Living Without a Car A Canada-France Comparative Outlook

This research explores the links between social exclusion, car dependence and public policies for members of non-motorized households who are potentially socially excluded. It is at the crossroads of urban sociology, public policy and transport geography. Comparing urban areas in North America and Europe, it comprises two case studies: Quebec City in Canada and Strasbourg in France. Using a mixed methods approach, I combine qualitative and quantitative research tools to examine how the interactions of various policies, levels of car dependence, urban planning and land use affect mobility-related social exclusion with special attention to gender-based differences. The analysis is based on official origin-destination survey data from both urban areas, semi-directed interviews within non-motorized households and with public servants, and policy documents. I find that the factors causing non-motorized households to feel socially excluded are similar on both sides of the Atlantic. Mobility-related social exclusion can be associated with the fact of having to find an alternative to the car in order to reach certain destinations. Relying on the bus is often experienced as inconvenient, linked to long waiting times, having to leave early during evening outings and making detours instead of using a direct route. Such feelings made many of the study participants feel excluded. Participants who felt socially excluded commonly mentioned feeling left out of the political process and not listened to during public consultations. Some participants also felt excluded for not having a driver's licence, especially in France. Non-motorized households revealed that aggressive behaviour by motorists or their refusal to share the road with alternative mobility users were a further factor leading to social exclusion. Finally, judgmental comments by others who literally could not understand how they could live without a car - or who thought they didn't have one because of drunk driving or poverty - was also associated with social exclusion in my sample. The study participants often felt that owning a car had negative repercussions on their independence, as it comes with financial burdens, including car payments, vehicle repairs and maintenance. They reported feeling liberated from such burdens, as well as from logistical grievances like finding a parking spot or moving the car during snow removal, thus presenting a point of view not often explored in the literature. The public servants considered that some of the population was car-dependent, which made the implementation of restrictive measures on the car challenging. When discussing policy solutions, the main challenge brought up by civil servants were urban sprawl and political aspects related to urban planning. The policies in place to address transport and social exclusion contained three distinct sets of discourses. They either discussed social aspects, legal aspects, or mobility and land planning aspects. Each level of government had its own different focus, but car dependence per se was almost completely absent from policy documents, and most causes of mobility-related social exclusion were not addressed.

Kaufmann, Vincent
Lausanne, EPFL
Other identifiers:
urn: urn:nbn:ch:bel-epfl-thesis7957-3

 Record created 2017-11-13, last modified 2018-05-01

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