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Moving past the sustainable perspectives on transport: An attempt to mobilize critical urban transport studies with the right to the city

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

The contemporary urban transport debate is increasingly versed in terms of “sustainable” development, placing social and environmental issues on the agenda. However, despite their heterogeneity, sustainable perspectives seldom engage with the explicitly political issues that shape the relationship between transport and urban development. In this paper, we propose to re-connect urban transport with political economic considerations, and thus to mobilise and strengthen “critical” perspectives on urban transport. We develop a framework for studying transport policies inspired by Henri Lefebvre's conceptualisation of “the right to the city”. The framework is illustrated with the empirical example of a “pedestrianisation” project in Brussels, a salient case of a “sustainable” transport policy. We demonstrate how ostensibly progressive intentions in terms of challenging local mobility paradigms do not necessarily translate into participative and transformative practices. Instead, they often embrace the established policy-makers, leave local power relations largely unaltered, support elite entrepreneurial agendas, and obfuscate the socio-spatially uneven landscapes of contemporary cities. We thus highlight the urgency of re-politicising urban transport theory and practice by seeking and revealing political economic choices, contradictions and conflicts that underpin transport policies interwoven with urban development dynamics.

Journal: Transport Policy
ISSN: 0967-070X
Volume: 81
Pages: 24-34
Publication year:2019