Inequitable mobilities: intersections of diversity with urban infrastructure influence mobility, health and wellbeing

Set of images showing: 1. A Māori woman pointing to a closed-off road; 2. a damaged bridge from traffic accidents; 3. a busy highway; 4. a motorway with a mountain in the background

“The institutionalised privileging of Western paradigms in decision-making and the enduring nature of infrastructure converge to perpetuate an ‘infrastructural violence’ (Rodgers and O’Neill 2012) upon Aotearoa’s Māori peoples, inflicting harms that include inequitable mobility, greater exposure to risky or mobility-constrained environments, and barriers to cultural engagement and wellbeing that persist across generations.”

– Spray et al 2020, pp 12

Transport infrastructure critically influences how people live their lives, structuring mobility and mediating access to the resources central to health and wellbeing. While the links between infrastructure, mobility and wellbeing are well established, much less is known about how these relationships are contingent on socio-economic, cultural, and bodily diversity, and the characteristics of local ecologies. Here, we firstly ask, how does transport infrastructure shape mobility opportunities for people living in diverse circumstances? Secondly, what are the impacts of inequitable access to mobility for wellbeing? Drawing from research across four sites in Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland), Aotearoa New Zealand, we consider the experiences of older- and disabled- or bodily-diverse people from varied ethnic groups living across a range of socio-economic circumstances. We use community-based participatory research methods, including ‘go-along’ interviews, focus groups and interactive workshops, to engage communities least heard at policy or strategic levels. Their experiences illustrate firstly, that urban infrastructure tends to further marginalise the already marginalised, and secondly, that people draw on different and unequal resources to negotiate infrastructural marginalisation, resulting in unequally patterned vulnerabilities and a system that entrenches the status quo. Our findings indicate the need to consider intersectionality in transport consultation and design.

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