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WPS No. 63| Bertolini, L. (2023)| Rethinking cities beyond mobility? A discussion

The negative environmental, social, and economic side-effects of the individual motorized transport–centred urban development paradigm have been repeatedly denounced. The criticism inspired the alternative, ‘sustainable mobility’ paradigm, which has been attempting to shift to a different pathway for the past thirty years. While the outcome of this struggle is still undecided, an even more fundamental shift seems to be taking place on the ground, which rather demands to redefine the very scope of the struggle.

The negative environmental, social, and economic side-effects of the individual motorized transport–centred urban development paradigm have been repeatedly denounced. The criticism inspired the alternative, ‘sustainable mobility’ paradigm, which has been attempting to shift to a different pathway for the past thirty years. While the outcome of this struggle is still undecided, an even more fundamental shift seems to be taking place on the ground, which rather demands to redefine the very scope of the struggle. An urban development paradigm altogether ‘beyond mobility’ might be emerging, based not on facilitating or even managing mobility but rather on a redefined broad set of urban qualities.

This discussion paper explores this development by connecting different, as yet unrelated interventions and argumentations to identify underlying challenges and potentials. Second, it highlights what might be the emerging complementary components of an urban mobility and development paradigm beyond mobility. Third, it contends that an experimental, narrative-driven approach to the transformation is needed to build on the potentials and cope with the challenges. In conclusion, the paper gives pointers for a research and policy agenda.