What is the urban without physical mobilities? COVID-19-induced immobility in the mobile risk society

Malene Freudendal-Pedersen*, Sven Kesselring

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


Since the World Health Organization’s (WHO) declared the Coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic, the virus has invaded lives around the globe. The ongoing health, social and economic crisis that followed forced urban life, business, culture, community etc. into idle mode for weeks resulting from mandated immobility. What was once taken for granted as the essence of urban experience such as cultural activities, meeting friends, relatives and colleagues in public space or in professional encounters, disappeared overnight. Free movement became significantly restricted all over the world. It seemed that immobility, social and physical distancing, and isolation were the only antidote to the fast-moving virus. For many people, working from home while also schooling their children and providing social care at a distance, peak activity at maximum physical immobility became the “new normal.” A culture emerged where rules and norms of mobilities previously taken for granted were re-negotiated and re-defined. Before the crisis and despite the negative ecological side effects, mobility has been positively connotated as a signifier for progress and success. Under the Corona regime mobility turned into a life-threatening risk. The theory of reflexive modernization, risk society and the mobilities paradigm are used to discuss these contemporary shifts and transformations.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)81-95
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • automobility
  • COVID-19
  • crisis
  • mobile risk society
  • Networked urban mobilities
  • planning
  • reflexivity


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