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An interview with Carla Jorge, National Coordinator for Portugal

15 December 2018

To view this interview in Portuguese, click here.

What is your role in the

The Portuguese Environment Agency carries out the national coordination of EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK in Portugal and has assumed the technical and executive responsibility of the campaign since its debut as “In Town Without My Car” in 2000, a one day initiative that took place on 22nd of September.

I’m a senior officer and have been working on this campaign since 2003, coordinating and providing  technical, administrative and operational support to the municipalities according to the guidelines of the European Coordination and the directives of my Ministry.

Portugal managed to increase the number of participants in EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK by 33 municipalities this year! How did you achieve this?

We achieved a 53% increase in participation compared to 2017 (95 participants in 2018, 62 participants in 2017). The largest participation level prior to 2018 was seen in 2014, when 73 municipalities took part.

I believe personalised contact was very effective. This year we tried to be as close as possible to the municipalities, even those who only participated once in the past 18 years, and those that had not participated before (this accounts for 43% of the 308 municipalities in Portugal). The biggest problem is when the municipalities have never participated and, therefore, we do not have a focal point to send the email to. In other cases the municipality may have taken part a long time ago and the contacts we have are out of date.

So I would say that updating our contacts database, having regular phone calls with municipalities, and sending individual and group e-mails on a more frequent basis well in advance of the week may have been some of the reasons for this greater level of success in 2018.

And last but not the least, we must not forget the most important event directed at local authorities: the five regional workshops we held in June (with EC collaboration). We engaged a total of 117 participants from a range of municipalities during these events. I think it was crucial for the kickoff of the 2018 edition.

Why do you think towns and cities take part in EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK?

Being part of this European initiative can bring opportunities such as: the promotion of existing policies, initiatives and best practices related to sustainable urban mobility; raising citizens' awareness of the negative impact that the current trend of urban mobility has on the environment and on quality of life; the establishing of effective partnerships with local socio-economic actors; the launching of new long-term policies; the implementation of important permanent measures that remain well beyond 16-22 September; and the possibility to test measures, listen to citizens and raise awareness about climate change, air quality and road safety.

I believe that the initiatives of each municipality supporting more sustainable mobility, if they are part of a European project, end up having a much greater visibility as they are more widely disseminated. This makes them more effective and increases awareness. It also gives the local authorities the opportunity to be inspired and to learn from each other and replicate ideas or adapt them to their towns and cities.

What challenges do you face in Portugal in terms of getting cities to take part in EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK?

I think the biggest challenge is to disseminate the campaign in an enlightening, effective and direct way to all the potential Local Coordinators. Regular and personalised contact throughout the year is extremely important. Tailoring the message to local realities and needs is also crucial.

On the other hand, changing mentalities is always a time-consuming process and raising citizens' awareness of the effects their choice of mode of transport has on the quality of the environment and committing them to change is more difficult if there isn’t effective transport policies that facilitate and enable more sustainable choices of travelling.

Encouraging a change of behaviour to be compatible with more sustainable patterns, in particular the protection of air quality, mitigation of global warming and noise reduction, is currently a concern of the vast majority of cities. It is crucial to change the mobility standards that have been in place in recent decades and to turn them towards a more sustainable mobility.

What are your hopes for the campaign in 2019 in Portugal?

To maintain the number of participations registered this year or, if possible, to involve even more municipalities (and therefore more citizens!) is undoubtedly very desirable. Increasing the average number of permanent measures implemented by each municipality is also a goal. To try to accomplish that, I would like to repeat the regional workshops, which will be much broader since the mailing list has been updated and the database is much more complete. This also allows for dissemination through the comunication channels of other partners. And it is never too much to say that the active participation of the European Secretariat (by ensuring their presence at these sessions) would also undoubtedly be a strong point.

In any case, it is always important to emphasise that, in the end, the decision to participate is the responsibility of the municipalities, so the motivation to contribute and support from our side cannot be overstated.