Looking back at seminar # 6 Staging and Designing Mobility with Ole B. Jensen

On 16 March 2018 the sixth edition of seminar series Cities & Mobilities focused on mobility and design.

The first presentation by George Liu (Technical University Eindhoven) revolved around the methodological question: how can be best understand cycling experience and are virtual reality simulators or 360 degrees videos suitable tools for that. The discussion afterwards revolved around the question posed by the guest speaker Ole B. Jensen: understanding mobility experience means engaging with the way we relate to the world – which transcends the visual and the cognitive dimensions. That was the question that stayed with us for the whole afternoon: how do people experience mobility and how can we measure the dimensions of that experience. We discussed how methods of understanding mobility such as virtual reality simulator can shape that understanding by virtue of eliminating or downplaying certain elements or senses and emphasizing others, as well as limiting elements of the landscape to specific functions while any object may be used in a variety of ways.

Michael O’Regan presented his exploration of the notion of friction and frictionlessness, in particular in the vision of future mobility where the absence of friction is often presented as the greatest good. In the discussion of the subject we focused on what friction may mean as a positive and a negative experience in daily mobilities. Do we want frictionless movement at all costs? In which case is friction unevenly distributed and when is friction a choice or a burden? Marco te Brömmelstroet asked a broader question about the meaning of metaphors that we use to describe mobilities and made a link between the current language of transportation planning and the advent of the automobile as a prioritized mode.

Ole B. Jensen’s lecture revolved around theoretical underpinnings of connecting mobilities research and the field of design, pointing towards the new questions and possibilities that research in “mobilities design” may bring. In the discussion afterwards mobilities design practitioners and academics recalled specific examples of collaborations between academic researchers and planners. Such encounters enabled reframing problems and changing planning processes, moving from the opening “what if…” questions to the more grounded and “what now?”. Luca Bertolini connected this discussion of experimental approach to mobilities design with the earlier discussion of virtual reality simulation as a method which affords playing with variables of the environment; he asked how we can make it possible in the real world to experiment, to play, to tinker with the built environment, instead of trying to re-recreate the world in VR?

The discussion then again came back to the experience of mobility, the emotions, the senses, all the elements that make the “mobile situation” what it is and most probably contribute to our choices and practices. Such dimensions are not currently present in traffic models which marginalizes them, on the one hand. On the other, the question arose whether they should be put in some sort of model at all?

You can see the full Ole B. Jensen’s lecture here

Cities and Mobilities Seminar Series #7 Mobility Justice with Mimi Sheller

When: 13.45 -17.00, 20 April, 2018

 Where: Roeterseiland campus, bldg M room 1.01

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 seventh seminar, we’ll focus on politics of mobility and mobility justice, discussing mobile practices of specific ‘vulnerable’ groups and engaging with a broader theoretical framework of understanding mobility and justice, presented by Mimi Sheller.

Guest speaker Mimi Sheller (Drexel University, the US) will give a talk:

 Mobility Justice: Cities, Infrastructure, and Kinopolitics

Based on my forthcoming book Mobility Justice (Verso, 2018), this talk will present three core concepts. First, the idea that cities and mobilities are inextricably linked, each producing the other. Second, the idea that there is a kinopolitics of infrastructure – that is, a political struggle over the infrastructural shaping of (im)mobilities, or the ways in which infrastructures mobilize and demobilize. And third, I will conclude with the idea of the mobile commons as a political movement for mobility justice. I will argue that dynamic constellations of urban mobility and communication exhibit uneven topologies, turbulence, disruptions, differential speeds, and frictions, which at the same time offer handles, channels, and frequencies for interruption “from below” or glitches from within. Through kinopolitical struggles over “infrastructuring” the excluded majority create fissures and new possibilities for connection, which potentially may have important effects on urban space, on scalar relations, and on the governance and control of mobility regimes. Building on the work of Anna Nikolaeva and others, the mobile commons refers to access to the cooperative social territories and shared infrastructures of movement (both material and immaterial) – i.e., the pathways, ways, and means of moving, sharing, and communicating, which have been cooperatively produced by human relation to others, both human and more-than-human, through common passage, translation, and co-usage over time. The commons, in other words, is not land or resources as such, but is an action and a verb – a movement to make life in common, a commoning. Ultimately I seek to show how shared mobility commons suggest forms of autonomous social cooperation outside of capitalism, and beyond or beneath the limits of national borders, existing as an undercommons in the interstices of planetary urbanization.

Mimi Sheller

Mimi Sheller, AB Harvard University (1988), MA (1993) and PhD (1997) New School for Social Research, is a professor of sociology and founding Director of the Center for Mobilities Research and Policy at Drexel University. She is the current President of the International Association for the History of Transport, Traffic and Mobility (2014-2017), and co-editor of the journal Mobilities, which she co-founded in 2006. She is author and co-editor of nine books, including most recently the monographs “Aluminum Dreams: The Making of Light Modernity” (MIT Press, 2014) and “Citizenship from Below” (Duke University Press, 2012); and the co-edited volumes “The Routledge Handbook of Mobilities” (2013) and “Mobility and Locative Media” (2014). As founding co-editor of the journal Mobilities, Associate Editor of Transfers: Interdisciplinary Journal of Mobility Studies, co-editor of “Mobile Technologies of the City” (2006) and “Tourism Mobilities” (2004), and author of several highly cited articles, she helped established the new interdisciplinary field of mobilities research (source: Drexel University)


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

13.50 – 15.10    Presentations

Hanna Murray-Carlsson, Radboud University Nijmegen

 ‘The city center might be technically accessible, without being accessible to me’: A Relational Time-Geographic study of the mobility of visually impaired people

Martin Šimon, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic

Homeless mobility seen through GPS tracking data: what can we learn from less cool urban nomads?

15.10-15.30     Coffee break

15.30-17.00     Mobility Justice: Cities, Infrastructure, and Kinopolitics by Mimi Sheller

Comments and discussion

 Discussant: Tina Harris, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology  (CUS/UvA)

17.00               Drinks

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:

The city center might be technically accessible, without being accessible to me’: A Relational Time-Geographic study of the mobility of visually impaired people

Hanna Murray-CarlssonRadboud University Nijmegen

In societies where mobility is a prerequisite for participation in society, the low mobility of  visually impaired people is a pressing issue. Quantitative data concerning the mobility of this group as well as data on how visually impaired persons experience mobility already exists. However, qualitative and quantitative insights have not been brought together into a model of how visually impaired peoples’ mobility experiences result in mobility patterns. Furthermore, though we know much about quality of mobility experiences, there is less information about what constitutes a satisfying pattern of mobility. The aim of this study was therefore to explain how mobility experiences result in mobility patterns, and to describe the qualitative and quantitative components of a good quality of mobility for people with a visual impairment.

The weekly mobility patterns of 14 visually impaired adults living in the town Västerås, Sweden were mapped and discussed with the participants .To bring together the qualitative and quantitative aspects of mobility in the analysis, the study takes a novel approach to time geography. In addition to emotions (McQouid and Dijst, 2012) I bring embodiment to time geography and understand all time-space constraints as being interpreted and negotiated by the individual in relation to the social and physical environment. This allows for a view of impairment as “neither simply subjective, nor medical, nor a part of the built environment, but a state of perpetual being that is relational, contingent, material and temporal” (Sawchuk 2014, 447). Such a relational approach goes beyond the dualistic debates on disability/impairment and highlights how the body as well as the physical environment and social structures shape opportunities for mobility.

Homeless mobility seen through GPS tracking data: what can we learn from less cool urban nomads? 

Martin Šimon, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic

Abstract: The aim of this presentation is to examine spatially explicit mobility of homeless persons in urban areas. To our knowledge, there has not been any thorough attempt to explore spatial behaviour of homeless people with GPS location devices. The research uses mixed methods approach: it combines GPS tracking method with mobility interviews. The explicit spatial mobility of homeless men and women is measured by GPS location device. The GPS data are further contextualised by the interviews with homeless people (n= 80) about their daily mobility. Groundwork for interviews are printed maps of participants´ spatial mobility for each day (n=598). The study offers a novel understanding of links between use of space and mobility behaviour of homeless people, which can inform current welfare policies related to the poor. Technology enabled insight into daily life of homeless people can influence the way we approach homelessness, but it also can challenge the terminology and tools we use for our understanding of mobility. Do our tools (developed for homed populations with mobilities driven by work and by leisure) hold well also for vulnerable and elusive population of homeless?


Looking back at seminar # 5 Mobility, Cycling and Equity with Rachel Aldred

written by George Liu and Anna Nikolaeva

On 23 February 2018 the seminar series Cities & Mobilities featured the talk by Rachel Aldred from University of Westminster on “Mobility, Equity and Cycling”. You can see the full lecture on the website of the Centre for Urban Studies.

Cycling was the theme of the presentations for the day, covering topics from bicycle streets and learning how to cycle to cycling equity. The discussion touched upon more general problems of cities, where the spatial distribution of public space and public safety, for example, represent broader issues that relate to cycling, mobility, and the city. We concluded that our conversation should always relate to better cities for everyone could be built. If you want people to get out of the car or not to get into it in the first place, what kind of social and spatial environment would help them make that choice? If cycling is the mode which makes you interact with your social and spatial environment most, what kind of environment you would want to be exposed to? How does safe, inviting, pleasant environment looks for women and men, kids and elderly etc etc?

The first presentation by Matthew Bruno focused on how participatory governance processes can undermine innovations designed for specific users. Bruno uses a bicycle street in Eindhoven to illustrate how public participation resulted in the deployment of a practice-based innovation, the bicycle street, for a context in which it was not originally designed for. The idea of the first bicycle street was to use existing low volume, low speed streets to fill gaps in the cycle networks at minimum cost using paint, signs, and minimal traffic calming. However, the Eindhoven example of the “Kruisstraat” is an example of where a bicycle street was implemented despite high car traffic volumes, leading to stressful and potentially dangerous situations for people riding bicycles. Despite the flaws in the design of the new bicycle street, it is still better than the former situation. Roland Kager made an acute observation that much bicycle traffic actually goes to and from train stations, and the bicycle street is one innovation that can be implemented to facilitate people commuting using the bicycle train combination.

The second presentation by Samuel Nello-Deakin asks, “can we go beyond internet GIFs illustrating the distribution of road space between various road users? Is there something useful we can do with this information?” Nello-Deakin suggests cross-city comparisons may give us relative benchmarking of how different cities distribute their space in relation to mode share. However, the very idea of space ownership is contentious. Using Bruno’s example of the bicycle street, we can ask if that is car space or bicycle space. This distinction is clearly not binary, and the use of streets in cities change across time. If we cannot agree on what space belongs to whom, then we wonder if quantifying space actually provides a valuable contribution to understanding justice in the city. A thought-provoking session by Nello-Deakin indeed.

The third and final speaker for the first half of our event was Angela van der Kloof who talked about how cycling knowledge in the Netherlands is passed on from parents to children and in schools. She illustrates her case brilliantly using the bicycle child seat as an example. If a parent doesn’t know how to use child seats, then they don’t cycle with child, which means their children is then missing the experience of riding on a bicycle with their parents. We could use intervention to encourage parents to cycle with their children. How about information or try-out session for child seats? Information in multiple languages? Having role models and ambassadors for child seats? The meaning of this parent-child activity is popular yet not given reflection among the Dutch. Marco te Brömmelstroet warns that research asking people to reflect on meaning may break down the taken-for-granted meaning of parent-child cycling.

Finally, Rachel Aldred ties together all the presentations by offering a general overview of cycling from a British perspective. She shows that the promise and tragedy of cycling, especially in countries with lower levels of cycling is that people with the most to gain are losing out (i.e. other than able-bodied, risk-taking young men). To challenge the automobile as a symbolically and physically powerful object, our conversation must target groups and not individuals. We should think along the lines of, “what type of environment do women (or other groups) need to feel safe cycling”? A painted bicycle lane along a highway may be good enough for risk-taking male cyclists, but almost certainly exceeds the risk tolerance of a mother cycling with her child.

Hugo van der Steenhoven commented that in the Netherlands, children has to learn to cycle at a young age. He notes that cycling is a system. You have to learn to deal with traffic. You have to own a bicycle. You need someone to fix bicycle. People say “everyone cycles” in NL but it is not reality. Surveys show that some groups living in particular places clearly cycle more than others.

In the end, we all agreed that improving cycling is not just a transport issue. When we improve cycling, the goal should be to at the same time improve the experience of public space itself. Equality, dignity, empowerment, and freedom are all characteristics that the city can offer to its inhabitants. So too can the bicycle.

Here you can watch Rachel Aldred’s talk (scroll down for Seminar №5) as well as recordings of other lectures from the series.

Cities and Mobilities Seminar Series #6 Staging and Designing Mobilities with Ole B. Jensen

When: 13.45 -17.00, 16 March, 2018

Where: Roeterseiland Campus

13.45-15.10 bldg G room 1.11
15.30-17.00 bldg J/K room 1.05

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 sixth seminar, we’ll focus on how mobilities are ‘designed’ and discuss the very fabric of mobile cities as well as the methods of studying it.

Guest speaker Ole B. Jensen (Aalborg University, Denmark) will provide a talk on:

 Staging and Designing Mobilities

This lecture takes point of departure in the latest material shift of attention within the ‘new mobilities turn’. Notions of non-human agencies, actor-network-theories, assemblages, and post-human perspectives have drawn new and interesting boundaries up in many different research areas. At the same time there has been a turn towards design and architecture within the ‘new mobilities turn’. The lecture presents the contours of this new map emerging between the existing mobilities research over the new material turns toward the interest in design. In the presentation the positioning of ‘material pragmatism’ will be explored as a viable platform for integrating these perspectives. In particular, the ‘situational’ perspective of everyday life mobilities will be addressed and it will connect these to the micro-details of material designs (curbs, asphalt, transit spaces etc.) as well to larger scales of ‘systemness’ (socio-technical networks, infrastructures, design protocols etc.). I will end with some pointers for future Mobilities design research.

Ole B. Jensen

Ole B. Jensen is Professor of Urban Theory at the Department of Architecture, Design and Media Technology, Aalborg University (Denmark). He holds a BA in Political Science, an MA in Sociology, a PhD in Planning, and a Dr. Techn in Mobilities. He is deputy director, co-founder and board member at the Centre for Mobilities and Urban Studies (C-MUS), and Director of the research cluster in ‘Mobility and Tracking Technology’ (MoTT). Ole B. Jensen is board member at the Center for Strategisk Byforskning (CSB), PhD Program Coordnator at the Media, Architecture and Design Doctoral Program, and Editorial Board Member on the Journal Applied Mobilities.His main research interests are within Urban Mobilities, Mobilities Design, and Networked Technologies. He is the co-author of Making European Space. Mobility, Power and Territorial Identity, Routledge, 2004 (with Tim Richardson), and author of Staging Mobilities, Routledge, 2013, and Designing Mobilities, 2014, Aalborg University Press, the Editor of the four-volume collection Mobilities, Routledge, 2015, and author (with Ditte Bendix Lanng) of Urban Mobilities Design. Urban Designs for Mobile Situations, 2017, Routledge.



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

13.50 – 15.10    Presentations

George Liu, Technical University Eindhoven

Evaluating Urban Design from the Cycling Perspective using Virtual Reality and 360-degree Video

 Michael O’Regan, Bournemouth University, the UK

Friction/Frictionless in the City

15.10-15.30     Coffee break

15.30-17.00     Staging and Designing Mobilities by Ole B. Jensen

Comments and discussion

Discussant: Marco te Brömmelstroet, Associate Professor in Urban Planning (CUS/UvA) and academic director of Urban Cycling Institute

17.00               Drinks at Café Crea

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:

George Liu
Evaluating Urban Design from the Cycling Perspective using Virtual Reality and 360-degree Video

The experience of cycling has been studied by mobilities researchers through the application of mobile methods including videos, images, and ride-along interviews. (Latham and Wood, 2015). The field of mobilities offers methods for exploring the user perspective of cyclists in real-time, and these methods reveals cyclists’ strategies for interacting with various aspects of infrastructure and the urban design of their environment. Law & Urry (2004) argues that “existing stationary methods have difficulty dealing with the sensory – that which is subject to vision, sound, taste, smell; with the emotional – time-space compressed outbursts of anger, pain, rage, pleasure, desire, or the spiritual.” The mobilities scholarship offers urban designers the framework for understanding cycling through movement, as opposed to the static interpretation of the experiential and aesthetic aspects of a city that is more common among urban designers. Modern computer technology enables the use of new methods that bridge the gap between the laboratory and the outside world: On the one hand, computers enables higher fidelity representation of the real world in a laboratory environment; on the other hand, computers allow more precise recording of data in real-world environments. This paper explores how using 360 degree video, such as Google Cardboard, can be used to simulate new urban designs and to evaluate existing urban environments from the perspective of the cyclist. On the flip side, technologies such GPS and video recording can track and observe how cyclists behave in real environments. This paper examines how virtual reality and 360 degree videos can be used in conjunction with mobile methods to evaluate urban design concepts for the Tilburg-Walwijk bicycle path as part of the CHIPS (Cycle Highways Innovation for smarter People Transport and Spatial Planning) project.

George Liu y.liu.5@tue.nl


Friction/Frictionless in the City

Michael O’Regan, Bournemouth University

Human mobility does not occur without social and spatial friction. Yet, the notion of friction is largely understood in a negative manner. From urban planners to Silicon Valley developers, along with many urban residents, friction is seen as a pain. Uber, for example, removes friction at nearly every step. It calls you where you are, no taxi or bus queues and alerts you when it the car is approaching. For the busy urbanite, travel and payment for services like Uber becomes frictionless. Tom Hulme talks about shortcut called desire paths, which are often the path of least resistance. He argues that if you don’t offer “low friction” in your product and service designs, someone else will. There is a fantasy of the frictionless city, which can articulate the desires for a social world unbound by structural antagonism and ‘in which the economy can perform optimally with minimal government interference’ (Bach 2011:107). Products and services designed to be “low friction” often promote ease of movement, consumption of less time, and value of money. Yet, the concept of friction does require critical thinking to take on various perspectives. The presentation will explore the profound effects of ‘friction’ (e.g. friction points) and whether a frictionless city makes for a community of atomised individuals in privatised space protected from their environment and each other or makes for new societal directions, leading to as a freer, more sustainable, less antagonistic city.

Michael O’Regan moregan@bournemouth.ac.uk


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.

If you’ve missed it:

You can watch the recording of Tim Schwanen’s talk here and check out recordings of other seminars here

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.