Beyond state regulation of informality: understanding access to public space by street vendors in Bogotá

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Selling goods and providing services in public spaces is one of the most accessible occupations for many urban poor. However, use of public space for such occupations is often prohibited by local regulations, excluding street vendors from legally using this space for their survival. While significant research has been devoted to state efforts to control informality, less is known about the everyday governance of street vendors. This article examines how unorganised street vendors regulate access to public space among themselves. We also analyse the contestation and negotiations between state and street vendors. The article is based on a study of street vendors in Bogotá, Colombia. We argue that informal street vendors do not operate in chaos, instead the ‘quiet encroachment’ of public space is governed by nonhierachical informal social control mechanisms. Our findings call for a reconsideration of regulations about urban informal activities and public spaces.


External organisations
  • Mistra Urban Futures
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Law and Society


  • public spaces, Urban Poor, Street vendors, Informal economy, Formalisation
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-105
Journal International Development Planning Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Publication categoryResearch