Looking back at seminar # 4 Mobility Transitions with Tim Schwanen

While the notion “mobility transitions” is usually used to refer to transitions to more sustainable mobilities, in this seminar we have devoted more attention to the social and political processes underlying changing mobility systems in various contexts.

Sun Qi opened the seminar presenting preliminary results of e-bike use in the Netherlands. Brett Petzer’s talk followed focusing on the relationships between the operators of emerging bikeshare services in the Netherlands and local governments. Lela Rekhviashvili discussed the concept of “social embeddedness” and how it frames (and limits) our understanding of flexible transport, using the case of “marshrutkas” in post-socialist cities.

Tim Schwanen’s talk began with pointing out that transitions are usually seen as responsibility of either private parties or the state, while the public/civil society is neglected as if it were a passive party, a congregation of “users” of new services. The collaborative international research project he presented some findings from aimed to analyse bottom up transitions initiatives in Saõ Paulo and London as a step towards understanding the variety of social dynamics that may activate facilitate transitions. Such initiatives, framed by Tim through the lens of commons/enclosure, are not a silver bullet and are unlikely to enact transitions without alliances with other types of action. yet their analysis highlights that mobility transitions “are political processes centred on the good city/society” and that they “must be situated in everyday practice and experience”.

Finally, Daniëlle Snellen offered a reflection on the dominant logics in transport planners’ discourse  and their ways of imagining mobility futures. She suggested, much in line with Tim’s argument, that imagining transport futures is not about technology, but about the society we wish to live in. What futures do we want and what can we desire in the light of impact of mobility and what do we choose then?

The discussion afterwards revolved around the possibilities of the initiatives presented by Tim to influence transitions, to gain more power and the question whether that should be their role at all. What can we learn from such initiatives and how framing them (the very language we use to describe them) influences what futures we may present as desirable – futures that may also be exclusive and problematic. Perhaps, studying tensions around bottom up initiatives as prominent examples of commoning can be a way forward to understand obstacles to just and sustainable urban transitions.

Recording of Tim Schwanen’s talk will soon be added here and on the website of the Centre for Urban Studies, UvA

Cities and Mobilities Seminar Series #5 “Mobility, Equity and Cycling” with Rachel Aldred


When: 13.15 -17.00, 23 February, 2018

Where: Roeterseiland Campus, Building C room 0.01

The aim of this seminar series is to develop a conversation on how mobilities shape cities as well as to foster exchange and collaboration between scholars from different disciplines and practitioners working on urban mobilities at UvA and beyond.

In the fifth seminar, we’ll focus on mobility and equity using cycling as lens to talk about social inclusion and participation in urban life through planning and and experiencing mobility.

Guest speaker Rachel Aldred (University of Westminster) will provide a talk on:

Mobility, Equity and Cycling

 Rachel Aldred will talk about how to conceptualise cycling equity, drawing on her own research and other work from different contexts. What do we mean by cycling equity? How might we identify or measure – and change – current inequalities? What are the limitations of current knowledge and which dimensions of cycling equity are currently under-researched? Using examples such as gender, age, disability, ethnicity, and income, Rachel will argue for a structural approach that aims to create a truly inclusive cycling system.

Rachel Aldred

Rachel Aldred is Reader in Transport at the University of Westminster. She teaches on Westminster’s MSc Transport Planning and Management and is member of the editorial board of Transport Reviews. In 2016 she was awarded the ESRC Outstanding Impact in Public Policy Prize, and the first annual Westminster University Prize for Research Excellence. She also been named as one of the Progress 1000 Most Influential Londoners. One of her research projects (Near Miss Project) was awarded Cycling Initiative of the Year 2015 by Total Women’s Cycling. Since November 2012 she has twice been elected as a Trustee of the London Cycling Campaign and I’m Chair of its Policy Forum.



13.15 – 13.20    Opening by Anna Nikolaeva (CUS, organizer of the seminar series)

13.20 – 15.10    Presentations

The contested definition of a bicycle street: How participatory governance processes can undermine innovations designed for specific users by Matthew Bruno, TU/e

Just streets? Measuring the distribution of road space in Amsterdam by Samuel Nello-Deakin, UvA/Center for Urban Studies

Exploring Equity Aspects of Cycling Knowledge by Angela van der Kloof, Mobycon and Radboud University Nijmegen

15.10-15.30     Coffee break

15.30-17.00    Mobility, Equity and Cycling by Rachel Aldred

Comments and discussion

Discussant: Hugo van der Steenhoven, independent advisor on sustainable mobility and former director of the Dutch Cyclists’ Union

17.00               Reception

Seminar is free and open to anyone. Please let us know if you are coming by sending an e-mail to urbanstudies@uva.nl


Abstracts of presentations

Matthew Bruno

The contested definition of a bicycle street: How participatory governance processes can undermine innovations designed for specific users

Innovations in transportation planning that target a particular user group can be implemented in ways that fail to support the group that they are intended to benefit when the form of the innovation is shaped by participatory governance processes. This argument is made by drawing on two different bodies of literature: 1) participatory governance literature that argues that meaningful stakeholder involvement is necessary to support the broadly shared goals of justice, legitimacy, and effectiveness; and 2) strategic niche management literature that describes the role that established user practices play in the upscaling potential of innovations.  These literatures are connected through Ieromonachau et al.s’ (2004) evaluation technique of Strategic Policy Niche Management (SPNM), which has been used to demonstrate how strategic niche management principles can be used to support innovations in transportation policy. This presentation uses the concept of SPNM to illustrate the need for understanding the relationship between citizens in participatory governance and users in innovation development.  This relationship is illustrated by examining the history of a particular practice-based innovation, the bicycle street, with a focus on one instance of its implementation. A case study on the development of a bicycle street in Eindhoven shows how the pressures involved with citizen participation in governance reshaped the form of a bicycle street in ways that were not beneficial to the cyclists for which this innovation was developed. The presentation concludes by arguing that enforceable guidelines are sometimes necessary to ensure that innovations serve the users for which they were developed.


Just streets? Measuring the distribution of road space in Amsterdam

Samuel Nello-Deakin

The relative distribution of road space between different modes of transport is a contentious and heavily debated issue in many cities. Road space is often seen as intrinsically scarce, and changes in its distribution – the construction of a new bike lane, the pedestrianisation of a high street or the addition of a new traffic lane, for instance – are typically met with resistance among a variety of groups. In the specific case of Amsterdam, this is illustrated by the ongoing debate on “drukte” (crowdedness) in the city centre.  Despite the vehemence of such debates, there is still a lack of systematic analysis quantifying how road space is distributed between various transport modes. Based on GIS analysis of high-resolution cartography, Samuel will present his findings on how road space in Amsterdam is distributed between vehicles, pedestrians, bicycles and public transport, using them as a starting point to reflect on the notion of “road space justice”.


Exploring Equity Aspects of Cycling Knowledge

Angela van der Kloof

Angela van der Kloof will present the conceptual framework she is developing to research how cycling knowledge in the Netherlands is passed on from parents to children and in schools. Social Practice Theory, as well as the concept of Motility, are at the core of the framework. In this talk the main question is whether this framework is open for issues of cycling equity. This is relevant, since practitioners in the field of cycling and traffic safety are warning in the media that certain groups of children do not learn enough cycling skills. Using example cases Angela investigates the possibilities that the current framework offers and opens the floor for feedback and suggestions.

Cities and Mobilities Seminar Series #4 Mobility transitions with Tim Schwanen

When: 13.15 -17.00, 2 February, 2018

 Where: Roeterseiland Campus, UvA, Building J/K, room B.25


The aim of this seminar series is to develop a conversation on how mobilities shape cities as well as to foster exchange and collaboration between scholars from different disciplines and practitioners working on urban mobilities at UvA and beyond.

In the fourth seminar, we’ll focus on transitions to more sustainable and just mobilities. Guest speaker Tim Schwanen (Director of the Transport Studies Unit, University of Oxford) will provide a talk on:

“Transitions in Urban Mobility Beyond State and Market: Insights from London and São Paulo”

The idea that urban mobility systems are undergoing radical transformations has gained traction over the past decade among policy makers, professionals and academics alike. Given that markets are widely seen as crucial sites where these transformations take place and are configured, private firms and policymakers are often considered as the key actors in transition processes. The role of community or grassroots organisations is often not neither considered nor understood. In this presentation I will concentrate on the initiatives by such organisations by focusing on the provision or improvement of infrastructures for cycling and walking. Adopting a broad and inclusive understanding of infrastructures and drawing on empirical materials from London and Sao Paulo, I will critically examine the contributions to mobility transitions that community initiatives can make. I will argue that, while those initiatives are unlikely to trigger mobility transitions themselves, they fulfill at least two critical  functions in mobility transitions that both revolve around questions of justice. One is that they cater to the mobility — and many other — needs of social groups at risk of marginalisation in most transport policy, private sector activity and wider discourses. The other is that, at a time that most policy and private sector activity is committed to ethical individualism and market logics, community initiatives play a key role in ‘commoning’ — the creation and harnessing of networked and interwoven commons such as physical structures, knowledges and atmospheres that facilitate and encourage walking and cycling. Differences between London and Sao Paulo in how community initiatives regarding walking and cycling infrastructures fulfill these functions will be explored.


Tim Schwanen

 Tim Schwanen is Associate Professor in Transport Studies and Director of the Transport Studies Unit (TSU) in the School of Geography and the Environment as well as a Fellow at St Anne’s College, all at the University of Oxford. Further, he is a co-director of the RCUK funded Centre on Innovation and Energy Demand. In 2013-2015 he was the editor-in-chief of Journal of Transport Geography and he currently serves on the editorial advisory boards of nine academic journals in geography, transport studies and sustainability research. (Source: http://www.timschwanen.com/)



13.15 – 13.20    Opening by Anna Nikolaeva (CUS, organizer of the seminar series)

13.20 – 15.10    Presentations

Mode Transition Implications of E-bikes in the Netherlands by SUN Qi, TU/e

Cycling-as-a-Service in the urban Netherlands by Brett Petzer, TU/e

Flexible transport. (Diss)embedded urban mobilities by Wladimir Sgibnev and Lela Rekhviashvili, Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography

15.10-15.30      Coffee break

15.30-17.00    Transitions in Urban Mobility Beyond State and Market: Insights from London and São Paulo by Tim Schwanen

Comments and discussion

Discussant: Danielle Snellen, Netherlands Environmental Assessment  Agency (PBL)

17.00               Reception


Seminar is free and open to anyone. Please let us know if you are coming by sending an e-mail to urbanstudies@uva.nl


Abstracts of presentations


Mode Transition Implications of E-bikes in the Netherlands



There is high hope for e-bikes to play a role in decarbonizing road transport, cutting down air and noise pollution, and reducing traffic congestion. However, these promises of e-bikes are debatable. It is problematic to take the approach of unconditionally embracing e-bikes and promoting the use of it. Life cycle assessment shows that e-bikes sit at the middle of the sustainability pyramid in a spectrum of transport modes. E-bikes emit several times lower pollution per passenger kilometer than cars and motorcycles. Their emission rates are comparable to buses but higher than conventional bikes. Research agrees that the user is a critical parameter in terms of e-bikes’ net environmental benefits, particularly the direction of modal shift. Empirical findings have shown that e-bikes are not only substituting car trips, but also trips made by conventional bikes and public transport. This encourages a critical look towards how e-bikes contribute to or impede sustainability. However, a common limitation in e-bike research is that the results usually suffer from self-selection bias, particularly in cases where respondents are recruited via convenience sampling.  This study aims to paint a nuanced picture about e-cycling and its modal shift implications in the Netherlands based on datasets from the first three waves of the Netherlands Mobility Panel (MPN) in 2013, 2014 and 2015. MPN keeps record of the travel behavior of a fixed group of people over a long period, thus allows direct assessment of modal substitution of e-bike users. Moreover, this study provides some insights into modal shift patterns of e-bike users for various trip purposes.


Cycling-as-a-Service in the urban Netherlands

Brett Petzer


This paper introduces the concept of Cycling-as-a-Service (CaaS) to describe cycling-based mobility services that comprise of various forms of bikeshare, bike hire and leasing. It investigates CaaS as a shared and servitised mobility innovation in the context of the urban Netherlands, which differs from much of the context of existing research in that cycling is a mainstream, mature, and culturally-embedded mode of transport. To better understand CaaS in this context, a typology of CaaS business models is developed by means of interviews with service providers and public sector actors and drawing on recent research into business models for the sharing economy. To understand the specific regulatory backlash against CaaS in some Dutch cities, which has taken place recently, a narrative analysis of press articles and other sources is conducted. Analysis of insights reveals a correlation between features of some models and the targets of regulatory backlash. This suggests that narratives of legitimation may be connected to the success of niche innovations in the case context. In turn, this finding suggests that the link between narrative analysis and socio-technical transitions, via structuration theory, may merit further research as in similar contexts due to its explanatory power in the case of CaaS in the urban Netherlands


Flexible transport (Diss)embedded urban mobilities

Wladimir Sgibnev, Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography

Lela Rekhviashvili, Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography

In this paper, we intend to discuss the concept of social embeddedness and its relevance for rapidly transforming urban mobilities worldwide. In the cities of the Global North, new, digitally powered ride-sharing or ride-sourcing practices proliferate. Their appeal lies not only in offering affordable and demand-responsive urban transport, but also in their discursive emphasis on social embeddedness, reciprocity and personalisation of such mobilities. In the cities of the Global South, the low-fi, informal sharing mobility practices have also relied on personalised networks and mutuality. The literature on informality in post-socialist cities has also insisted on social embeddedness of such exchanges. Socially embedded mobilities, have been portrayed as a phenomenon defying both, markets and states, emphasizing the possibility of horizontal, relatively inclusive mobilities. Empirically drawing, on the one hand, on the examples of informally operating minivans, so called Marshrutkas in post-socialist cities, on the other hand, on sharing mobility practices, such as Uber, Lyft, BlaBla car, we delve into theoretic underpinning of the embeddedness concept.

We suggest that current enactments of embeddedness concept when discussing urban mobilities, is too narrowly focusing on personalisation, intimacy and horizontality of exchange. Such a narrow focus oftentimes conceals, first, how the discourse of embeddedness is utilised to justify profit-seeking economic endeavour and rapid increase in corporate control over urban mobilities; second, how horizontal social embeddedness can have own limits, resulting in worker’s precarity and passenger insecurity. To counter such narrow and abusive deployment of the concept, we draw on Polanyian definition of social embeddedness, as subjection of economic exchanges to social and political needs, to elaborate what embedded mobilities can mean and how they can relate to mobility justice.








Looking back at Seminar #3 Cities, Tourism & AirBnB with Jennie Germann Molz

On 15 December the seminar series Cities & Mobilities featured the talk by Jennie Germann Molz “Sharing the City: Tourism Mobilities, Network Hospitality, and the Politics of Scale”. You can see the full lecture on the website of the Centre for Urban Studies.

While the presentations and lectures focussed on the effects and perceptions of tourist mobilities (across the globe and across cities) and AirBnB, in the discussion these issues were used to raise bigger questions about belonging, change and socialities in a mobile world.

The first presentation by Letizia Chiappini and Petter Törnberg and the discussion afterwards focused on inequalities that AirBnB produces and/or amplifies and on the relationship between AirBnB and gentrification. It appears that AirBnB becomes a medium that both reflects and produces urban imaginaries, and as such increasingly shapes ideas about cities and cities themselves.

The second presentation by Willem Boterman and Fenne Pinkster provoked a discussion about normativities of being a tourist and being mobile as well as the paradoxes in the debate on the impact of tourism: the desire to be not disturbed by tourists in “home” city often goes along with the desire to travel, to be a tourist. The ideas about appropriate mobilities translate from “global” mobilities of tourists to tourists’ movement through the city: certain practices of moving through the city are seen as not belonging in Amsterdam, e.g. on a beer bike or in a horse carriage, whereas others are fine (see also my earlier post in on interrelationship of mobilities). The discussion then revolved around the questions of belonging and home, diversity and change, mobility and fixity: who “belongs” in the city if the city centre has been constantly reshaped by new groups moving in or dwelling temporarily? What kind of diversity does tourism bring to the urban scene and what kind of diversity may be displaced? Is staying put (in particular places and circumstances) in a mobile world a privilege, a luxury, a need or an illusion – because our immobilities are only desirable and possible in the context of mobilities?

Jennie’s lecture (too rich to be summarised in a few words here) focused on the role of scale (home-neighbourhood-city-…- “anywhere”) in the politics of AirBnB promotion and interaction with cities as well as the spatialities and temporalities of belonging. The discussion picked up on the AiBnB offer of “belonging  anywhere”: Do we want to belong anywhere? How long does it take to “belong”? Brett Petzer raised the question of the impact of AirBnb as a new aesthetic and Fenne Pinkster highlighted people’s desire for “safe adventure” as the main attraction of the idea behind AirBnB. Femke Blockhuis from the city of Amsterdam discussed the role of the city in shaping the impact of AirBnB on urban living, and emphasized the necessity of dialogue with such platforms. After some collective pondering on the perceived irreversibility of trends like platform capitalism and the growing presence and power of AirBnB, Bart Stuart’s final remark left us thinking about sociality and hospitality with and without platforms: do we need AirBnB to be good hosts, do we need platforms in order to share the city?


Read more about the Cities & Mobilities Seminar series and come join the discussion!


Looking back at Seminar #2 Cities, Mobility and Diversity with Adrian Favell

On 17 November the seminar series Cities & Mobilities featured the talk by Adrian Favell “Diversities and Mobilities in Cities: The Case of London and Brexit” . You can see the full talk on the website of the Centre for Urban Studies.

One on the key questions that emerged in presentations, the lecture and the discussion, kicked off by Olga Soodi was why people move to particular cities, what imaginaries inspire their journeys and then how they themselves then both adapt to and transform the city. We were talking about the attraction of particular cities for some people coming from far away “just to be there” and the desire to leave those very same cities that other people experience. Does it mean that these mobilities are less about cities and their specificities and more about people’s dreams and aspirations? According to Adrian Favell, it seems that “there is value in the very act of movement”. And Olga Sooudi pointed to a paradox: cities are shaped by these journeys that may be inspired by unique features of different cities, and yet it is those journeys that may contribute to “flattening” of cities and emergence of generic features – at the same time as these journeys also generate spaces of diversity.

Read more about the Cities & Mobilities Seminar series and come join the discussion!

Looking back at Seminar #1 Mobility and Place with Tim Cresswell. Lecture and Discussion.

On 27 October the seminar series Cities & Mobilities opened with by talk by Tim Cresswell “Maxwell Street: Writing and Thinking Mobility and Place in a Chicago Market” based on his forthcoming book. You can see the full talk on the website of the Centre for Urban Studies.

After the talk the discussion revolved around the stark contrast between the richness, the vibrancy of the place, the diversity of mobilities that criss-crossed Maxwell street, its palimpsestic nature and the language of the policy-makers and planners. The discussion proceeded to question the methodologies we use to describe places and ways in which scholars communicate their findings: how can the multiplicity of stories about mobility and place be explored and made visible and how such stories can have impact on policy – or should they aspire to that at all? Another interesting discussion developed around the transformation of cities whereby global financial market may be replacing and displacing actual physical markets (one of the oldest types of urban public space). We also spoke about transitions from human interaction and negotiation forming the basis of urban choreography of movement first towards regulatory frameworks, produced by humans, and more recently – towards algorithms.

Read more about the Cities & Mobilities Seminar series and come join the discussion!


Cities and Mobilities Seminar Series #3 Cities, Tourism & AirBnB

When: 13.45 -17.00, 15 December, 2017

Where: Roeterseiland Campus, Building J/K, room B.25

In the third seminar of the Cities & Mobilities Seminar Series, we’ll focus on the impact of tourist mobilities on cities and will pay particular attention to AirBnB. Guest speaker Jennie Germann Molz (Associate Professor of Sociology at the College of Holy Cross, Massachusetts) will provide a talk on:

 “Sharing the City: Tourism Mobilities, Network Hospitality, and the Politics of Scale”

As tourists increasingly turn to peer-to-peer hospitality networks such as Airbnb to arrange homestays in urban destinations, they unlock experiences of the city that span the private enclaves of hosts’ homes and the public spaces of the city. For better or for worse, these platforms are disrupting urban transportation and hospitality industries, with critical repercussions for local economies, for urban planning and housing policy, for permanent residents who inhabit the city, and for the temporary visitors who come and go. In this talk, I will review current and recent research on Airbnb in urban settings to explore the implications of network hospitality for urban transformation across the scales of private and public spaces.

Jennie Germann Molz

Jennie Germann Molz is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the College of Holy Cross, Massachusetts. Her research interests include tourism mobilities and mobile technologies; hospitality and the ethics of welcoming strangers; global citizenship, home, and belonging; food, consumption, and identity; and mobile methodologies. She is co-editor of the journal Hospitality & Society. Her publications include Travel Connections: Technology, Tourism and Togetherness in a Mobile World (Routledge) and Disruptive Tourism and its Untidy Guests: Alternative Ontologies for Future Hospitalities (Palgrave Macmillan). She is currently researching families who take their children out of school and ‘roadschool’ them while traveling the world.


13.45 – 13.50    Opening by Anna Nikolaeva (CUS, organizer of the seminar series)

14.10 – 15.10    Presentations

AirBnB as a Platform for Gentrification: Comparing Cultural and Economic Impacts of AirBnB in New York, Barcelona and Amsterdam by Letizia Chiappini and Petter Törnberg (CUS & UvA)

Inconsistent habitus? Paradoxical experiences of mobility of aging gentrifiers in the Amsterdam Canal Belt by Willem Boterman & Fenne Pinkster (CUS/UvA)

15.10-15.30      Coffee break

15.30-17.00     Sharing the City: Tourism Mobilities, Network Hospitality, and the Politics of Scale, by Jennie Germann Molz

Comments and discussion. Discussant tbs

17.00               Reception

Seminar is free and open to anyone. Please let us know if you are coming by sending an e-mail to Iris van der Doelen: I.vanderDoelen@uva.nl



AirBnB as a Platform for Gentrification: Comparing Cultural and Economic Impacts of AirBnB in New York, Barcelona and Amsterdam

 Letizia Chiappini and Petter Törnberg (CUS & UvA)

 This paper uses AirBnB data on New York, Barcelona and Amsterdam to show that the platform functions as a watershed that channels flows of temporary visitors into deprived ethnical minority neighborhoods, thereby reinforcing existing urban displacement processes and functioning as a powerful driver for entangled touristification and gentrification. Departing from an urban studies perspective, we take a pluralist approach — combining computational, statistical and qualitative analysis, as well as ethnical categorization of host’s and guest’s photographs — to look at (i) how the ethnic distribution of visitors and hosts compares to the existing distributions of neighborhoods, (ii) the economics gain of AirBnB as a function of ethnicity, and (iii) the way that hosts discursively characterize their apartments and neighborhoods.

We find that (i) temporary visitors, who tend to be less enmeshed in the local cultural context, function as a unknowing vanguard in a gentrification process driven by predominantly white developers. Whites are overrepresented as hosts, as they are more likely to have adequate economic and cultural capital to invest in housing and present it in a way attractive to the target audience. (ii) This effectively results in the extraction of resources from deprived neighborhoods, whose residents see displacement, increased rents, and housing precariatization. To attract guests, (iii) hosts employ the cultural logic of gentrification — images of street-art and flea-markets, words like “up-and-coming” and “second hand”. This implies that AirBnB functions as a platform for spatial and cultural appropriation of milieux, operating through and reinforcing existing inequalities through extraction of resources from deprived ethnical minority neighborhoods to the benefit of predominately white hosts and guests.


Inconsistent habitus? Paradoxical experiences of mobility of aging gentrifiers in the Amsterdam Canal Belt

Willem Boterman and Fenne Pinkster (UvA/CUS)

Once pioneer gentrifiers, many long term residents of Amsterdam’s historical canal belt now belong the established middle class. In fact, the inhabitants of the Canal Belt have become a metaphor for talking about the Dutch cultural elite: privileged, liberal, and cosmopolitan. These long term residents, while privileged in many respects, increasingly experience a sense of powerlessness and view the transformation of their residential environment negatively. The rapid growth of visitors, whether from abroad or domestic , has led to feelings of estrangement, frustration and non-belonging. To cope with pressures arising from tourism, residents have developed several strategies  and tactics that often entail (in)frequent forms of mobility, including travel abroad. Many middle class subjects are highly mobile and have cosmopolitan and international perspective and life style. The inhabitants of the Canal Belt extensively for instance refer to their own experiences as tourist in other cities, while assessing the effects of tourism in their own area. In response to the challenges rapid growth of tourism poses to them, they often develop strategies based on mobility themselves. This paper therefore centrefolds the experiences and practices of these middle class residents to explore the some interesting paradoxes that are rooted in middle class habitus.