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.








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!