From boom to ban: bikeshare, narratives and public-private tensions

  • Brett Petzer (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesContributed talkScientific


Building on previous attempts to integrate discursive methods and the Multi-Level Perspective from transitions theory (Geels, 2012; Geels and Verhees, 2011; Hermwille, 2016; Rosenbloom et al., 2016), this paper investigates competing attempts by actors within the Cycling-as-a-Service (CaaS) niche and Dutch mobility regimes to promote or challenge the legitimacy of dockless CaaS systems in particular, and constructions of CaaS in general. It applies the multi-dimensional discursive interaction approach developed by Rosenbloom et al (2016) to the case of Rotterdam and Amsterdam leading up to the introduction, en masse and at scale, of dockless CaaS in these cities in 2016-2017, with a particular focus on Amsterdam’s temporary ban on these systems on public land. The author argues that this stopgap measure, which contrasts with Rotterdam’s more circumspect approach, represents a missed opportunity for more nuanced engagement by authorities with an innovation that has significant potential to contribute to both cities’ stated sustainability aims. The authors conduct a narrative analysis of approximately 450 Dutch online and print media articles, policy documents and social media posts to determine the storylines that (de)legitimate dockless CaaS. The results are discussed in focus groups with users, CaaS providers and local government to contextualise framing struggles and other narrative work within the CaaS niche and validate findings. A key limitation in Rosenbloom’s framework emerges in its treatment of space and scale, echoing critiques of the socio-technical transitions literature in this regard (Raven et al., 2012). The author contributes a revision and expansion of Rosenbloom’s multi-dimensional discursive interaction approach that explicitly recognises space as a basic determinant of the success of narrative work for niche actors, alongside existing dimensions (actors, claims, and context), thereby addressing a significant limitation and enhancing the framework’s precision when applied to the inherent spatiality of urban mobility.
Period2 Sept 20183 Sept 2019
Event titleAnnual Cycling and Society Symposium
Event typeConference
LocationBristol, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Cycling-as-a-Service
  • urban mobility services
  • shared mobility
  • transition studies, mobility transition