• Vélomobility as Autonomobility: prefigurative cycling imaginaries

      Cox, Peter; University of Chester
      At the end of the nineteenth century, the autonomous mobility provided by bicycles and tricycles created a mobile imaginary that paved the way for automobility. Through the course of the twentieth century, the growth and decline of cycling mobilities was inseparably entangled with the rise of a range of motor-mobilities (two and four wheeled). Yet cycling persists and is championed widely as a contender for future mobility in post-growth societies. However, the hegemonic position reached by automobility as a dominant system has led to closure of political non-car mobility imaginaries. United In Science, the high-level synthesis report to the UN Climate Action Summit 2019, notes that the nationally determined contributions to carbon reduction made in the Paris agreement need to be tripled to reach target CO2 reduction levels: this will entail dramatic transformation of mobilityscapes. This paper consequently explores the possibilities and problems inherent in formulating vélomobility as a system of autonomobility, paying special attention to its alignment with the range of radical alternatives clustered around degrowth (D’Alisa et al 2014) and the pluriverse (Kothari et al 2019, Escobar 2020) as promising ways to think and act beyond the unsustainable carbon economy. It does so in three parts: first it examines the challenges of imagining vélomobility not just as a set of practices but cognitively, through its conceptual construction not as an inverse of automobility but as a system that also challenges the political underpinnings of automobility. Second, it considers vélomobility through a set of propositions and briefly explores through examples the complexities involved in reimagining mobility regimes as well as the resources from political theory that may be important to it. Finally, the last section reverses the gaze and asks what the reconsideration of vélomobility as described previously can bring to the broader discussion of autonomobility.