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The bakfiets as lens for class and gender

· research project,sociology,social environment

(By: Willem Boterman)

In Dutch inner-cities, like Amsterdam, ‘cargo bikes’ have become a popular mode of transport for urban families. Remarkably, the cargo bike has become a highly contested object in both public space and public discourse. This paper uses the cargo bike as a lens to discuss the transformations of urban space from the perspective of class and gender. Based on a qualitative content analysis of national newspapers it argues that the cargo bike has become a symbol of the interdependence of specific residential, employment, consumption and mobility practices.

Cargo-bike drivers are portrayed as ‘yuppies’ or ‘elitist’, related to their class position; and described in terms of specific gender roles: cargo-bike mothers are described as career-focused mothers who are assertive and self-confident, while cargo-bike dads are portrayed as ‘soft’ yet also emancipated. These labels attest to the different expectations and normativities around being a ‘good’ mother or father, particularly within the context of urban space. This paper concludes that the cargo bike is a symbol of the way in which middle-class mothers and fathers challenge and negotiate these dominant norms around parenthood, who are thereby remaking the city.

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