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Racialized Capacities and Transgressive Mobility

“Asian” Laborers and “Western” Urban Transportation in Colonial Manila and Singapore

Michael D. Pante

This article places race at the analytical center of a comparative urban transport history of early twentieth-century Singapore and Manila. It focuses on motorization, as seen in the influx and eventual dominance of streetcars and automobiles. The British and the American colonizers turned these Western-made vehicles into symbols of colonial modernity, defined in racialized terms. They regarded the different “Asiatics” as naturally ill-equipped to handle streetcars and automobiles, and when the colonized proved them wrong, the colonizers framed these acts using the racialist discourse of “potentiality.” Nevertheless, the native transport laborers appropriated motorized vehicles in ways that the colonizers did not imagine. Machines presented the natives a world of knowledge, which was maximized for financial gain. The acquisition of various forms of knowledge thus revealed a paradox of the civilizing mission: the colonizers exposed natives to the world of civilized knowledge, but the acquisition of this knowledge disrupted colonial discipline.

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The Morality of Motoring

The Emergence of the Automobile in Belgium, 1895-1940

Donald Weber

The emergence of the automobile in Belgium from 1895 onwards brutally disrupted the traditional social order on the roads, transforming social practices and the order of society from the mundane-the everyday use of transport-to the more rarified-urban planning and the use of public space. In this article, we will deal with the earliest history of motorization in Belgium. We will analyze motorization as a process of interaction between a specific set of social actors, and focus on its outcome: modern traffic policy as a conflict-management strategy. It is argued that traffic policy evolved from an originally moral strategy into a technical strategy, as engineers and the public road administration introduced Foucauldian approaches in order to discipline the traffic system.

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Invisible Cyclists and Disappearing Cycles

The Challenges of Cycling Policies in Indian Cities

Rutul Joshi and Yogi Joseph

Cycles are fast disappearing from the urban landscape, popular culture, and everyday life in India. The marginalization of cycling is seen in the backdrop of an emerging automobile culture linked with rising incomes, post-liberalization and skewed notions of modernity. The continued dominance of motorized modes seeks to claim a larger share of road space mirroring the social power structure. The majority of urban cyclists in India are low-income workers or school-going children. Despite the emergence of a subculture of recreational cycling among higher-income groups, everyday cycling confronts social bias and neglect in urban policies and public projects. The rhetoric of sustainability and equity in the National Urban Transport Policy 2006 and pro-cycling initiatives in “best practice” transit projects are subverted by not building adequate enabling infrastructure. This article presents an overview of contentious issues related to cycling in Indian cities by examining the politics of inclusion and exclusion in urban policies.

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Geetam Tiwari

Cycle rickshaws continue to play an important role in meeting the mobility demands in South Asian cities. Current transport policies, however, do not support their use. Rickshaws are viewed as a cause of congestion and a profession in which rickshaw owners exploit poor people. This article presents data from published studies to argue against those views. Data from Delhi metro users suggests that as cities expand their public transport services, rickshaws will continue as an important feeder mode in the future. Recent studies also suggest that if separate lanes are created for non-motorized vehicles (which can be used by bicycles as well), then rickshaws and motorized vehicles will experience less congestion and non-motorized vehicles will be exposed to lower traffic crash risk. This article advocates the collection of relevant data concerning rickshaw trips and the number of rickshaws in future travel surveys and that appropriate infrastructures should be designed to facilitate their movement.

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The Prime, Decline, and Recalling of Rural Cycling

Bicycle Practices in 1920s' and 1930s' Finland Remembered in 1971-1972

Tiina Männistö-Funk

The article studies rural cycling in Finland in the 1920s and 1930s through a folklore survey conducted in 1971-1972. Written memories enable a rare insight in the disappeared practices of bicycle use in the countryside. Comparing the role of the bicycle in the remembered time and the time of remembering, the article furthermore scrutinizes the role of historical narratives in the cultural constructions of the bicycle. Instead of demonstrating a linear, universal decline in the face of motorization, changes in bicycle use and redefinitions of the bicycle are linked to fundamental societal changes.

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Deborah Breen and Gijs Mom

“Mobility crisis”: These are the words used by Anumita Roychoudhury, the executive director of Delhi’s Centre for Science and Environment, to describe the growing pollution in India, especially in large cities like Delhi, as a result of the dramatic increase in the use of motorized vehicles in the past two decades. Although the population of Delhi and its surrounding cities more than doubled (to twenty-two million) between 1991 and 2011, she points out that registered cars and motorbikes increased fivefold, to eight million.1 Th is growth, along with increased but poorly regulated construction, underinvestment in public transport, and local and national policies that privilege automobiles at the expense of other forms of transport, has resulted in pollution rates that are now, according to a World Health Organization report, the worst in the world.2

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M. William Steele

Japan is one of the great bicycle nations of the world, ranking alongside the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark in terms of per capita bicycle ownership and use. This article reviews the history and characteristics of Japan as a bicycle nation. It examines the emergence of a distinctive bicycle culture that offered personal mobility to ordinary people in prewar Japan and traces the contribution of the bicycle to postwar Japan's social and economic development. It reviews postwar bicycle history in: the period of reconstruction and recovery (1945-1956); the period of high economic growth (1957-1973); the period of rapid motorization (1974-1991); and the period of raised environmental consciousness (1992-present). The conclusion seeks to offer reasons for the persistence of Japan's vibrant and pervasive bicycle culture.

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Road against Rail

The Debate on Transport Policy in Belgium, 1920-1940

Donald Weber

When new motorized means of transport, such as buses, vans, and lorries, captured part of the transport market in Belgium in the interwar period, the rail companies engaged in a political fight to restrict the new modes of road transport. Attempts were made to introduce fiscal and administrative measures aimed at limiting road transport. This coincided with an intense debate on transport policy, both in the press and in parliament. The article focuses on the discourse driving this debate. It is argued that the positions taken were motivated by economic issues, but that there were underlying cultural motivations, different perceptions of what transport should represent in the lives of the users and the whole of society. The focus on the so-called coordination debate is widened beyond the conflict between trains and vans in the 1930s, to include the conflict between automobiles, buses, and trams in the 1920s.

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Indigènes into Signs

Incorporating Indigenous Pedestrians on Colonial Roads in 1920s and 1930s French Indochina

Stéphanie Ponsavady

In Colonial Indochina, the introduction of motorized transportation led French authorities to focus their attention on the issue of pedestrian walking. The political and economic imperatives of the colonial state shaped the modern phenomenon of traffic, which isolated the indigenous body as a sign of otherness. The unruly indigenous pedestrian expressed a discursive and experiential crisis that questioned colonialism itself. This article invites us to examine the political potential of walking by considering Henri Lefebvre's notion of dressage and its limitations in a colonial setting through various examples, from French accounts of indigenous walking in daily activities to political disruptions of traffic by pedestrian demonstrators and the incorporation of indigenous bodies in road safety policies. Repeatedly, colonial subjects eluded, criticized, or undermined the rules of the road and the colony by the simple act of walking.

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Rickshaws in South Asia

Introduction to the Special Section

M. William Steele

The rickshaw, invented in Japan in 1869, helped to produce a revolution in mobility for millions of people in Asia and Africa. By the 1930s, the everyday mobility offered by the hand-pulled rickshaw gave way to several of its off spring: the cycle-rickshaw, trishaw, pedicab, cyclo, becak, and the auto-rickshaw. The three articles in this special section describe how these “primitive” non-motorized vehicles continue in the twenty-first century to play a valuable and irreplaceable role in urban and rural transport in South Asian cities. The authors are traffic experts, geographers, and urban planners who live and work in contemporary rickshaw cultures. Despite the reality of urban hazards, the articles describe cultural, economic, and environmental reasons to keep rickshaws on the road, now and in the future.