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1 New mobility concepts: from selling cars to delivering services

1 New mobility concepts: from selling cars to delivering services

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Pedelecs as New Tools for Active Mobility


Pursuing this theoretical concept further, mobility practices always compete

with each other. Therefore, it is not consistent (and certainly not successful) to

talk about sustainability on one hand while still following the traditional path of

auto-mobility on the other. The practice of pedelec riding will have a chance to take

hold only if it is comfortable and easy to perform. We must always keep in mind

that its private valuation will depend on how it compares to other mobility options.

Another important point in terms of planning considerations can be derived from

social practice theories: mobility is not only about pure mechanical transportation

from point A to point B. Rather, feelings and emotions during the experience of

movement represent a big part of why and how practices are performed and sustained. As practice theorists state, the desire to undertake a certain practice comes

not from mental thought alone; rather, it follows the performance and is a product

of the practice itself (Warde 2005). This theoretical insight strongly supports the

idea of offering wide-ranging opportunities for testing pedelecs, which have already

been shown to conjure up the magical “pedelec smile” on riders’ faces after their

first ride. The corporeal experience of movement and the feelings derived from

all the human senses that produce positive emotions will shape attitudes toward

pedelecs.20 So pedelec test rides, preferably combined with mobility education

strategies, should play an integral part in every pedelec promotional initiative.

The Azubi-E-Bike project (Le Bris, Rothfuss 2015) stands out as an example of

best practice in this area.

Above all, promotion strategies should put an extra focus on dispelling the existing, culturally embedded images and prejudices and support the establishment

of positive meanings and associations around pedelecs. It is important to get away

from the perception of pedelecs as “a step back” or a vehicle for unathletic or older

people. Hence, marketing and communication campaigns should reinforce the

idea that a pedelec can serve as a powerful extension of the conventional bicycle,

20 To investigate the acceptance of the new forms of electric car mobility, many studies

have been based on Rogers’s (1983, 1995) diffusion of innovation theory within the field

of socio-economics. Even though from this theoretical base it can be stressed that the

“triability” of new products is crucial to the success of its diffusion, the approach mainly

focuses on rational factors of the innovation; symbolic, social, emotional, or physical

aspects of the experience (such as how one feels while riding or the surrounding affective

atmosphere) play only a minor role. (For a critique of the diffusion of innovation theory,

see Axen, Kurani 2011). But as the findings from empirical studies have shown (Le Bris,

Rothfuss 2015; Le Bris forthcoming), these factors are fundamental to convincing people

to adopt or accept an innovation. As opposed to most theoretical approaches, social

practice theories stress the importance of physical and emotional impacts.


Jessica Le Bris

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