conflicting forces in a recurring context”; a pattern language as a grouping of related patterns that work together within a given domain.
Rather than attempting to identify existing solutions, Embodied Making seeks to develop new patterns from the bottom-up, i.e. from the analysis of forces themselves. The use of a pattern language naturally addresses the integrated quality of the physical, perceived, and lived dimensions of urban environments, and holds promise for a more holistic understanding of cycling environments, which could help bridge existing ontological and epistemological divisions within cycling research. We discuss how such a pattern language;
(1) Addresses integrated quality of physical, perceived, and lived environments;
(2) Makes human experience part and parcel of the investigation;
(3) Offers an approach to accommodating complexity;
(4) Is adaptable, because it formulates patterns as mid-level abstractions instead of either absolutes or unique context-specifics;
(5) Uses pragmatism as its philosophical underpinning;
(6) Works with languages in which patterns take on significance and meaning according to connections with other patterns, and;
(7) Facilitates community building.
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