(Un)healthy Bodies and the Transport Planning Profession: The (Im)mobile Social Construction of Reality and Its Consequences

  • António FerreiraEmail author


Transport planning became a techno-bureaucratic profession and this has important ramifications. The most important one for the argument developed here is that techno-bureaucratic transport planning is performed by physically inactive professionals. It presupposes that exclusively using technologies and processes that are disconnected from the subjective and bodily experience of the built environment in general and of mobility in particular is acceptable. It dismisses all forms of subjective and embodied knowledge and professional practices. As a result, it leads to transport projects and policies that promote physical inactivity and geographical mobility at the same time in a spiralling way—that is, immobile-mobility is expanding out of control. Techno-bureaucratic transport planning is, therefore, creating a world where people travel extensively but suffer from a serious lack of physical mobility and a resulting global health crisis.

This chapter proposes that a new way of performing transport planning is therefore needed. This new way would ask from transport planners a much more embodied and inner engagement with their work. If embodied engagement is critical to understand a given reality or problem and to find ways to solve complex issues, it becomes then clear that transport planners need to become physically active individuals as much as they can, if they are to effectively promote active modes of transport and healthy built environments. A number of theoretical and conceptual ideas are provided to strike the right balance between objective/technical and subjective/embodied approaches in transport planning theory and practice.



I would like to show my gratitude to Haneen Khreis and Mark Nieuwenhuijsen for their dedicated help and constructive comments during the writing of this text. The picture of the Brain in the Jar was produced by Catarina França, and it was used with her permission (


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CITTA–Research Centre for Territory, Transports and Environment, University of PortoPortoPortugal

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