The institutional battle for the implementation of road space re-allocation approaches

By Francesco Sarti and Charlotte Halpern, Sciences Po

Cities across Europe have embraced new forms of mobility in their efforts to meet 2030 climate goals. New mobility solutions are being developed, with an increased concern for health, environmental and economic issues. The rapid surge that was observed in terms of shared and micro mobility solutions, e-commerce practices and new smart city technologies to orderly regulate parking and access in the urban areas also highlighted the need to frame if not constrain these developments and ensure their integration into existing mobility systems.

The re-allocation of road space constitutes an instrumental approach in this context in so far as it developing new technological possibilities, attractive spaces to support active modes of transport and encouraging street activities, all within fixed road widths. These measures are highly contentious, with a large number of contradictory interests seeking to influence the future of urban road space.

Several governance dilemmas have emerged in this context: which public authorities are legitimate in order to steer the re-allocation of road space? To what extent are these pressures on the urban road network conducive to the reshuffling of transport policy priorities? What policy resources are needed in order to effectively re-allocate road space, where (what level of government? Public vs. private sector?) are these resources located?

Findings from the MORE report “Road space re-allocation. Organizational, institutional and political dimensions” show that a number of urban and metropolitan authorities have seized this opportunity in order to expand their political capabilities. In spite of major barriers (organizational, political, institutional), cities such as Lisbon, Malmö, Budapest, London or Constanta now play a critical role in their ability to develop and implement road space allocation strategies.

This is shaped by two main factors: the policy resources they draw upon and their strategic use of institutional competition. In order to increase direct or indirect access to strategic policy resources (financial, organizational, expertise, rule-making), cities such as Lisbon, Malmö, Budapest, London or Constanta have developed new areas of expertise and established relationships with the industry, users’ groups and residents’ associations. As a result, they have strengthened their capacities to effectively promote their own vision and strategy about the future of the urban network.

Several institutional battles are being led in this context. First, the changed role of cities and metropolitan authorities challenges existing institutional and governance arrangements with national and regional authorities and transport organizations. It also challenges the scale at which access rights and regulations for specific users’ groups are being decided upon.

Second, by fostering a more integrated and systematic approach to mobility planning and policy implementation at city-level, road-space re-allocation requires the introduction of innovations in local governance in terms of redefining existing organizational portfolios, developing new consultation procedures and strengthening monitoring, enforcement and financing capabilities.

These institutional battles shape – enable, constrain – the role of city and metropolitan authorities in their ability to overcome interests’ fragmentation and effectively re-allocate road space according to locally defined priorities. City authorities mobilize resources either vertically or horizontally (or both) in order to strengthen their capabilities to develop and implement road space allocation strategies such as the Healthy Streets Approach in London or the pedestrianisation of streets in Constanta.


The content of this article draws on the following deliverable: Halpern Charlotte, McArthur Jenny, eds., Roadspace reallocation. Organizational, institutional and political dimensions, Deliverable 2.1 with annexes, MORE project, 2019.

Contact: Dr. Charlotte Halpern :