Sharing space with strangers in moving public places: social mixing and secessionism in mobility

Giulio Mattioli

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The increasing importance of mobility and flows is indeed shaping the transformations of urban public space: however, urban researchers have somewhat neglected the significance of “moving” public spaces themselves, such as those of public transport. This paper challenges this underestimation by arguing that social mixing and social avoidance occur not only in neighborhoods, but also in the flows of urban and suburban mobility. Using a public mode of transport entails in fact the inevitability of interaction – albeit minimum – with fellow travelers: many passengers seem to value this, and like to indulge in activities such as observing other passengers or listening to their chatting. Others may instead look for shelter in the semiprivate space of the car, which allows them to avoid unwanted co-presence with strangers (perhaps of other ethnic groups or classes). The chapter argues that the continuum between these two extremes can be conceived as an attitude dimension opposing social mixing and secessionism in mobility (i.e. the varying propensity of individuals to share space with strangers during travel). In doing that, the article strongly points out the need to focus on the many ways in which the public spaces of mobility can be lived and appropriated by the travelers, and consequently on the potentialities for regeneration of public space in non car-dependent cities. A theoretical section, aimed at defining the construct clearly on the basis of existing literature on travel behavior, is presented. Next, the results of a little used interview technique (respondent debriefing), carried out in the Milan area in 2009, are presented
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUrban public space
Subtitle of host publicationFacing the challenges of mobility and aestheticization
EditorsOleg Pachenkov
Place of PublicationBerne
PublisherPeter Lang Pub.
Number of pages29
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-653-02903-1
ISBN (Print)978-3-631-60341-3
Publication statusPublished - May 2013


  • public space
  • attitude
  • public transport
  • car
  • mobility
  • transport


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