Biking and Walking - Workshop in April – Københavns Universitet

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16. maj 2018

Biking and Walking - Workshop in April

The second workshop on Gendering Smart Mobilty in the Nordic Region was held in April 2018. The focus of the workshop was Non-moterised mobilty: walking and cycling.

The project Gendering Smart Mobility in the Nordic Region is a collaboration between the Coordination for Gender Research at the University of Copenhagen, the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute and the Institute of Transport Economics Norwegian Centre for Transport Research. Funded by The joint committee for Nordic Research Councils in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

This project aims to strengthen and proliferating Nordic Co-operation and models, while contributing to a paradigm shift in overall transport planning and practices. Departing from the prevailing idea of smart, green and integrated transport the overall objective is to contribute to a new Nordic model of sustainable transport, mobility and gender equality.

Read more about the project:

Non-motorized Mobilty workshop

The workshop addressed walking and cycling both as an upcoming and sustainable modes of transport in larger cities of the Nordic Region and through the lense of walking/biking regimes. Looking at these practices as a regime implies the analysis of walking and biking at multiple levels, in terms of culture, economy, planning, and practice. The workshop consisted of two keynote speakers: Mimi Sheller and Malene Freudendahl-Petersen, as well as three panels. The latter discussing biking and intersectional approaches; safety, planning and policy making and biking around the world.

The workshop was introduced by Head of the Coordination for Gender Research, Hilda Rømer Christensen, with a question marking the foundation of the workshop: What’s the problem in the current gendering mobility paradigm?

A controversel keynote

The first keynote speaker was Mimi Sheller, Drexel University, presenting her paper: The Velo-Mobile Commons for an Equitable Smart City.

Sheller began her presentation stating that the paper might be a bit controversial as she was going to critique the Scandinavian model of transportation and in particularly cycling. The focus of her paper was on mobility justice, discussed along with questions of racial and gendered injustice. One central argument was that assemblages of mobilites are always intersectional as they are assemblages of differential systems like race, gender, age and so on.

In the presentation Sheller stressed that mobilities regimes can be seen as ways of thinking and doing mobilites through the different differentiated systems. Here, the rules might take a material form as they are built into the very infrastructure of the cities.

Thus, mobilities regimes govern who and what can stay put under specific meanings. Mobilites are organized in and through mobility regimes, mobilities are never ‘free’ they are always tracked, guided and surveilled through different forms of power relations.

Shellers paper was informed by American based activist groups who wished to discard “best practices” as they saw them as Eurocentric and not attending the needs of local citizens. They claimed that streets and infrastructure was developed closely to the community, and that to import these things were not attending to class or race differences. Moreover, biking in the US is often excluding women as these are often seen as masculine practices, but they also exclude disabled people. When cycling practices are imported from Nordic countries to the US without any attention to these factors, these problems surface.

Based on this perspective, Sheller concluded that against some of the current visions of automation as purely technological system, mobilities research reminds us that we need to make sense of these smart mobilites regimes that might reshape the power relations involving the planning process.

Watch the full keynote speech 

Is cycling in Copenhagen equal for all?

The second keynote speaker was Malene Freudendal-Pedersen, Roskilde university Freudendal-Pedersen’s research question was: Why are people biking?

The question of how to get more people to cycle has spread to many cities around the world. Copenhagen is often identified as having achieved considerable success in this regard, but there is a danger that the positive cycling narrative that prevails in Copenhagen may block critical discussion regarding the right to city space.

Drawing from qualitative research conducted in Copenhagen as part of an “Urban Cycle Mobilities” project, Freudendal-Pedersen presented a view on how the automobile system that privileges cars over bikes is still dominant and which kind of consequences this have for different users.

Cyclists in Copenhagen do not adopt the resistance or confronting attitude that exists in cyclist-culture in other countries. In Copenhagen cyclists are not identifiable by anything other than their bike. Cycling is not a community or structured around certain identities. Cyclists are part of the traffic-law, and they have very strong right in this law. They feel entitled to their space in traffic. The biking-culture has been so successful that it now has become a problem.

This is because the cycling-culture goes well with the national narrative of the cyclist’s city. Copenhagen is branded as a cyclist-city, it is a part of the selling of the city in the international city competition. It becomes a product in neo-liberal economy.

Concludingly, Freudendal-Pedersen pointed out that the current situation is very interesting. Earlier there were taken space from the pedestrians now they are fighting back – a situation where the urban planners might begin to take space from the cars.

Watch the full keynote speech 

The next workshop will be in Stockholm, September 17th-18th 2018.