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Social inequalities in urban access: from mobility to accessibility policies

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Sylvie Fol


Since the 1990s, the link between the lack of access to opportunities (work, health, shopping, leisure, etc.) and social exclusion processes has been the subject of growing interest in research and policy. In the United Kingdom, for example, the creation of the Social Exclusion Unit in 1997 was a starting point for the development of many studies analysing the spatial dimension of social exclusion. Lack of access to facilities and services has been cited among the components of social isolation. Similarly, in the US and in France the implementation of workfare policies has placed new emphasis on the necessity for job seekers to access employment. In the field of transport studies, access is generally analysed from a narrow point of view, as a problem of transport networks performance, reduced to the ease to reach opportunities. In this paper, we argue that the social characteristics of space and of individuals, along with the provision of urban amenities in a given urban environment, are also crucial components of the complex notion of urban access. Rejecting a narrow definition of access, we seek to broaden the approach of access inequalities and discuss its implications for public policies. In our paper we first define the notion of accessibility, based on a review of the literature regarding urban access and its measure. In a second part, we examine the use of the notion of access in the transport field, underlying the shortcomings resulting from a mobility-focused paradigm of access. In the third part, we present the "new narrative of access" which was incorporated into policy discourses, in relation to the raising issue of social exclusion in North America and several European countries. We finally argue that the notion of accessibility can better address social justice and equity issues than a right to mobility.
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halshs-01070312 , version 1 (01-10-2014)


  • HAL Id : halshs-01070312 , version 1


Sylvie Fol, Caroline Gallez. Social inequalities in urban access: from mobility to accessibility policies. City Futures III - Cities as strategic places and players in a globalized world, Jun 2014, Marne-la-Vallée, France. ⟨halshs-01070312⟩
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