The bicycle mile is a suggestion for a social currency based on the number of miles cycled by a person. The circulation of a proposed bicyclemile currency would correlate the mobility and circulation of people using bicycles and human powered means with other forms of human mobility.
The concept is proposed as a social device for the information age and the network society to address the imbalances created by information-rich network societies. By its use, the bicyclemile would act as a tool creating ecological correspondences , within cities and with the rest of the planetary ecosystem.

The network society produces what may be called new 'externalities' created mainly by culturally mediated and culturally produced wants. Externality is a phrase used by economists to describe the hidden ecosystemic costs not factored into market prices and therefore rendered invisible. This cost is paid for by the environment and by ordinary people, mainly the poor. Externalities usually imply environmental depletion or social degradation. One example would be the amount of raw material needed for a single ounce of gold or nickel or tantalum, which leaves in its wake some 20 tons of mine waste along with CO2 emisions and other unaccounted social and human costs.

The externalities of mobility and digital networking require new forms of social tools to address their hidden material ecology. Since Kyoto, to redress the damage to the physical environment and curb global warming, the 'green economy' and the new carbon market mainly for carbon offsetting have been instituted. Ironically offsetting has now become a large speculative market. Today it is estimated that there are four million hectares of commercial carbon offsetting plantations around the world; by 2020 the World Bank projects a carbon offsetting market of $150 billion annually. In this growing market, the power imbalances that lie at the root of the ecological equation remain untouched.

If the potential of network society is to create different forms of exchange, based on new patterns of distribution of resources, consumption and emissions, we should be thinking more about carbon correspondence rather than carbon offsetting. This implies the physical implementation of a chain of correspondences - economic, ecological, social, cultural - within our communities: meaningful ways of networking the basic ingredients of human needs and social life in the information age. Here cultural processes hold the key as in the network age, most needs are culturally produced.

When society through necessity is seen as an ecosystem, a cultural system rich in feedback processes limits disparities and imbalances. However the monolithic nature of mass media reduces feedback and thus enables large imbalances to take root: both economic and environmental. What is needed in network society are everyday processes which correspond the physical and digital through human powered positive feedback. The bicyclemile is a concept for such a social device. It combines the tools commonplace in network society - cell phones, google maps, digital transactions with bicycles and human bodies to create a single social currency. Through its circulation, it parallels human mobility with other modes of social circulation, and so works as a form of social calibration tool for the information age.

xyz bicycles


September 2007