Sustainable Urban Mobilities

French Fieldworks in European Perspective

by Philippe Hamman (Volume editor)
©2023 Edited Collection 258 Pages
Series: EcoPolis, Volume 40


Mobilities are an essential issue in contemporary societies, which have recently been reexamined as a result of calls for ecological transition, on the one hand, and the impact of the global Covid 19 pandemic, on the other. The original contribution of this book is that it starts from the polysemic meaning of mobility, paying attention to different scales of perception and action, the lived spaces in which mobility occurs, and the “alternative” character of so-called sustainable mobilities and the actors who display or engage in such practices. The concept of mobilities is thus considered in relation to urban spaces and sustainability, based on the analysis of French case studies from a European perspective and using multidisciplinary social sciences approaches.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • Introduction. At the crossroads of urban, sustainability and mobility studies: Scales and comparisons from French fieldworks to European perspectives
  • Part I Current urban mobilities as “lived” spaces
  • A socialization-based approach to daily mobilities
  • Two approaches to understand the evolution of cross-border daily mobility and local residential mobility: The case of cross-border commuters living in Lorraine (France) and working in Luxembourg
  • Pop-up civic sanctuary and the right to retreat in the city: Disrupting mobility regimes through pause and rest in a mobile “tiny house” encounter space
  • Part II Renewed urban mobilities as “alternatives” spaces?
  • What drives food flows? Governing food supply chains in peri-urban settings
  • The political regulation of “sustainable” urban mobility
  • Urban mobilities in French intermediary cities: The impact of “tactical” urban installations in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic
  • Socio-spatial dynamics and changes in urban mobility practices in a pandemic context: A mixed method case study in Mulhouse, France
  • Conclusion: Sustainability and mobility: A transactional compromise
  • Bibliography
  • List of Contributors
  • List of Figures
  • List of Tables
  • Table of Contents


This book was initiated as part of the activities of the Jean Monnet Chair “Governance of Integrated Urban Sustainability in Europe” (GoInUSE), awarded to the editor by the European Commission in 2020.1

The chair proposes to discuss and disseminate the results of recent research and ongoing experiments on the multi-level and integrative governance of urban sustainability in Europe: its actors, processes and challenges, major experiments and themes in and around urban spaces. To this end, it brings together specialists in social sciences. The objective is twofold:

  • – To address integrated sustainable development in European cities – the “green city” but also the “just city” – through the analysis of different stakeholders and social groups (including the role of inhabitants and citizens) and of multi-scale (global/local/individual) social and political configurations such as mobility practices.
  • – To think together, on the basis of empirically founded work, topics usually associated with European studies (European agenda and objectives, etc.) and issues that cut across the social sciences and urban studies, both analytically and notionally (including in reflexive terms, i.e., governance of change).

A seminar was held in Strasbourg during the academic year 2020–2021 on the theme “Sustainable and Inclusive Urban Mobility in Europe”, of which this book is the result.

I would like to thank all the authors who have agreed to contribute to this collective work; Stéphanie Alkofer, who translated texts from the French into English and proofread most of the manuscript; Olivier Petit and Xavier Arnauld de Sartre, editors of the Ecopolis series, as well as Thierry Waser and the anonymous reviewers at Peter Lang, for their constructive advice; and Sophie Henck, research engineer in social sciences, for her practical help within the GoInUSE Chair.

This book is published with the support of the European Union as part of the Jean Monnet Chair “Governance of Integrated Urban Sustainability in Europe” (619635-EPP-1-2020-1-FR-EPPJMO-CHAIR).

Philippe Hamman

1 See https://sage.unistra.fr/membres/enseignants-chercheurs/chaire-goinuse/.

Introduction At the crossroads of urban, sustainability and mobility studies: Scales and comparisons from French fieldworks to European perspectives

Philippe Hamman

A brief state of the art: The plurality of mobilities as a starting point

In contemporary Western societies, geographic mobility is commonly associated with values of freedom and emancipation, reduced spacetime, and social fluidity or integration (Kaufmann, Bergman, Joye, 2004). Sociology has precisely approached mobility from the perspective of movement between institutions and actors (states, social groups, etc.) in terms of social organization (Bourdin, 2005). This is especially the case in Europe, where the Union’s integration project is based in particular on the affirmation of the principle of free movement, linking spatial, occupational and political dimensions (Recchi, 2015) of borders-on-the-move (Amilhat-Szary, Giraut, 2015). Significantly, Nora Siklodi (2020) proposes to reconsider the models of national and European Union citizenship in relation to intra-EU mobility, i.e. to reconsider the active/passive citizen dichotomy in terms of “mobiles/stayers”. It is precisely this common sense assumption that some critical approaches denounce, pointing to the fact that “this sense of mobilities is in fact an ideological bubble that provides the illusion of freedom whilst limiting our mobility or even keeping us immobile” (Korstanje, 2018). Indeed international mobility remains socially very selective. In this regard, it has been shown that “the enactment of a European identity, through practices of mobility, has more to do with social class than with a mobile condition per se” (Novoa, 2019).

The consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic have largely confirmed this observation, whether in relation to the lockdown or the restrictions on movement in daily life, the return of national borders within the European Union and controls on movement based on the health security rules decided by each state, or even differentiated at the level of infra-national regions, as it was the case in Germany for instance (Augias, Hamman, 2021). The year 2020 saw the advent of a genuine “mobility shock”. It has revealed in particular how multiple im/mobilities are interlinked (Sheller, 2021), calling for a reconsideration, between dynamics of globalization and territorialization of our societies (Barbier, Hamman, 2021), “the blurred lines between here-safe and there-unsafe” (Korstanje, George, 2021). This reminds us, among other things, that mobility does not mean the end but the shifting of borders, especially national ones. Although John Urry (2000) claims we have entered a “post-societal era”, organized around horizontal networks, mobilities and fluidities questioning the very idea of society and territory, complex processes of reconfiguration and hybridization are visible. These are the questions social science analyses of geographic mobilities address (Belton-Chevallier, Oppenchaim, Vincent-Geslin, 2019).

At the same time, for policy-makers, mobility is also an indicator of socio-economic dynamism, facilitating changes of space and status. This is mobility as social mobility (Lawler, Payne, 2018), generally understood in social science as a double movement of the individual in social space: from social and familial background to diploma, and then from diploma to occupation (Pfefferkorn, 2017), although we know that class membership and social recognition are not derived solely from formal qualifications and paid labor (Van Den Berg, 2011). Hence the existence of a “right to mobility” linking mobility to the notion of citizenship, for accessing other rights – work, housing, education, health, etc. (Cresswell, 2006). Everyday mobility has been considered as a principle of freedom but also as an aspiration at happiness, which defines its significance between individuality and community, autonomy and heteronomy (Freudendal-Pedersen, 2009).

Strictly speaking, this postulate is, however, based on a doubly reductive equation. First, individual behaviors are normatively attributed to a rational actor model wherein economic benefits and time spent on tasks are optimized, leading to the perception that spatial mobility is indispensable for self-fulfillment. Second, different forms of mobility are usually studied separately (Gallez, Kaufmann, 2009): commutes (journeys between home and work, shopping trips, etc.), residential mobility (changes in accommodation and living settings), travel for leisure (tourism) and migrations (on various scales and with various degrees of finality).

On the one hand, the all-encompassing but diffracted presence of mobility actually conceals different uses of this trifunctional notion, which means at once “imagination, thinking and acting”. Mobility evolves in several spaces and circulates between them, along truly political and social trajectories (Borja, Courty, Ramadier, 2014). On the other hand, when cross-cutting analyses have been proposed, they have tended to remain on the same level, starting with the global scale of mobility phenomena seen from the perspective of globalization, for example by looking at the relationships between the five major voluntary global movements: commodities, people, capital, information and technology (Kellerman, 2020).

In other words, two biases, reducing the societal scope of mobility, should be avoided (Lussault, 2004): to consider mobility separately as merely revealing more general processes such as globalization or individuation, or solely as physical travel (as it has been historically the case of traffic science, then the socio-economics of transport, etc.). In fact, “travel is a so-called ‘derived’ demand (we travel not to move but to perform an activity) [and] the conditions of travel determine urban growth as much as they result from it” (Gallez, Kaufmann, 2009).


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2023 (November)
European perspectives urban sustainability French fieldworks
Bruxelles, Berlin, Bern, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2023. 258 pp., 21 fig. col., 18 fig. b/w.

Biographical notes

Philippe Hamman (Volume editor)

Philippe Hamman is a Full Professor of Sociology at the Institute for Urbanism and Regional Development of the Faculty of Social Sciences and the CNRS / University of Strasbourg joint research unit Societies, Actors and Government in Europe (UMR 7363). He holds the EU Jean Monnet Chair Governance of Integrated Urban Sustainability in Europe.


Title: Sustainable Urban Mobilities