As a cycling enthusiast, Andrew Martinek had no trouble choosing Copenhagen, Denmark — renowned for its bustling bicycle infrastructure — as his study-abroad destination for the fall of his junior year. His objective was to examine cross-cultural communications, comparing the relationships between drivers and cyclists in Europe with those in the U.S.
When he returned to Wooster, it was time to choose a topic for Independent Study (I.S. — Wooster’s nationally acclaimed undergraduate research program). Reflecting on his experiences in Copenhagen, the communication studies major, with help from adviser, Ahmet Atay, professor of communication studies, realized that an ethnographic study could be an interesting way to combine his passions for cycling and roadway relationships in the U.S. He started researching the topic in his junior I.S. and continued to flesh it out in his senior I.S.
Martinek received a grant from the Henry J. Copeland Fund for Independent Study to travel to multiple U.S. cities, including Davis, Ca., and Owensboro, Ky., to conduct his research. He interviewed cyclists and drivers in each city in an effort to understand the relationships that exist on U.S. roadways today. Martinek hypothesized that if greater presence of bicycle infrastructure in cities correlates with better relationships between cyclists and drivers, then perhaps a causation effect is at play. This might suggest that an increase in infrastructure leads to better relationships between cyclists and drivers.
“I hope to gain a wider breadth of knowledge through speaking with people from different cities and experiencing the infrastructure of other cities first-hand,” said Martinek. “Even with increased infrastructure, there’s still going to be tension between drivers and bicyclists. But I’m hoping to hear sentiments toward bicycling that are not as negative as the media makes it out to be.”
In addition to referencing scholars in the realms of bicycle infrastructure and communication studies, Martinek is also providing his own opinions on the matter, based on his experiences as a cyclist and automobile driver in the suburbs of Denver, his hometown, and in Wooster. He rode a bike in each city, and he is including the accounts of his experiences in his study. Martinek has grown up cycling and has seen changes in the look of roadways in his own city over the years, so he values the personal connection in his research.
“One thing I like about my I.S. is that when I talk to people about it, they like to discuss their own cities,” said Martinek. “I’ve heard from people all over the country, from Seattle to Washington, D.C., and they’re interested in discussing the changes in their hometowns.
“I’m thankful that I have an advisor who’s helped me take bicycle infrastructure, something I know I’m really interested in, and take it and make it about relationships and communication,” added Martinek. “It’s something I’d like to continue to learn about and hopefully use to make an impact on the world. I still feel like I have a lot to learn, so I’m really excited about that.”
Written by Ashley Ferguson