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When One Becomes Two

Man–Machine Hybridization in Urban Cyclists with Broken Bikes

Lou Therese Brandner

Abstract

In the Netherlands, where cycling is part of the “national habitus,” bicycle infrastructure is remarkably similar to car infrastructure. This article explores man–machine hybridization in the context of this spatial environment made for bikes, analyzing it through notions of human/nonhuman hybrids, cyborg bodies, and automobilized persons. The perceptions of urban cyclists who temporarily cannot cycle are explored, based on interviews with bike repair shop customers in Amsterdam. How does a broken bike impact their perception of themselves and the city? Within the sample, cyclists attribute an essential, corporeal value to their vehicles, regarding them as extensions of the body. Cycling is considered the natural way of moving through urban space, associated with freedom and independence; switching to public transportation induces feelings of dependence and handicap.