Accessibility strategies beyond private, motorized automobility – informing sustainability? A study of carless families with young children in Gothenburg
In the face of major sustainability challenges posed by social exclusion and ecologic degradation there is a pressing need to change mobility practices as well as the physical structures that condition mobility. The overarching aim of this study is to expand knowledge about everyday accessibility strategies beyond private automobility, to inform social as well as ecological sustainability in community and transport planning. A time-geographical approach to accessibility is used to view everyday life as a context of interwoven activities that serve to fulfill a multitude of projects. Departing from the time-geographical notion of maneuvre space as the ability to acquire opportunities within one’s geographical reach, accessibility is defined as overcoming time-space constraints through a variation of strategies. Apart from mobility, geographical proximity and other strategies that reduce the need to be mobile is considered as well as the resources this require. The study focuses empirically on families with small children as a group with a large share of time-bound activities and specific accessibility needs to make ends meet. It is based on eight semi-structured, in-depth interviews with voluntarily carless parents residing in semi-central parts of Gothenburg. The accessibility strategies applied by the families are generally aimed at enabling flexibility and coordination of activities so that the opportunities available within their geographic reach can be acquired. Most of the families in the study apply a combination of modes that include car travel at occasions outside their daily routines. The bicycle is an important mode of transport to organize fixed daily activities as it allows flexibility. Public transportation is used for short leisure trips and mainly when several family members are involved, such as day trips or attending to regular, fixed leisure activities. However, it has constraining effects through its reach and time tables. When the families need to get outside the tempo-spatial reach of public transport and overcome the capacity constraints set by the bicycle and their own bodies, most of them apply car based mobility. Car based mobility is also applied when the families need to conform to the highly mobile society. Geographic proximity appear as a fundamental aspect and fundamental priority in the daily life of the respondents, enabling voluntarily carless life. The strategies based on ICT and social relations as resources function in different ways to create further space for temporal and spatial flexibility through coordination, planning and relief of mobility needs. The conclusions of the study are that 1) strategies that favor geographical proximity, flexibility and coordination of activities reduces the need for high speed mobility, 2) Voluntarily carless life demands resources and may be temporary due to transitions over the life course, and 3) perceived constraints from carlessness to a large extent arise from norms and expectations associated with automobility. The study shows that it is indeed possible to live a carless life without unacceptable constraints to opportunities in daily life. However, such relatively non-constraining carlessness is evidently contingent on personal conditions and access to resources.
non-motorized transport modes
Masteruppsats i Geografi med Kulturgeografisk inriktning