Bek, P., MA

Transport Poverty, Governance, and Cycling

Department of Industrial Engineering & Innovation Sciences,  Eindhoven University of Technology,

Supervisor: Prof. Ruth Oldenziel


I hold a BA degree in History of International Relations from Erasmus University Rotterdam and a MA degree in History of European Expansion and Globalisation from Leiden University. In my master program, I conducted archival research in the Indonesian National Archives in Jakarta and wrote my thesis on the development of mental health care in the Dutch East Indies, studying psychiatric discourse, governance practices and related issues of social justice in this colonial context.

This PhD project is part of the research program Bicycle Challenges: Past, Present, and Future of Sustainable Urban Mobility, that investigates cycling governance as part of sustainable urban mobility from a long-term perspective. My project examines transport-related social exclusion and the impact of transport poverty on people’s daily lives in a comparative European context during World War II and post war reconstruction.

From the 1940s onwards motorized modes of transport were favoured over non-motorized modes by European urban planners and policymakers. Despite this growing tendency, cyclists still largely dominated European streetscapes until the 1960s, because other transport alternatives were unaffordable for working class people or simply absent. With regard to the Netherlands, scholars claim that the bicycle has been crucial in avoiding transport poverty. How this came about historically and to what extend this was also the case in other European countries, has not yet been examined.

I understand transport poverty as a lack of access to transport modes and a subsequent lack of access to employment, social networks and education opportunities. Groups who are at risk of transport poverty include low-income urbanites and ethnic minorities. In history scholarship on European cycling governance these groups, if mentioned at all, appear in the side lines. In contrast I focus on these groups in my research project, questioning the omission of these groups and assess to what extend they did actually shape urban mobility. I will inquire the practices and materialities of their mobility through researching the following questions: Why did these people travel? What needs and desires determined their modal choices and travel patterns? How did they experience their access to urban mobility infrastructures? And to what extend were their needs acknowledged by urban planners and policymakers?
• Bek, P., “Fighting an (In)Visible Enemy”: Cholera Control in Jakarta, in: L. van Bergen, J.P. Verhave and L. Hesselink (eds.), The Medical Journal of the Dutch East Indies: A Platform for Medical Care (forthcoming, 2017).
• Bek, P., ”Hocus-pocus” in the Netherlands Indies: European Psychoanalysis and the Appropriation of Javanese Healing Traditions, in: Acta Historica, vol. 3, no. 2 (2014) 16-22.