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Doctoral thesis2024Open access

(Not) Representing Cycling : Exploring the subjugation and multiplicity of cycling

Valentini, Daniel


Cycling is often represented as a symbol of sustainable mobility change. This thesis builds on the argument that even in acclaimed cycling cities possibilities for cycling to become part of transformative change are stifled. The research this thesis grounds in sees dominant discourses in research and planning to reproduce conceptions of cycling to ‘fix’ mobility, without troubling the fundamental unsustainability of current patterns of production and consumption inherent in automobility. This is shown through practices of representation and how they tend to perpetuate narrow constructions of cycling as a rational, efficient, urban mode of transport for the responsible utility cyclist. While these constructions problematise motoring and indeed might make cities more livable and ‘greener’, they subjugate imaginaries of what else cycling could be and for whom. Vélomobility imaginaries, non-representational theories and de-growth scholarship are employed to analyse how representations are constructed and with what effects on envisioning mobility systems. This is shown by analysing how cycling is ‘represented’ in three contexts: sustainable transitions research, municipal planning in Uppsala, Sweden, and a local bike repair initiative.  

The thesis argues that representations are essential to how cycling is governed and should therefore be taken seriously. Recognising representational implications is a pre-step to recovering, reclaiming and nurturing alternatives. Pluralities of cycling are important to overcome narrow cycling conceptions and change the meaning of cycling in society. This thesis suggests that cycling representations can be understood as multiple when thought of in dimensions that recast representations as both discursive construc-tions and embodied practice performances. Cycling then becomes an arrangement of multiple cycling practices, a diversity of people and bodies, material elements to support cycling and different cycling technologies and spaces for cycling. Applied to the three cases, the thesis shows how cycling might be conceived of through these dimensions and how they reflect in vélomobility characteristics engendering commoning, care, autonomy conviviality, or to maintain mobility status quos. The thesis thereby adds to critical mobilities scholarship and vélomoblities in particular.


cycling; representation; non-representational theories; mobility fix; mobility transformations; performative ontologies; vélomobility; degrowth; materialities

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2024, number: 2024:15
ISBN: 978-91-8046-294-5, eISBN: 978-91-8046-295-2
Publisher: Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Social Sciences Interdisciplinary

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