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Cars (1998-2000)

Car-Systems in the city and the sociology of embedded technologies.

The Research

The project was funded by the European Commission under the Targeted Socio-Economic Research Programme (TSER) and ran from from 1998 until 2000. The main objectives of the project were to draw out the social implications and political feasibility of a move towards 'sustainable mobility' in European cities in order to contribute to policy-making in this field by both public bodies and societal groups in the following ways:

  1. To understand how specific transport technologies - especially those associated with the private car - become deeply embedded or 'buried' in the socio-economic and cultural structure of a given society.
  2. To ascertain how such buried technologies distribute environmental risks, accessibility and employment benefits unequally across different social groups.
  3. To construct a number of scenarios for changing the socio-technical relationships and establish the implications of each for the social redistribution of risks, costs and benefits.
  4. To inform policy makers of the implications for different social groups of alternative methods of reducing dependency on car transport in cities.

Main Research Phases

  1. October 1998
    • Typology of Car-System: Car-Dependency in a Comparative Context.
    • Situating the four case study cities: Athens, Bologna, Dublin and Helsinki in a European and Global context.
  2. December 1998
    • The Political Sociology of Car-dependency
    • The localised decision-making process of car-dependency detailed in the 4 case study cities.
  3. April 1999
    • Local Transport Use
    • Comparative Ethnography and Survey of Mobility and Accessibility: How different areas within and between the case study cities vary in type and extent of car-dependency.
  4. October 1999
    • Imaginations of Accessibility
    • Using focus group methodologies, we will investigate the experiences of mobility and accessibility of groups of people and localities. This will be also a process of action research, involving an exchange between the project and local groups in initiatives for change.
  5. February 2000
    • Scenarios for a Sustainable Society
    • The potential of public space, public life and public transport in our cities.


Further information about the 3 other teams involved with this project are available by clicking on the links.

Prof. Marja Jarvela, Department of Social Sciences and Philosophy, University of Jyväskylä, Finland

Dr Konstantinos Sakelaropoulos, National Centre for Social Research (EKKE), Greece

Dr Elena Battaglini, Centre for Social Research, Italy

Publications and Reports

The following project reports are available to download from this website:

Wickham, J. and Lohan, M. (1999) 'The Social Shaping of European Urban Car Systems' (PDF, Social Shaping.pdf, 122KB)

Shove, E. (1998) 'Consuming Automobility' (PDF, Consuming Automobility.pdf, 71KB)

Wickham, J. (1999) (Ed.) 'The Car System in the City' (PDF, The Car System.pdf, 764KB)

Wickham, J. and Battaglini, E. (2001) (Eds.) 'Political Sociology of Car System' (PDF, Political Sociology of Car Systems.pdf, 909KB)

Urry, J. (1999) 'Automobility, Car Culture and Weightless Travel' (PDF, Weightless Travel.pdf, 95KB)

Lohan, M. (1998) 'Ethnography of Transport Use in Dublin ' (PDF, Ethnography Dublin Transport.pdf, 108KB)

Wickham, J. (2001) 'Using cars, using public transport: First results from a survey on individual mobility in four European cites' (PDF, Survey on Mobility.pdf, 217KB)

Rajanti, T. and Wickham, J (2002) (Eds.) 'Experience of Mobility and Imaginations of Accessibility' (PDF, Experiencing Mobility.pdf, 108KB)

Wickham, J (2002) (Ed.) 'Scenarios of mobility: Experts’ images of the future in four European cities' (PDF, Scenarios of Mobility.pdf, 683KB)

Final Report (PDF, Cars Final Report.pdf, 1.28MB)

Other related reports and publications

Wickham, J. and Tovey, H. (1997) 'Buried Technologies, Environmental Danger and Social Structure: Sociological Research and the Motor Car'.

Lohan, M. and Wickham, J. (1998) 'Car Systems in European Cities: Environment and Social Exclusion. A Literature Review' (PDF, Cars Literature Review.pdf, 594KB)

Lohan, M. (1998) 'Case-Study of a Transport Decision: LUAS light rail for Dublin-Going Underground?' (PDF, Luas Case Study.pdf, 113KB)

Lohan, M. (1998) 'Case-Study of a Transport decision Drive til you Shop Liffey Valley: Where the M50 meets the N4' (PDF, Drive Til You Shop.pdf, 58KB)

Lohan, M. and Wickham, J.(1999) 'Creating Sustainable Transport, Loosing Political Innocence: A comparison of regional innovation systems in four European cities'. (PDF, Creating Sustainable Transport.pdf, 18KB) (Extended Abstract only)

Lohan, M. and Wickham, J. (1999) 'The Transport Rich and the Transport Poor: Car dependency and social class in four European cities' (PDF, Transport Rich.pdf, 91KB)

Lohan, M. and Poli, P. (2000) 'Scenarios for Sustainable Transport' (PDF, Sustainable Transport in Dublin.pdf, 420KB)

Farina, F. (2000) 'Scenarios for Sustainable Transport in Bologna' (PDF, Sustainable Transport in Bologna.pdf, 78KB)

Related Consultancy

Maria Lohan together with environmental consultant Brian Motherway, acted as Energy-Environment Consultants to the Irish Energy Centre and DTO on their EU funded 'Way to go' project.
The 'Way to Go' Project is concerned with employee mobility management in organisations. The organisations were a mix of private and state companies in Dublin.
This consultancy involved:
  • assessing organisations' current mobility patterns. Employees commuting to and from work and travelling on behalf of work.
  • Quantifying car-transport energy, environmental, and economic impacts and potential for change through the use of other transport modes. Assisting in the creation of initiatives for sustainable mobility.
James Wickham produced briefing documents on privatization and public transport for the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and for SIPTU trade union.

Subsequent publications and activities

In academic year 2004-05, James Wickham held a visiting fellowship at the Policy Institute, Trinity College Dublin to develop the findings of the project on car dependency and social exclusion.

The following publications derive from the research project:

James Wickham

'Public transport systems: the sinews of European urban citizenship?' forthcoming in European Societies, vol. 8 no.1 (2006): 3-26.

'Cutting up Cows in Dublin: Public spaces, public realms, public transport' in M. Corcoran and M. Peillon (eds.), Place and Non-Place: The Reconfiguration of Ireland, Dublin: Institute of Public Administration, 2004, pp. 196-205.

James Wickham and Maria Lohan

'Dublin’s Car System' in M. Peillon and E. Slater (eds.) Memories of the Present: A Sociological Chronicle of Ireland 1997-1998 (Irish Sociological Chronicles Volume 2 1997-98), Dublin: Institute of Public Administration, 2000, pp. 77-88.

James Wickham gave the following presentations based on the research project:

'Not Berlin, not Boston but Los Angeles? Public transport and urban citizenship in Dublin' Dublin Lord Mayors’ Conference, 23 April 2005.

'Not Berlin, not Boston, but Los Angeles? Car dependency and social exclusion in Dublin', Trinity College Dublin Policy Institute seminar, June 1, 2004.

'Not Berlin, not Boston, but Los Angeles? Public transport and urban citizenship in Dublin', tasc seminar Dublin, May 6, 2004.

'Next Stop Bangkok? Dublin’s deepening transport crisis'. Public Transport Partnership Forum, Department of Public Enterprise, Dublin, 6 September, 2001; also Trinity College Dublin Policy Institute seminar, 12 March 2002.

'Competition and Public Transport', Irish Congress of Trade Unions conference for trade unions in the public transport sector, Wexford, 24-25 January 2001.

'When just being normal is a problem: What happens when sociologists think about transport and policy-makers worry about cars' Contribution to INTEPOL Brussels workshop, 15 November, 2000.

'Car Dependency and Social Exclusion’, European Commission DG Energy & Tranpsport Workshop ‘Living in Cities: The transport dimension’, Brussels, 25-26 May 2000. Also at University of Aston, workshop on ‘Toward a Greener Road Vehicle: Innovation paths for sustainability’, Aston Business School, University of Aston.

'Contextualising Car Dependency’, ECMT (European Conference of Ministers of Transport) -OECD Workshop Managing Car Use for Sustainable Travel, Dublin, December 1-2, 1999.

Invited presentation to advisory committee of Dublin Transport Organization (1999).

'Dublin’s Car Addiction'. Sociology Department Research Seminar, University College Dublin, April 1, 1998; also presented at Sociological Association of Ireland annual conference, Wexford, May 10, 1998.

'Only Losers Take The Bus: Winners and losers in car transport systems', European Conference - Mobility as a Product: Alternative scenarios for mobility and the automobile in urban contexts, Rome, April 17-19, 1997.

ERC Team

For further information on a specific researcher, please click on the appropriate link.

James Wickham +353 1 608 1875
Maria Lohan    

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Last updated: Jul 15 2011.