City street experiments are acknowledged as a low-cost and low-risk way to test solutions towards increased sustainability and liveability in cities. But do they have the potential to stimulate system change on a larger scale? This ‘transitional capacity’ of city street experiments is the focus of the new paper “From temporary arrangements to permanent change: Assessing the transitional capacity of city street experiments” researched and written by members of the EX-TRA team: Katherine VanHoose, Ana Rivas de Gante, Luca Bertolini, Julia Kinigadner, and Benjamin Büttner. The paper, published in the Journal of Urban Mobility, uses the defining characteristics of transition experiments proposed by Bertolini (2020) and a multi-level perspective of transitions to define and assess the transitional capacity of city street experiments. For the comparison, three case studies were chosen in two cities, Munich and Amsterdam. Both cities are currently transitioning towards more sustainable practices, with specific focus on the reduction of car use and parking. The chosen street experiments include, in Amsterdam: the ‘Living Street’ at Hugo de Grootkade in Amsterdam, Weesperzijde testbed, the ‘cycling street’ Sarphatistraat Zuid; and in Munich: Piazza Zenneti, Umparken Schwabing-west, and the 2019 summer streets. They have been employed in order to turn ‘streets into people rather than for traffic’ (Gehl, 2010). Follow a period of data collection involving in-depth, semi-structured interviews, each of the six case studies was assessed based on the capacity factors and the dimension of change. To assess the link between experiments and systemic change, five 'capacity components’ and their relation to four ‘dimensions of change’ were assessed in six case studies (see figure below).
Based on the analysis, there appeared to be a direct correlation between the capcaity compontents and the dimensions of change – confirming the original hypothesis that city street experiments possess a transitional capacity to spark system change. The researchers discovered a few nuances and further avenues for study. For instance, city street experiments cannot be understood independent from the context and system in which they occur. In addition, it appears that certain characteristics of city street experiments are non-negotiable while others are dispensable. The caacpiry component communivative may be essential to the transitional capcity of city street experiments, while others such as strategic and challenge-driven proved less essential in the cases studied. These new questions are being explored further in follow-up research that is currently taking place. To view the full paper, and explore its fascinating insights in further detail, follow the open access link below.