2012 volume 44(7) pages 1661 – 1678

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Nixon D V, 2012, "A sense of momentum: mobility practices and dis/embodied landscapes of energy use" Environment and Planning A 44(7) 1661 – 1678

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A sense of momentum: mobility practices and dis/embodied landscapes of energy use

Denver V Nixon

Abstract. This research examines how the commute practices of driving, cycling, and walking shape individuals’ sense of mobility energy use. Some scholars argue that different modes of mobility produce different ways of knowing the world. For instance, automobiles are accused by some of alienating their drivers, whereas others see the human-machine hybrids they create as inherently connecting. This paper is founded upon an epistemological position that sees knowledge as developed through sensual interactions with environments and held, sometimes inexpressibly, within the body. Transportation technologies, both as part of a person’s environment and as an extension of themselves, mediate these interactions. The research draws on in-depth interviews with drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians commuting in the City of Vancouver, and their commute narratives and GPS logs, to compare the sense of energy use between mode users. Participant senses explored include the feeling of momentum, changes in elevation, and stopping. Data analyses reveal active-mode users’ nuanced and sometimes tacit awareness of energy use, and how this embodied knowledge both consciously and unconsciously informs their mobility. The efficiencies gained through this tacit knowing should be recognized alongside the more common ‘neotechnological’ approaches to transportation energy conservation, and accounted for in planning, public policy, and law.
Keywords: mobility, sustainability, transportation, energy, human ecology, embodiment, landscapes

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