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This paper explores the mobility and accessibility effects of business-to-consumer (b2c) e-commerce by means of a literature review. The main questions are how b2c e-commerce affects (a) individual activity patterns and travel behaviour, (b) the freight transport and logistic decisions of firms, and (c) the location decisions of households and firms. The review shows that the direct (short-term) mobility effects of b2c e-commerce are relatively clear, and that an overall increase in both individual travel and freight transport can be expected. The indirect (long-term) changes for physical accessibility and mobility, however, are less clear and harder to deal with, due to the complex relationships, time lags, data problems and methodological (attribution) problems. Still, it appears that processes of decentralisation and sub-urbanisation of distribution systems for b2c e-commerce may gradually extend and shift, respectively, towards more remote and less densely populated areas in the Netherlands. This would reinforce the ongoing process of retail store closures in these areas, i.e., the spatial redistribution in retailing facilities, thus limiting physical accessibility. As a result, average trip lengths and car use for shopping trips may on the whole increase. With freight transport also increasing due to b2c e-commerce, its overall long-term effect may be an increase in motorised mobility, with urban consumers saving trips for shopping purposes and consumers elsewhere adding to their travel burden. Only certain products are feasible for e-commerce, however. Hence, the impact of b2c e-commerce on mobility and accessibility varies between product categories.

Keywords: accessibility; b2c e-commerce; freight transport; logistics; travel behaviour

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Urban and Regional Research Centre Utrecht, Heidelberglaan 2, Utrecht, The Netherlands., Email: 2: Centre for Environmental Research Leipzig-Halle, P.O.Box 500136, D-04301 Leipzig, Germany., Email:

Publication date: 2004-04-01

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