Tackling Car Dependency Head-on: Exnovation Strategies for Mobility Transitions

Published: 18 December 2023

Written by Jeremy Tang | LinkedIn

Most research into enabling mobility transitions focuses on nurturing and upscaling innovations that promote walking, cycling, and transit. However, just providing alternatives to cars isn’t enough. Targeted efforts must also be made to reduce unsustainable mobility practices and actively dismantle the policy regime of car dependency. 

Graaf et al. (2021) focus on such exnovation policies by identifying strategies around the world that seek to reduce unsustainable mobility practices. By integrating exnovation policies into urban mobility transition policies, cities can achieve a more comprehensive and sustainable approach to mobility.

Amsterdam recently proposed changes to block through-traffic on several major car routes in the city, including around the Vondelpark, in the City West and East, and on four bridges over the Amstel river. Coupled with strong public transit and cycling networks, Amsterdam offers cities around the world a framework for how to strategically combine innovation with exnovation.

Reallocating street space for pedestrians and cyclists is only one strategy of exnovation, though. Graaf et al. (2021) also identify policies like reducing speed limits, increasing the price of street parking, and electrifying transit fleets as additional interventions used by cities. Exnovation can also take the form of changing governance structures through the creation of new departments to manage mobility transitions, empowering active transportation interest groups, and updating master plans. 

Though exnovation might face more political backlash and thus be harder to implement than innovation, proactive policies that curb car dependency can open the door for more sustainable, people-centered cities. 


Jacob, Sarah. April 4, 2023. “Amsterdam Makes a New Push to Keep Cars Out.” Bloomberg. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-04-04/drowning-in-traffic-amsterdam-proposes-new-car-restrictions

Graaf, L., S. Werland, O. Lah, E. Martin, A. Mejia, M.R.M. Barriga, H.T.T. Nguyen, E. Teko, and S. Shrestha. 2021. “The Other Side of the (Policy) Coin: Analyzing Exnovation Policies for the Urban Mobility Transition in Eight Cities around the Globe.” Sustainability (Switzerland) 13 (16). https://doi.org/10.3390/su13169045.

Credits | Featured Image: Kevin H. Posey 

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