First Advisor

Veronica Dujon

Date of Publication

Summer 8-25-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Sociology






Bicycle commuting -- Colombia -- Cali, Transportation -- Colombia -- Cali -- Planning, Transportation and state -- Colombia -- Cali, Urbanization -- Colombia -- Cali -- 20th century, Urbanization -- Colombia -- Cali -- 21st century, Cyclists -- Colombia -- Cali -- Economic conditions, Cyclists -- Colombia -- Cali -- Social conditions



Physical Description

1 online resource (viii, 203 pages)


Since 2008, more than 50% of the world's population has lived in cities and it is projected that by 2050 around 87% will do so. Designing infrastructure in urban spaces has become increasingly critical for achieving human well-being. This dissertation examines socio-spatial transformation processes related to urbanization, economic development and the marginalization of utilitarian cycling in Cali, Colombia, as a particular expression of the struggle for transportation space occurring in urban areas. The research analyzes (a) the socio-spatial processes that have restricted the use of bicycles as a means of transportation in the city of Cali, Colombia; and (b) the social, health and economic implications for people who use bicycles as their primary means of transportation in this city.

Cali is a major city in Latin America and an excellent case to study the complex dynamic of how social and economic forces are evident in resource distribution at the street level. Informed by Harvey's work (1976; 1978; 2012), combined with an environmental justice perspective (Bullard 2007), this research adopts a conceptual framework that examines the transformation of the built environment as part of capitalist led urbanization. It concludes that the implementation of transportation infrastructure was aimed at enabling productivity and profits, with less emphasis on the comprehensive needs of all citizens, ultimately marginalizing transportation options for those of lower socio-economic status. The experience in Cali can be understood as a case of consolidation of inequality at the street level.

A historical review of Cali's urbanization process demonstrates that cycling as a mode of transportation has been losing social and physical space. Analysis of the political economy of more recent economic development initiatives suggest that the City, in responding to the demands of globalization, and in conjunction with international financial agencies and national government support has implemented a Bus Rapid Transit system and a set of megaprojects which marginalize bike commuters, particularly those who bike out of economic necessity. Although bike commuters recognize economic and health and time-saving benefits of biking to themselves as individuals they also experience daily travel in Cali as a classed, problematic, stigmatized, and transitory activity. From an environmental justice perspective, the resulting impact on residents, particularly, those of lower socioeconomic stratum, unmasks the uneven distribution of environmental benefits and harms. The marginalization of biking as a means of transportation in urban areas in Latin America may be understood as a social injustice similar to the deprivation of parks, schools, health services, or housing endured by residents of lower socioeconomic status.


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