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23 | 2021
Autonomy and independence in urban environments.

Between youth and old age, what inequalities and opportunities over life cycles?

Editor's notes

Call for papers

Guest editor:

  • Sébastien Lord, Faculty of Environmental Design, University of Montréal
  • Sandrine Depeau, UMR ESO 6590 CNRS, Université Rennes 2
  • Florent Demoraes, UMR ESO 6590 CNRS, Université Rennes 2, IFEA
  • Vincent Goueset, UMR ESO 6590 CNRS, Université Rennes 2
  • Philippe Gerber, Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research (LISER)

Independence and autonomy are two essential psychosocial processes that characterize the individual’s mastering of spatial mobility and related urban territories. Different crucial moments of the life course appear fundamental with this respect: childhood, adolescence, active life, retirement, or old age. These significant periods in the psycho-social construction of individuals are also reinforced by institutions (e.g., schools, colleges, universities, companies, etc.) and shaped by urban contexts (urban morphology, local amenities, functional accessibility, etc.). Defined as “normative transitions” (Bronfenbrenner, 1986) and inducing spatial and temporal organizations, such transitions impose social and territorial transformations of daily mobility. Other events, less predictable, may also interfere with the process of autonomy by influencing freedom of choice or even mobility and accessibility: relocation of employment, residential mobility, family breakdown or health problems.Finally, additional changes in the life course can lead to ruptures and crises with more serious effects on daily life and mobility.

Thus, daily mobility behaviours are prone to changes that may be both short-term (e.g., changes in schedules or itineraries, changes in the destination, etc.) or long-term, particularly following biographical events (e.g., birth of a child, divorce or marriage) (Scheiner, 2018). In long-term perspective, covered by the concept of “mobility biographies” (Lanzendorf, 2003), it becomes essential to reinforce studies that discuss impacts on ordinary daily mobility behaviours related to these mobility biographies, especially in their intensity and predictability. On the one hand, research dedicated to daily mobility and related to biographical transitions are growing (e.g. special issue of Transportation Research Part A (Zhang, Van Acker, 2017)). On the other hand, research related to biographical bifurcations are often confined to situations dealing with inequalities or with key moments in the life course, such as aging or family life (Lord et al., 2015; Lord, Piché 2018).

Whether in one or another life-course framework, the questions allowing this kind of research are still ongoing. In this context, this thematic issue aims to bring together theoretical, methodological, and empirical perspectives on the evolution and changes of mobility behaviours according to two main notions in current research: 1) “transitions” (Bronfenbrenner, 1986) and 2) “bifurcations” (Abbott, 2001; De Coninck, Godard, 1990) that households and individuals are living. Certain periods of life (childhood, adolescence, old age, for example) imply approaching the experienced changes in daily life from relational approaches. The dynamics of cities and places are already well studied in relation to the dynamics of social contexts in connection to migration and residential mobility (Bonvalet, Ogg, 2006; Canzler et al., 2008). However, relational approaches must also be strengthened in the context of urban mobilities (Baslington, Hazel. 2008) and on the idea of linking different forms of mobility (or even scales or social groups in relation to each other). Such approach makes it possible to consider the interlocking spatial and temporal scales, as well as the relationship between the mobilities of different members of a social group such as the family.

These various observations lead to a series of research perspectives and objects such as: the notions used for bifurcation and transition in order to report back a biographical reality experienced by individuals; the changes in the relationship to daily spaces in the city and mobility induced by transitions and bifurcations; the possible bifurcations that lead to more important changes in mobility routines than transitions; the role that can take mobility in the process of coping or adapting to changes in life course; the impact of socio-spatial constraints and urban contexts (accessibility, urban forms, family and social networks, schedules, or types of activity) in behavioural changes following a biographical event; the relationships to time and space that evolve according to the different biographical events.

This call for papers aims to explore more specifically the following questions:

  • How do certain transitions impact the mobility of individual and his or her entourage (family, professional or educational group, etc.)?
  • How can we observe transitions and mobilities from individuals and their relationships with specific groups or subgroups?
  • How do relationships to time and urban space for groups at different stages in the life course evolve according to urban transition or change?
  • How to adapt mobility research methodologies to take into account biographical data and their analysis?
  • What are the techniques available to account for changes in behaviour or access to places of activity for long-term and short-term periods?


Contributions must be sent to before July 10, 2021.

The proposals of article will have to strictly respect the “Authors Guidelines” available at:


Articles                     2021-07-30

Revisions                 2021-10

Final articles            2021-12


Abbott, A. (2001) On the concept of turning point. In A. Abbott, Time matters: On theory and method. Chicago: University of Chicago Press (240-260).

Baslington, H. (2008) Travel Socialization: A Social Theory of Travel Mode Behavior. International Journal of Sustainable Transportation2(2): 91–114.

Bonvalet C., Ogg J., 2006. Les enquêtes sur l’entraide familiale en Europe. Paris, Ined. (Méthode et Savoirs; 4).

Bronfenbrenner, U. (1986). Ecology of the family as a context for human development: research perspectives. Developmental Psychology22(6), 723-742.

Canzler, W., Kaufmann, V., Kesselring S. (2008) Tracing mobilities: Towards a cosmopolitan perspective. London, Ashgate.

De Coninck, F., Godar, F. (1990) L’approche biographique à l’épreuve de l’interprétation – Les formes temporelles de la causalité. Revue française de sociologie21(1): 23-54.

Lanzendorf, M. (2003) Mobility Biographies. A New Perspective for Understanding Travel Behaviour.10th International Conference on Travel Behaviour Research, Lucerne, August 10th-15th (conference paper).

Lord, S., Negron-Poblete, P., Torres, J. (dir.) (2015) Mobilité et exclusion, quelles relations ? Québec, Presses de l’Université Laval.

Lord, S., Piché, D. (2018) Vieillissement et aménagement. Perspectives plurielles. Montréal, Presses de l’Université de Montréal.

Scheiner, J. (2018) Why is there change in travel behaviour? In search of a theoretical framework for mobility biographies. Erdkunde 72(1): 41-62.

Zhang, J., Van Acker, V. (2017) Life-Oriented Travel Behavior Research: An Overview. Transportation Research Part A, (104): 167-178.

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