STS - conferences, IST2012

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The Copenhagen story: urban transportation from 1950 to 2050
Andrés Felipe Valderrama Pineda, Nina Vogel

Last modified: 2012-03-19


There is an increasing attention towards the role of cities in discussions regarding sustainability, climate change and the environment. On one hand it is a fact that an increasing number of people are moving into cities. In the coming years the proportion of human beings living in cities is estimated to be 70-80% of the world population. There are multiple efforts of conceiving of cities as fertile places to create and promote the socio-technical configurations that will have a positive impact on sustainability goals on a global scale. However, these efforts still collide with a tradition of conceiving of cities as problematic spaces, or places where especially unsustainable daily practices happen. This twofold character and in general the complexity of cities and their transition processes is discussed and exemplified in this article with the case of Copenhagen and its mobility development through the transition theoretical perspective of the multi-level perspective (MLP). The “Copenhagen story” is often regarded as a story of a leading city in terms of non-motorized urban transportation, environmental policies and in general as a place where people are ‘happily green’. In this article we critically research the pathways Copenhagen took, the struggles and conflicts involved and what potential transitions in terms of sustainable mobility considered for the future. We do so attempting to answer the questions: How does sustainable mobility unfold in the transition processes of Copenhagen? What transitions have happened in urban mobility in Copenhagen since 1950 and what may happen up until 2050? To be able to discuss these questions we adapt the MLP framework, placing culture and space –following Sheller, Coenen, Zijstra and Avelino- at the same explanatory level as technology in the three levels of structuration of the MLP model: niche, regime and landscape.