The legal street: a scarcity approach to urban open space in mobility transitions

Brett Petzer (Corresponding author), Anna J. Wieczorek, Geert P.J. Verbong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


An urban mobility transition requires a transition in space allocation, since most
mobility modes are dependent on urban open space for circulation and the storage of vehicles. Despite increasing attention to space and spatiality in transitions research, the finite, physical aspects of urban space, and the means by which it is allocated, have not been adequately acknowledged as an influence on mobility transitions. A conceptual framework is introduced to support comparison between cities in terms of the processes by which open space is (re-)distributed between car and bicycle circulatory and regulatory space. This framework distinguishes between regulatory allocation mechanisms and the appropriation practices of actors. Application to cases in Amsterdam, Brussels and Birmingham reveal unique relationships created by the zero-sum nature of urban open space between the dominant automobility mode and subordinate cycling mode. These relationships open up a new approach to forms of lock-in that work in favour of particular mobility modes within the relatively obdurate urban built environment. Empirically, allocation mechanisms that routinise the production of car space at national level within the EU are shown to be far more prevalent than those for bicycle space, highlighting the constraints faced by radical city-level policies aimed at space reallocation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3
Number of pages24
JournalUrban Transformations
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • sustainable mobility
  • urban space
  • bicycle parking
  • space distribution
  • parking policy


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