Funded PhD Opportunity 'Why wouldn't you cycle'?; Building sustainable cycling cultures in Northern Ireland

This opportunity is now closed.

Subject: Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management


This PhD project seeks to understand better how a sustainable commuter culture can be developed in a world still very much dominated by the car. Put more specifically, this ethnographic project aims to identify the barriers (real and/or perceived) to the development of a commuter culture in Northern Ireland. So how to begin to answer the key question: 'why wouldn't you commute in the NI region'? In the first instance, the PhD researcher will undertake ethnographic studies (of specific 'cycling' and 'non-cycling' groups) to scope out the terms of this, trying to build up a more generalizable picture. It should be obvious enough that growing and diversifying the base of people who commute in NI is crucial to one of the major challenges that faces any contemporary city/region, namely: how do we develop a relatively cheap, cost-efficient and carbon friendly transportation eco-system?

The weight of research evidence regarding the economic and ecological dangers associated with growing city/region populations and increased traffic congestion is genuinely frightening. But instead of groaning under the weight of these rather scary statistics, we need to grasp the opportunity to facilitate the emergence of community led intelligence to develop smarter ways to get around the city/region.

This PhD project aims to begin to do precisely this! Would there be scope, for instance, to use relatively cheap bike cameras, or smartphone apps, or social media, to record, share and advise fellow commuters about real-time experiences (congestion, accidents, good alternative routes etc.) and also to provide a reservoir of helpful information (tips on negotiating traffic, bike handling, bike safety, suggestions about how to best share the road and cycle ways with other users)?

The key thing about this technological infrastructure is that is grows from the ground up, allowing commuters themselves to map and negotiate the city/region, a technology that builds on smart practices in everyday life, rather than a supposedly ‘smart’ solution that is technologically determined and sits in abstraction to the activities of citizens.

Aims of the project:

To identify key user groups through ethnographic research and encourage them to use the bike as their mode of transport.

To build a physical, technological and social infrastructure that removes real or perceived barriers to commuting in the region.

To help facilitate the creation a community of cyclists who feel safe and socially invested in the contribution they are making to the development of a greener city/region.

To inspire cycle users, and potential cycle users, to embrace the normative idea that they can be ‘velo-citizens’ who can inspire other road users to take to two wheels.

Essential Criteria

  • Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC)
  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal
  • Research proposal of 1500 words detailing aims, objectives, milestones and methodology of the project

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • First Class Honours (1st) Degree
  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal
  • Work experience relevant to the proposed project
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement


    Vice Chancellors Research Scholarships (VCRS)

    The scholarships will cover tuition fees and a maintenance award of £15,009 per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). Applications are invited from UK, European Union and overseas students.


    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £15,009 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fees component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided).  For Non EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK.

Other information

The Doctoral College at Ulster University

Launch of the Doctoral College

Current PhD researchers and an alumnus shared their experiences, career development and the social impact of their work at the launch of the Doctoral College at Ulster University.

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Key Dates

Submission Deadline
Monday 18 February 2019
Interview Date
5 March 2019

Contact Supervisor

Dr Robert Porter

Apply online

Visit and quote reference number #345112 when applying for this PhD opportunity