Cycling in the streets of Brussels: the side-effects of e-Participation

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingMeeting abstract (Book)


Nowadays, citizens expect to be able to quickly and directly share their questions and frustrations with the appropriate government institution via digital interfaces. Politicians all around the world seem to adjust their priorities in order to meet the citizens' demands for a higher degree of participation. One of the recent developments is the use of mobile city apps that allow citizens to communicate directly with their local authorities. In this work we focus on the FixMyStreet (FMS) app, deployed in Brussels and initially developed to tackle physical street infrastructure faults (such as potholes, broken sidewalks or faulty street lights). A recent focus on cycling as a non-polluting and affordable, hence more inclusive, transportation system, led to the introduction of categories that allow the signaling of incidents, or suggestions, related to cycling infrastructure since 2017 as well. In this work, we will argue that this ‘technological’ innovation introduces several unintended consequences. Drawing on variety of lexiconometric methods and visualization techniques, we examined the FMS open data (both text and images) related to cycling. Although there is a benefit for cycling infrastructure’s maintenance and safety, the analysis also shows clear recurrent issues : (1) the codes in FMS introduce classifications that burry conflict under a layer of standardized representations; (2) the app is used to signal offences, whereas there is only foreseen in a ‘technical’ follow-up by city/municipality services, and (3) the ‘functional reduction’ associated with this technological innovation leaves little room for the complex context of social nuisance; and (4) this new form of ‘digital vigilantism’ in turn introduces new problems, such as privacy violations (e.g. ‘naming and shaming’) in the data and can complicate the fragile relations between city/municipal representatives and citizens.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationStockholm Criminology Symposium
PublisherStockholm Criminology Symposium
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2022
EventStockholm Criminology Symposium 2022 - Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention, Stockholm, Sweden
Duration: 13 Jun 202215 Jun 2022


ConferenceStockholm Criminology Symposium 2022
Internet address


  • open data
  • mobile city applications


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