About

Urban Adonia is Dr. Adonia E. Lugo, a Los Angeles-based street anthropologist. I am currently teaching in the Chicana/o Studies department at Cal State LA, writing a book for Microcosm Publishing, co-editing a book about bike justice for Routledge, and consulting on culture change with Bicicultures. I am also an advisory board member with Multicultural Communities for Mobility. You can contact me at adonia at urbanadonia dot com.

I use bicycling, walking, and riding transit as embodied methods for observing the racialized and classed power dynamics of urban space. My approach draws on the tradition of flânerie and the Situationist International's call for political action in public space, blended with feminist critical theory's situated knowledge. Our social positions influence what we consider normal in street life, and much of my own perspective developed through my confusing experiences growing up as an English-speaking, mixed, Mexican-American kid in the immigrant enclave of a suburban California town where racism still shapes residential patterns. Today I am an urban anthropologist, which means I study the conflicting, complex ways that people inhabit cities and streets. I believe that cross-cultural understanding and respect for diverse realities are central to furthering urban sustainability.

In my 2013 dissertation, "Body-City-Machines: Human Infrastructure for Bicycling in Los Angeles," I analyzed the history of L.A. bike activism and my own role as a participant in it. The concept of "human infrastructure" is something I found in urban ethnography and anthropological theory. These works illustrated how the materiality of individual actions, social networks, and cultural attitudes can be revealed in situations where physical infrastructures fail. Los Angeles, a city known for its love of the automobile, provided a fascinating lab for experimenting with the social networks and multiple urbanisms (especially Latin@ urbanism) that have started to grow bicycling beyond niche subcultures into a normal mode of transport there.

I am a critical bike scholar, which means my work is not centered in praising bicycling. Different people experience bicycling in positive and negative ways because bicycling takes place through bodies subject to the hierarchies of our society. I research bicycling because it is a useful site for studying the racial and class distinctions that we express through dominating or sharing streets.

From 2008 till 2011, I lived carfree as an engaged researcher studying and organizing bicycle projects in L.A. For most of that time, I lived at the Los Angeles Eco-Village, which had been an important hub for central L.A.'s bike social life since the 1990s. Inspired by a trip to Bogotá, Colombia in August 2008, I helped start the effort to organize a ciclovía in Los Angeles, and served as the board secretary of CicLAvia until January 2011. I also co-founded the City of Lights/ Ciudad de Luces project at the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition that connected day laborer cyclists with bike advocacy. In 2012, City of Lights transformed into Multicultural Communities for Mobility.

In Seattle, where I lived from 2011 to 2013, I conducted interviews for the Seattle Bike Justice Project sponsored by Bike Works and Washington Bikes. In 2012, I also helped start Bicicultures, a network of scholars researching bicycling's many social and cultural forms. Bicicultures explores ways to bring bicycle advocacy, research, and communities into the same conversation.

I received a BA in anthropology from Reed College in Portland, OR in 2005, an MA in anthropology from UC Irvine in 2010, and a PhD in anthropology from UC Irvine in 2013. I managed the Equity Initiative at the League of American Bicyclists from November 2013 to March 2015. You can learn more about what I was doing and why I left here.

With my collaborator Dr. Sarah McCullough, I am turning Bicicultures into a research practice where we deploy our networked understanding of mobility to develop cultural adaptation strategies. Our method uses culturally appropriate interventions to spread sustainable practices.