Walking through urban change (or not so much?): Pedestrian experiences of a non-metropolitan city in transformation

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Cities change. Several non-metropolitan cities in Chile are going through processes of economic change that also transform their urban spaces. They start to feel less as towns and more as cities. Researchers have mainly addressed these transformations from a large-scale perspective. However, changes such as urban expansion, demographic growth, new infrastructure, or increasing socio-economic segregation also affect everyday routines and practices of urban dwellers and their perceptions of their environment. The way people move is one of the major changes we can observe in these cities. Daily car use has rapidly grown and it seems people are walking less and less. This situation invites us to examine the quotidian dimension of urban change from a mobility perspective. Specifically, I explore how walking experiences may be affected and respond to the greater transformations of urban spaces in the non-metropolitan city of Osorno, located in the south of Chile. Drawing on an eighteen-months ethnographic fieldwork, I explore past and present walking experiences in the city and urban dwellers’ narratives about the growth and change Osorno has experienced in the last two decades. By walking with people and listening to their experiences, I examine how urban transformation is sensed by those who walk – or have stopped walking – and how these experiences affect their relationship to the city. Other findings I am exploring relate to the role of a sense of continuity to make the city more walkable and, also, to the singular ways in which people remember urban places while walking.