A further abstract (individualism and the car)…

Alexander Berthelsen of Sweden’s premier free public transport campaigners planka.nu in a paper that raises ideas about ethics, ideology, urban politics and practical activism:


“The current traffic hierarchy, with the car on top and with public transport, bikers and pedestrians at the bottom, manifests itself in the fact that these means of conveyance are given different amounts of space and resources. With the car on top of the traffic hierarchy we get a society built on automobility: a world where our lives, to a far too great extent, are steered by cars.

To be able to fight this traffic hierarchy we need to understand it. This is where the concept of automobility comes in as a way to understand and describe our societies view on mobility and autonomy: you achieve independence through mobility, and true mobility can only be achieved independently. Ideas strongly connected to the liberal ideology that proclaims us all as individuals – free to choose our own way of life – an ideology that in
its most extreme form denies the very existence of society. But, just as the idea of the free individual is created and maintained by a specific formation of society, the idea of automobility needs to be produced and maintained.

In this lecture, Swedish free public transport organisation Planka.nu will dig deeper into the concepts of automobility and the traffic hierarchy to bring forward the connections between liberalism and car-domination. They will also sketch out some of their ideas on how to move beyond automobility towards a fair and common transport system.”


Alexander Berthelsen is editor of Carbusters Magazine. He’s a Swede currently living in Prague, Czech Republic where he’s doing a one-year internship at World Carfree Network. Back in Sweden he’s active in Planka.nu for whom he, amongst other things, wrote the Swedish report “Trafikmaktordningen”, that was recently translated and released in English as “The Traffic Hierarchy”.

Planka.nu is Sweden’s largest public transport NGO, they started up in 2001 as free public transport activists but has since expanded their work into many different areas of urban politics. They maintain the international free public transport site:


About Free Public Transport Research Group

My name is Bob Jeffery I am a doctoral researcher at the University of Salford exploring the links between mobility and inequality in deprived neighbourhoods. Transport is only one aspect of my research and I am also interested in themes of residential mobility and migration. I have further interests in social research methods (qualitative and quantitative) and urban studies and social theory more generally. My research profile can be found at: http://salford.academia.edu/BobJeffery
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