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WPS No.52 | Nikolaeva, A., Lin, Y., Nello-Deakin, S., Rubin, O. & von Schönfeld, K.C. (2021) | What does it mean to be less mobile? Insights from COVID-19 lockdown

What can we learn about the role of mobility in daily life from the lockdown? This new paper offers insight into individual experiences of reduced mobility under COVID-19.

Until recently, mainstream approaches to low carbon mobility transitions had largely avoided considering mobility reductions as a serious option, focusing instead on making mobility “cleaner” or more “efficient”. In 2020, however, not going to work or not going anywhere became a reality for hundreds of millions of people as a result of restrictions related to COVID-19. The paper proposes that experiences of a less mobile life under COVID-19 may offer us insight into both the taken-for-granted meanings of mobility in daily life before COVID-19, now made visible, and into the potential hurdles faced by low-carbon mobility transitions ahead.

Drawing on the analysis of written interviews with 50 people from various countries, the paper explores what living without commuting means for different people, what experiences they miss, and what they find enjoyable. The results indicate that the majority of respondents miss quite a few aspects of daily mobility, but have also discovered new experiences, routines and meanings that hold their daily life together and make it pleasant. Not commuting, thus, just like commuting itself, simultaneously entails positive and negative experiences for most people. Building on these findings, the paper suggests that mobility transition policies need to accommodate this complexity by looking at which needs particular mobilities fulfil. In a context of reduced mobility (e.g. due to teleworking), this means thinking about how needs related to mobility can be accommodated and orchestrated through employer policies, transportation planning and urban design in a way which strengthens sustainable, inclusive mobilities.

Please refer to as: Nikolaeva, A., Lin, Y., Nello-Deakin, S., Rubin, O. & von Schönfeld, K.C. (2021). What does it mean to be less mobile? Insights from COVID-19 lockdown. Centre for Urban Studies, University of Amsterdam. Available at: https://urbanstudies.uva.nl/content/working-paper-series/working-paper-series-no.52.html