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Contesting the Radical Monopoly: a Critical View on the Motorized Culture from a Cyclonaut Perspective

Damien Delorme


In our motorized societies, the “radical monopoly” (Illich) of the automobile is the evidence that our engine culture dominates. At the socio-technical level, we are all beginning to be “motorcentric”, in the same way that we are egocentric, ethnocentric, and anthropocentric. I argue that traveling on a bicycle – i.e. becoming a “cyclonaut” – engenders per se a decentering experience. It fosters a critical outlook on the norms and usages of engine culture. The cyclist perspective can provide a phenomenological experience that introduces levels of consciousness (sensitive, ethical and political), typically neglected in the status quo dominated by automobiles. The automobile radical monopoly contributes to the dependency on fossil fuels driving climate change. From an environmental virtue ethics standpoint, a cyclonaut’s experience promotes a new paradigm for mobility based on the re-appropriation of bodily-powered autonomous movement that broadens our social imagination and contributes to facing our current environmental crisis. It also promotes a positive shift in our value system that enables us to be an example of a richer experience. Contrary to the current irrational waste of energy, cycling can offer a joyfulness that reconnects us with the fundamental aspects of existence – self-awareness, connectivity to the world, nature, and beauty. This paper is based on reflections developed during the “Untaking Space Project”. a 6,000-mile philosophical cycling trip, from Miami to Vancouver, occurred between January and August 2016 (http://www.usproject2016.com).


Environmental Ethics; Environmental Virtue Ethics; Field Philosophy; Environmental Philosophy; Automobile Radical Monopoly, Motorcentrism, Cyclonaut, Ecological self, Voluntary Simplicity, Mindfulness

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7358/rela-2018-002-delo

Copyright (c) 2018 Damien Delorme – Editorial format and Graphical layout: copyright (©) LED Edizioni Universitarie

Relations. Beyond Anthropocentrism
Registered by Tribunale di Milano (04/05/2012 n. 211)
Online ISSN 2280-9643 - Print ISSN 2283-3196

Executive Editor: Francesco Allegri
Associate Editor: Matteo Andreozzi 
Review Editors: Sofia Bonicalzi - Eleonora Adorni
Editorial Board:
Ralph R. Acampora - Carol J. Adams - Vilma Baricalla - Luisella Battaglia - Rod Bennison - Matthew R. Calarco - Piergiorgio Donatelli - William Grove-Fanning - Serenella Iovino - Luigi Lombardi Vallauri - Christoph Lumer - Joel MacClellan - Dario Martinelli - Roberto Marchesini - Alma Massaro - Barbara Muraca - Serpil Oppermann - Simone Pollo - Paola Sobbrio - Kim Stallwood - Sabrina Tonutti - Jessica Ullrich - Federico Zuolo