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Sustainable mobility as Swiss cheese?: – Exploring influences on urban transport strategy in Basel
Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering, Environmental Technology and Management. Linköping University, Faculty of Science & Engineering.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9509-8271
2016 (English)In: Natural resources forum (Print), ISSN 0165-0203, E-ISSN 1477-8947Article in journal (Refereed) Epub ahead of printText
Abstract [en]

This paper explores the development and implementation of strategies for sustainable mobility in Basel, Switzerland. Basel (Bâle, Basilea, Basle) has been identified as a ‘relatively successful’ practitioner of sustainable mobility, with an urban form that is not only conducive to walking and cycling, but also has an extensive public transport system and high levels of commuting using these sustainable modes of transport. With a low share of journeys by motor vehicles compared to many other European cities – combined with a legally-binding objective to reduce vehicle traffic by a further 10% from 2010 to 2020 – Basel appears to be a forerunner with regard to sustainable mobility policy and practice. Five years after this objective was passed into law – following a public vote, as Basel is part of the Swiss confederation and practices direct democracy – this study aims to assess the extent of policy implementation and reflect on challenges and opportunities for the future. The paper presents findings from a series of interviews with stakeholders in Basel on the theme of sustainable mobility. Key questions include: is it possible to develop coherent strategies and policies to further reduce the role of motor vehicles and in doing so, achieve a modal shift? How does participation in a direct democracy influence strategy and policy development and outcomes? Do compromises and trade-offs mean strategies and policies promoting sustainable mobility are, like Swiss cheese, riddled with holes? By illustrating challenges and opportunities when advancing sustainable mobility in a participative culture, the study provides insights for policymakers and researchers in other contexts. Among the conclusions is an emphasis on the importance of committed individuals capable of expanding the ‘strategy space’ of processes. Participation provides one such opportunity, yet may also generate divergent or contradictory trends causing incrementalism. A rapid transition to sustainable mobility is thus likely to require increased politicisation of the topic by both politicians and civil servants.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
John Wiley & Sons, 2016.
Keyword [en]
Sustainable mobility, governance, strategy, policy, participation, direct democracy, Canton Basel-Stadt
National Category
Environmental Sciences Transport Systems and Logistics
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-129371DOI: 10.1111/1477-8947.12093OAI: diva2:938579
Available from: 2016-06-17 Created: 2016-06-17 Last updated: 2016-06-29
In thesis
1. Sustainability · Strategy · Space – exploring influences on governing for urban sustainability in municipalities
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Sustainability · Strategy · Space – exploring influences on governing for urban sustainability in municipalities
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The pursuit of urban sustainability is considered central to sustainable development and is a key objective of the global Sustainable Development Goals (2015) and the New Urban Agenda (2016). This thesis aims to contribute to debates on urban sustainability by providing insights as to the role of actors participating in processes of governing for urban sustainability, with particular focus on the municipal organisation.

The thesis employs an interdisciplinary approach to illustrate divergent approaches to governing for urban sustainability, with reference to empirical studies of strategic planning processes in municipalities in selected North-western European countries – Sweden, Switzerland and The Netherlands.

These studies address themes including climate change, sustainable transport and multi-level governance. The thesis provides a broad overview of theoretical discussions related to governing, strategy and planning, the role of actors in governing for urban sustainability, and the particular importance of climate change as a challenge for urban sustainability.

A number of research gaps are identified and addressed in two research questions, focusing on the organisation and practice of processes of governing for urban sustainability, and the factors influencing actors participating in such processes. The thesis responds to these research questions with reference to five appended papers, which illustrate different dimensions of governing for urban sustainability.

The first paper concerns the organisation of processes to develop energy and climate strategies in Swedish municipalities, and the second paper highlights the experiences of actors participating in such processes. The third paper presents results from a survey illustrating the expectations of stakeholders active in governing transport in the city of Norrköping, Sweden.

In the fourth paper, the development and implementation of policies aiming for sustainable transport and urban sustainability in Basel, Switzerland, are discussed. In the final paper, cooperation through transnational municipal networks is explored with reference to the World Ports Climate Declaration, an initiative of the city of Rotterdam.

The thesis confirms the presence of five factors – capacity, mandate, resources, scope and will – that shape the “strategy space” of actors and play an important role in conditioning the form and content of processes of governing for urban sustainability. The thesis suggests that the ways in which a municipal organisation perceive and mobilise the five factors will strongly determine the extent of its sustainability strategy space.

In sum, municipal organisations and other actors participating in processes of governing for urban sustainability need to mobilise the five factors and expand their strategy space, in order to achieve vertical and horizontal alignment of strategic objectives and facilitate implementation that delivers transformative change.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2016. 85 p.
Linköping Studies in Science and Technology. Dissertations, ISSN 0345-7524 ; 1773
Actors; Climate Change; Governing; Municipalities; Strategy; Urban Sustainability
National Category
Environmental Sciences Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-129544 (URN)10.3384/diss.diva-129544 (DOI)978-91-7685-743-4 (Print) (ISBN)
Public defence
2016-10-21, ACAS, A-Huset, Campus Valla, Linköping, 10:15 (English)
Available from: 2016-06-21 Created: 2016-06-21 Last updated: 2016-06-21Bibliographically approved

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