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Path creation for urban mobility transitions: Linking aspects of urban form to transport policy analysis

Kirsi Mäkinen (Finnish Environment Institute, Helsinki, Finland.)
Paula Kivimaa (Finnish Environment Institute, Helsinki, Finland AND School of Business, Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland.)
Ville Helminen (Finnish Environment Institute, Helsinki, Finland.)

Management of Environmental Quality

ISSN: 1477-7835

Article publication date: 8 June 2015




The purpose of this paper is to examine spatiality of transitions by combining aspects of urban form to policy analysis. It aims to increase understanding of how urban form relates to potential effects of transport policies on urban mobility transitions.


Novel analytical framework combines concepts of path dependence, path creation and path destabilisation to three urban fabrics (walking, transit and car cities), to study the transition potential of recent transport policy measures influencing the Helsinki region in Finland.


Analysis showed that the potential effects of single policy measures often reach over all three urban fabrics. A policy measure may simultaneously contain elements of both path dependence, i.e. support for fossil-fuel based private motoring in the car city and path creation, i.e. stimulation of innovations in transit or walking cities. Policy outcomes are often conditional on implementation of other policy measures. For transition governance, this indicates that policy mixes should both destabilise car cities and enforce path creation in walking and transit cities.

Research limitations/implications

Findings are based on potential rather than evaluated impacts and a limited sample of policies.

Practical implications

Findings support previous research on the importance of policy coherence: multiple policies and coherence across domains are important. They demonstrate the usefulness of analysing recent or planned policies from the transition perspective.


The paper provides novel insights by combining policy analysis to the spatial model of overlapping urban fabrics. In addition, it applies the concepts of path dependence, path creation and path destabilisation in a new way.



The authors thank Venla Virkamäki for collection of empirical material and comments in early phases of the research, Mirva Talusén for going through empirical material and Mikael Asikainen for assistance with graphics. The study was funded by the Finnish Environment Institute.


Mäkinen, K., Kivimaa, P. and Helminen, V. (2015), "Path creation for urban mobility transitions: Linking aspects of urban form to transport policy analysis", Management of Environmental Quality, Vol. 26 No. 4, pp. 485-504.



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