Both opportunities and challenges tend to be amplified in urban environments. The dynamics of urban systems are such that feedback loops can quickly create unintended consequences from unscrupulous planning and mobility infrastructure is an excellent example. There are opportunities to use new technologies and social and environmental concepts to improve transportation infrastructure and services but there are also risks that implementing changes rapidly and at scale can have negative effects from ghettoization to political unrest. However both the rate of urbanization and climate change require swift action, thus change we must and the ways we change now will have long lasting effects.
This module explores urban mobility transitions through the nexus of technology, society and ecology. The texts illustrate the inherently political nature of (re)distributing urban space for different forms of mobility. Particular focus is given to urban governance, practices of inclusion and exclusion and the role different actors play in mobility transitions. Notions of ‘smartness’, participation and access are explored and problematized with the ultimate aim of grasping how to ensure innovations and interventions contribute to enhanced public value. The module includes an in-depth look at the development of Copenhagen as a bicycle city and current issues related to political resistance and technological innovations.
The video of the day provides lessons in transitioning towards more democratic urban mobility from the perspective of the former mayor of Bogota. Bogota was a pioneer in transforming cities built for cars into cities built for people with the aim to design infrastructure and public transportation that explicitly tackled issues of social justice in the city.
Henderson, J., & Gulsrud, N. M. (2019). Introduction: Why Copenhagen? In ‘Street fights in Copenhagen: Bicycle and car politics in a green mobility city’. Routledge, Chicago, 1-12.
Henderson, J., & Gulsrud, N. M. (2019). The politics of mobility in Copenhagen. In ‘Street fights in Copenhagen: Bicycle and car politics in a green mobility city’. Routledge, Chicago, 87-105.
Gulsrud, N. M., Raymond, C. M., Rutt, R. L., Olafsson, A. S., Plieninger, T., Sandberg, M., Beery, T. H., & Jönsson, K. I. (2018). ‘Rage against the machine’? The opportunities and risks concerning the automation of urban green infrastructure. Landscape and Urban Planning, 180, 85-92. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2018.08.012 (Links to an external site.)
Cass, N., Shove, E., & Urry, J. (2005). Social exclusion, mobility and access. The Sociological Review, 53(3), 539-555. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-954X.2005.00565.x (Links to an external site.)
Docherty, I., Marsden, G., & Anable, J. (2018). The governance of smart mobility. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 115, 114-125. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tra.2017.09.012
Explore the political discourse of mobility in your own city or town, in a pressure-cooker workshop. Discuss these cases in line with the politics of mobility matrix from the Henderson and Gulsrud (2019) book. Try to make connections between their Copenhagen findings and your findings in your own cities.
Video for discussion :
Enrique Peñalosa TED talk: Why buses represent democracy in action.
1. Discuss the effect of using the language of rights (‘right to space in the city’, ‘right to safe mobility’ v. ‘right to drive a car’) in debates about public transport
2. Discuss the practices of inclusion and exclusion implicit in transportation infrastructure
3. Consider the recommendation that cities buy the land around them to ensure proper future development and discuss the political economy of public versus private urban development with examples from specific cities
4. Can a segregated city be democratic?
Written response from WG 3 (Hassan Gholami, Anna-Riikka Kojonsaari, Nigussie Salih, Silver Sillak):
- Discuss the effect of using the language of rights (‘right to space in the city’, ‘right to safe mobility’ v. ‘right to drive a car’) in debates about public transport
The language of right has come to be used so widely within public transport, and it continues to be expanded and developed more and more. But it is a bit controversial when it comes to the language of rights! (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1467-9795.2009.00382.x) because it seems that the language of rights appears to be in conflict with the language of the right. The question is that is the concept of right a unitary or a multiple one? If multiple, what are different aspects of right and in what respects is it multiple?
- Discuss the practices of inclusion and exclusion implicit in transportation infrastructure
As taken up in the video, bicycles, buses and bus lanes can be seen democratic because they are affordable means of transport. The city takes political decisions regarding which parts and aspects of the city transport infrastructure they choose to develop.
Penalosa takes the example of children. We could discuss further how the transport infrastructure excludes children. Another viewpoint could be a gender perspective, “Transport is not ‘gender neutral’. Men and women hold different socio-economic roles and responsibilities that are associated with different patterns of transport access, needs, and use.” (World Bank, 2011). Planning for transport that includes the aspects of being safe and the basic capability around being able to travel.
Further reading: http://www.vawgresourceguide.org/sites/vawg/files/briefs/vawg_resource_guide_transport_brief_formattedv3.pdf.
We discussed the example of the city of Tallinn, Estonia, where the public transport (buses) are free for everyone to use and are funded through the tax system.
- Consider the recommendation that cities buy the land around them to ensure proper future development and discuss the political economy of public versus private urban development with examples from specific cities.
In Ethiopia, land is not a private property rather it belongs to the state and peoples. Thus when government needed land for urban expansion, peri‐urban areas are incorporated into urban areas, and the local landholders become targets of expropriation. The terms of peri-urban residents displacement and compensation amount depended solely on government decisions since land belongs to the people, and the state. The land-use right of local peri‐urban landholders, supposed to be exercised for a lifetime can cease at any time by an expropriation decision when the land is needed for what the government deemed relevant to serve the public interest – whether it is in the form of urban expansion or any other development ventures. As a result of this, many cities in Ethiopia such as Gondar city has expanded its urban territory towards the neighboring peri-urban areas in all directions. It incorporated land size twice as much the inner city. However, urban development in this newly encroached area is so poor. Although, the area is under the city administration, there is no any plan for this newly incorporated area. Due to the resulting tenure insecurity, many peri-urban landholders living in the incorporated area sell their land for new occupants illegally. This led to the mushrooming of illegal settlements which then led to conflicts and political unrest. This indicated, although cities manage to secure land for urban development, they failed to manage the area due to lack of capital; poor planning skill and lack of commitments.
- Can a segregated city be democratic?
Segregation is an epidemic in the developing realm where the people have been segregated into the human body population and biological body population. Despite the tremendous growth of urbanisation, the subalterns of the planet received just 1 per cent of the total increase in global wealth; inequality crises has reached new extremes (Oxfam 2016) . In India, approximately forty per cent of the total urban population is paltry, and one in every six urbanites lives in slums. Democratic systems are supposed to have more emphasis on safeguarding equal rights of citizenship, and therefore justice and dignity is precondition while managing with differences of diverse scale. In practice, democracies conflict with new kinds of citizens that are facing new forms of violence and exclusion; moreover, urbanisation created volatile environments as cities are overcrowded with marginalised citizenship and non-citizens who are trying to contest their exclusions (Holston 2008) . Therefore, it is a challenge for the state and the non-state actors to deliver equivalent access to opportunities to excluded, subaltern masses, marginalised groups, minorities, technologically impaired population. No space for segregated cities in any democracy.
Holston, James. 2008. Insurgent Citizenship: Disjunction of Democracy and Modernity in Brazil. Princeton And Oxford: Princeton University Press.
Oxfam. 2016. “An Economy For the 1%: How Privilege and Power in the Economy Drive Extreme Inequality and How This Can Be Stopped.” https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781107415324.004.
Natalie Gulsrud is an associate professor at the University of Copenhagen, within the Section for Landscape Architecture and Planning at the Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management. She studies the governance of urban green infrastructure to advance sustainable and just pathways to climate resilience. This research engages social, ecological, and technological interactions in the “gray to green” infrastructure of cities from bicycle pathways to parks, trees, and community gardens. Her interests include urban sustainability science, urban governance, green infrastructure, environmental justice, transportation geography, social ecological technological systems, and automation.