The conflicted pedestrian

Walking and mobility conflict in the city

Authored by: Denver V. Nixon , Tim Schwanen

Handbook of Urban Mobilities

Print publication date:  June  2020
Online publication date:  May  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138482197
eBook ISBN: 9781351058759
Adobe ISBN:


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Mobility is produced by, and reproduces, relationships between people, groups, and things. The number and types of options to move may vary greatly between people, as may the speeds at which people travel. The uneven distributions of social, economic, political, or material power across these relationships, the heterogeneity of human desires and societal visions of the good life, and the finite nature of urban space mean that tensions, conflicts, or compromises around urban mobility are inevitable. This chapter turns to one mode of transport—walking—and findings from qualitative fieldwork in the cities of São Paulo and Vancouver, to exemplify and vivify the connection between conflict and mobilities in the city. Under one’s own power and without a protective carapace, walking possesses a degree of vulnerability otherwise avoided when moving more quickly and/or with fortification. We demonstrate that, because of this, both modal segregation and shared space, despite offering some advantages, are associated with shortcomings that leave each limited in their ability to reduce conflict in ways that are equitable and just. In light of this, we argue that pedestrian conflict cannot simply be designed away without awarding to walking a fundamental and central place among transport modes, a repositioning that finds its expression in the use of urban space.

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