Mobility (transport)

Dernière mise à jour le 13 septembre 2019

Mobility is the ownership or character of what can move or be moved in space. The mobility of natural persons may be limited by certain disabilities and for all it implies accessibility to transport means and infrastructure. (Wikipedia)

Mobility is a right, but it covers very different realities in the North and South of the planet. We therefore offer you a crossover view of the South-North.

A right to mobility in the South

The best way to save energy and not contribute to climate change is not to use « modern services », especially motorised transport… But without the possibility of moving people and goods, all human and economic development is impossible. The lack of infrastructure and transport in rural areas, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, is an obstacle to development. However, it is not enough to focus only on infrastructure and motor vehicles to pursue a transport policy. (1)

The isolation of rural populations is a fundamental feature of poverty. Access to water, food, energy services (electricity, cooking, power), health services, education, employment, as well as markets and civic and cultural activities, can be very difficult due to the distances to be covered, the condition of roads or roads and the modes of transport available. The lack of access of rural populations to essential services is often a lock that locks households into extreme poverty. (1)

The role of women in commuting

The female population pays for two thirds of the time spent on transport. A study conducted in five different rural areas shows that a woman can spend an average of between one hour and two hours and 40 minutes a day travelling. In some regions, nearly a quarter of the village women’s workday is dedicated to travel and transport. (1)

Solution: intermediate means of transport

The dissemination of intermediate means of transport (IMT) is increasingly being encouraged by international actors. They save time, energy for both men and women and increase transport capacity at a lower cost. Intermediate means of transport (wheelbarrows, hand carts, trolleys, bicycles, tricycles and animal traction) are « intermediate » in the sense that they fill the gap between walking/carrying and large-scale motorized transport (Starkey, 2001) (1)

A right to mobility in the North

« We are literally stuck in a dead end in a frozen 4×4 out of gas.« This is how James Howard Kunstler, the author of The Geography of Nowhere: the rise and decline of America’s man-made landscape, presents the current situation in the United States. (2)

Since the Second World War, the United States has invested a large part of its wealth in the peri-urban way of life. The American « suburbs » have enshrined the ideal of the « American way of life »: a car synonymous with freedom and a « house in the middle of nature. This myth gave rise to an inner empire: Suburbia (peri-urbanization) and its residential suburbs, which extend over thousands of kilometres. (2)

Barrel prices and subprime crisis

With the rise in the price of oil, Suburbia is slowly collapsing, and the « American dream » is turning into a nightmare for millions of Americans: the automobile is now synonymous with dependence and the « house in the middle of nature » is nothing more than a banal pavilion in a development located far from everything (employment, trade, leisure, etc.). Under the combined effect of the rise in gasoline prices and the cascading consequences of the subprime crisis, the middle classes living in these suburbs are now on the verge of implosion. (2)

« Residential developments will soon have no other future than to become the slums of the future » (James Howard Kunstler, 2004) or the advent of a « slum planet » (Mike Davis, 2005). (2)

Solution: change the model

And while the United States, in terms of urban planning and mobility, is the symbol of the car city and its endless expansion (urban sprawl), several schools of thought have been trying for several years to promote new approaches, based on local urban planning that generates less travel and gives back their full place to soft modes, and in particular to a practice as old as humanity: walking. (2)

Innovative concepts are emerging and being put into practice, such as « new pedestrianism« , « walkable urbanism« , pedestrian villages, urban villages or even car-free eco-villages. For example, in 1994, a city like Seattle developed an integrated territorial planning approach based entirely on the concept of urban villages, which led to the creation of 37 of them. (3)

In conclusion, in both North and South, the right to mobility is a global challenge that addresses social, economic, environmental and climate change issues.

Sources :

  1. RITIMO database:
  2. RITIMO database:
  3. André Croissant, Villages urbains et nouvel urbanisme, Carfree France, 3 March 2008.

Translated with