University of Sussex

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Imagined practices and the future of personal mobility

posted on 2023-06-09, 03:20 authored by Noam BergmanNoam Bergman, Tim Schwanen
We report from a project on the futures of personal mobility in the UK, in the context of sustainable mobility and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport. This paper looks at how people, behaviour and mobility are imagined in visioning documents (forecasts, pathways, etc.) in the future up to 2050, a timeline with great emission reduction targets. We use the lens of two innovations, electric vehicles and car clubs, to consider how potential adopters/users are imagined and constructed. We find that people are imagined primarily as consumers, using the rational actor paradigm. The analysis highlights a tension and seeming dissonance between the imagined public as rational actors and more complex real behaviour. Choice-based approaches limit imagined behaviour (change) to modal choice, or even choice of vehicle purchase, thereby limiting discourse on behaviour change, rather than opening it up. Imagined future mobility in most visions is business-as-usual, with privately owned car transport dominating personal mobility, and technological innovation supplying vehicles with reduced emissions; the link between transport and economic growth is invoked to support continued high transport demand. Car club visions show less car ownership, but retain high mobility and an economic growth perspective. Our findings support the idea that some future mobility visioning is used to support the status quo, rather than explore a variety of futures, by portraying a near business-as-usual option as the only future.


Publication status

  • Published

File Version

  • Accepted version

Presentation Type

  • paper

Event name

BEHAVE 2016: 4th European Conference on Behaviour and Energy Efficiency

Event location

University of Coimbra, Portugal

Event type


Event date

8-9 September 2016

Department affiliated with

  • SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit Publications

Full text available

  • No

Peer reviewed?

  • Yes

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