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Local policies of the mobility transition. The case of Belfort-Montbéliard

Finished research

The “Local policies of the mobility transition” project conducted by researchers at the Technology University of Belfort-Montbéliard investigated how public authorities in the Belfort-Montbéliard area created (or failed to create) policies for sustainable mobility in the last 50 years. This interdisciplinary project evaluates in particular the emergence of new forms of governance capable of supporting mobility transition processes.

Research participants


Contact : Sylvie Landriève

I. The research

The project looks at how public authorities create sustainable mobility policies in medium-sized cities. The core hypothesis of the research is that the mobility transition in a given area is highly dependent on how public authorities conceive of mobility, as well as on the behaviors they support and the discourse surrounding these behaviors. Therefore, by understanding how mobility options are created through public policies, we can question the emergence of new forms of governance capable of supporting transition processes, including mobility transitions.

Medium-sized cities (those with a city center of 20.000 to 100.000 inhabitants) are a fascinating field of study. While they are largely excluded from the scope of mobility-related studies, they present significant challenges with regards to the transition towards a more sustainable mobility system (insofar as they display intense car use, captive customers of public transport, etc.). The study focused more specifically on the textbook case of the urban area of Belfort-Montbéliard-Héricourt-Delle. This is a territory of more than 300.000 inhabitants, located in the North of the Franche-Comté region, with a strong tradition in the transport and energy industries. As the birthplace of Peugeot, it has been shaped by the automobile industry. What also makes it interesting is that it is organized around two similarly-sized cities: Belfort and Montbéliard, which are only 15 km apart.

Today, the rise of sustainable development issues has challenged public authorities to adapt. So far, elected officials, administrators, technicians and experts reasoned mainly in terms of managing flows and facilitating multimodality. But what is the situation today? How do local officials in an area such as Belfort-Montbéliard consider mobility? Is there a consensus, a homogeneous vision? More concretely, have the policies implemented in the area evolved since the 1970s? What challenges does the dual administrative organization of the area pose in terms of governance?

How are elected officials envisioning the future of this particular area at a time when sustainable development issues are establishing themselves as public policy priorities?

To answer these questions, a team of four researchers from the Research Institute on Transport, Energy and Society (IRTES) attached to the Technology University of Belfort-Montbéliard, developed an interdisciplinary methodology combining the tools of sociology, institutionalist economics and history. The research was mainly based on the study of archives pertaining to local mobility policies implemented since the 1970s and on personal interviews with both elected officials from Belfort and Montbéliard and a focus group comprised of members of the civil society.

II. Results

Synthesis (in French only)

III. To go further

Reports (in French only)


For the Mobile Lives Forum, mobility is understood as the process of how individuals travel across distances in order to deploy through time and space the activities that make up their lifestyles. These travel practices are embedded in socio-technical systems, produced by transport and communication industries and techniques, and by normative discourses on these practices, with considerable social, environmental and spatial impacts.

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To cite this publication :

Robert Belot et Fabienne Picard (07 December 2018), « Local policies of the mobility transition. The case of Belfort-Montbéliard  », Préparer la transition mobilitaire. Consulté le 21 May 2024, URL:

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