05 December, 2014

University of Hull PhD Scholarship

University of Hull PhD Scholarship: The city, mobility, and sustainability: Assessing university bike hubs for low-carbon mobility
Supervisors: Dr. Julia Affolderbach (GEES), Prof. David Gibbs (GEES), Prof. Andy Jonas (GEES), Prof. Markus Hesse
Contact email: j.affolderbach@hull.ac.uk

Mobility research is a growing field within the social sciences (e.g., Cresswell 2010). Whilst low-carbon transportation is key to the development of more sustainable urban forms, it is only recently that researchers have turned their attention to how cities learn about urban policy innovations and how good practice circulates from one place to another (McCann and Ward 2011). Similarly, very little is known about the relationships between (low-carbon) mobility and the circulation and movement of knowledge and policies that goes beyond traditional conceptions of policy transfer. Understanding these relationships is crucial in advancing sustainable policies and practices in response to climate change. The proposed project assesses the role universities can play as promoters and agents in wider, urban sustainability transitions focusing on bike hub initiatives. As hubs of knowledge and learning within cities, universities are well positioned to act as initiators and test beds of sustainability initiatives and, as such, link research knowledge with implementation and real life urban practice (König 2013). As illustrated by numerous student movements, university campuses are particularly fertile grounds for alternative ideas, which spread into the wider community and society at large, producing transformations in how urban space is used and consumed.

The project focuses on low-carbon mobility using the example of university bike hub initiatives as currently operated at the University of Hull, University of Bradford, University of Nottingham-Trent and Velocity Leeds. According to the latest IPCC report, the transportation sector contributed 23% of total energy related CO2 emissions in 2010, 40% of which are used by urban transportation. Actions called on in the report to reduce carbon emissions include a modal shift towards low-carbon forms of transportation, infrastructure provision supporting these modes, and behavioral change of commuters and other users. University bike hubs address these three action points providing training and educational facility through maintenance support, provision of gear and maps, cycling and safety lessons targeting also first time users, and other outreach activities. The combination of the university campus location and the services offered bears high potential for mobilization, learning, and behavioral change of campus users.

Objectives and approach
The research design will involve a comparative case study of bike hub initiatives in England using a multi-method approach including qualitative interviews, online and on-site surveys with bike hub and campus users, and organization of a sustainable transportation workshop on campus.

The main research objectives are
  • to understand the emergence of bike hub initiatives focusing on inspirations, motivations, and key actors of different initiatives tracing their respective pathways;
  • to assess and compare the success, limitations, and impact of bike hubs; and
  • to analyze the role of bike hub initiatives within wider urban sustainability initiatives.
  • Training
The student will benefit from expertise in urban sustainability, mobility and climate change policy and will have the opportunity to engage in ongoing debates in urban sustainability research linking concepts and practice. The project provides training in research design, qualitative and quantitative research methods, and data analysis.

Further readings
Cresswell, T. (2010) Towards a politics of mobility, Environmental and Planning D 28(1), 17-31.
König, A. (2013) Regenerative sustainable development of universities and cities: The role of living laboratories. Edward Elgar.
Marsden, G., et al. (2011) How do cities approach policy innovation and policy learning? A study of 30 policies in Northern Europe and North America. Transport Policy 8, 501-512.
McCann, E. and Ward, K. (eds.) (2011) Mobile urbanism: Cities and Policymaking in the global age. University of Minnesota Press.

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