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An interview with Pontevedra, winner of the first EU Urban Road Safety Award

29 June 2020

Miguel Anxo Fernández Lores, Mayor of the City of Pontevedra (Spain), discusses what winning the first EU Urban Road Safety Award means to the city.

What does winning the 1st EU Urban Road Safety Award mean to the city of Pontevedra?
Winning this award has allowed us to position Pontevedra as a friendly, safe, environmentally friendly city with a high quality of life. The award was of great importance to us because of the prestige associated with being recognised by the European Commission. 

We feared that the significance and relevance of the award might be lost in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated containment measures, but the opposite happened. The pandemic has led to a need for large public spaces, which are safe and comfortable enough to keep interpersonal distance. This in turn has led to many cities searching for role models to take inspiration from, and more people talking about sustainable mobility.

What has the reaction been among citizens and stakeholders to winning the award? 
The reaction has been very positive! Our intention was to organise an event for the public and our social partners, but COVID-19 confinement measures prevented us from doing so, just as they prevented the awards ceremony from taking place in Brussels (Belgium).

We were worried that confinement measures, together with the concern over the pandemic, would dilute both the impact of the prize and public reaction to it. However, this wasn’t the case, and the announcement gathered lots of attention in both local, regional and national media outlets, and on social media. 

Pontevedra’s social media networks were filled with a huge number of comments,  with citizens, institutional representatives, and civil society organisations all sharing their congratulations. We also received congratulations and thanks from all the municipal political groups. 

The City of Pontevedra has used a broad array of measures to increase road safety in the city. What has been the most effective measure used? 
All the measures work together and help to achieve the objective of reducing traffic accidents. Road education, vertical and horizontal signage, centralised traffic regulation, disciplinary measures, school roads, rules and regulations, reducing the speed limit to 30 km/h - all of these measures are useful and necessary.

What advice would you give to cities that are looking to follow in your footsteps and win the EU Urban Road Safety Award? 
Cities interested in following in our footsteps should think about making their city safe, about saving lives, about making it easier for children to move around the city autonomously, and about making life easier for the elderly and people with functional diversities. 

They should focus on making their city friendlier, more inclusive, and more cohesive, and should use improved and highly secure public spaces to achieve this. They should strive to reduce the unfair priority given to motorised transport over citizens’ use of the city and public spaces. Cities should consider the drastic reduction of air and noise pollution to be a just cause. 

In short, they should try to put the city and the citizens before the use and abuse of mobility, reversing the priority to reach "first the city, then motorised mobility". It takes courage and much energy to do this, but doing so will greatly improve the quality of life of the city and its inhabitants.  

An interview with Kruševac, winner of the EUROPEAN MOBILITY WEEK Award 2019 for larger municipalities

26 June 2020

Jelena Nikolić, Advisor for sustainable urban mobility and energy efficiency with the City of Kruševac (Serbia), discusses the city's recent EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK Award for larger municipalities victory.

What activities did Kruševac undertake to help it win the EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK Award? Were there any activities that you are particularly proud of?

The city has been participating in EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK, as a golden participant, for several years now. Similar to previous years, last year we worked on improving the attractiveness of public spaces in the city, improving the infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists in several locations, expanding the park, installing new pedestrian paths and urban furniture, building a public garage, removing street parking, creating cycle lanes, and turning several traffic light junctions into roundabouts with greenery and sculptures. 

Since 2015, we have started to temporarily close the main street in the city center to motor traffic and open it to people, as a “play street“. In the first year, it was closed every evening during the week of EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK, and based on the positive reactions of citizens, we applied this measure again, extending the duration every year since. Last year, the street was closed from mid-April to mid-October. Children love it when the street is closed to traffic. This temporary measure impacted the way citizens think about how we use public space and how the city center would look without cars. 

In 2021, we will celebrate the 650th anniversary of the city - to mark the occasion the city center is getting a new look. In preparation for this, we conducted a survey among citizens on how they imagine the future design of the city center to look. After that, we announced a public competition for the development of an architectural-traffic solution. In addition to this, we had activities to promote sustainable mobility, such as city cycling and walking tours. And in order to draw attention to the impact of traffic on the environment, we organised noise level measurements. We are very proud of the fact that year-on-year our team of associates has increased, as well as the number and variety of our activities.

What has the reaction been among citizens and stakeholders to the city winning the award?

We are extremely honored that our activities have been recognised and that we have received the EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK  Award 2019 for larger municipalities. The news has attracted great media attention, but also the interest of cities and institutions, not only in Serbia, but also from the wider Balkan region. 

We were congratulated by various stakeholders, including the Ministry of Transport, Construction and Infrastructure. The award did not come out of nowhere - we have been organising this event for many years, and Kruševac was shortlisted for the Award in 2016. Once the pandemic is over and the circumstances allows, we plan to organise an event to celebrate winning the award with everyone who contributed to its success.

What does winning the EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK Award mean to the city?

For several years now, the city has been working to improve walking and cycling infrastructure, accessibility for people with disabilities, and the attractiveness and safety of public spaces - through the improvement and expansion of parks and squares. Squares have always been meeting places and that is why we should continue with these investments, which affect the liveliness of the city, and increase the quality of life. 

Irrespective of the size of the measures, it is important to work on them constantly. This award provides good encouragement to continue our work, because our efforts have been recognised. Kruševac is a pioneer in Serbia on this topic, because it is the first city to adopt a Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP). And not only do we have the plan, we are also acting on it - implementing measures to improve the quality of life in the city. Winning this award provides us with a good indication that we are on the right track, and we hope our success inspires other cities to follow our example.

What are the benefits of taking part in EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK for your city?

EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK is like a one-week festival in our city, which, in addition to promoting permanent sustainable mobility measures, consists of various daily activities for all ages. It provides a good opportunity to highlight the use of public space for sustainable modes of transport and to reconsider everyday mobility habits. It also provides local residents with an opportunity to comment on our work in an informal way. We often forget that we are all pedestrians, and the fact that walking is beneficial to both our health and the environment - EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK provides a good opportunity to remind us of those facts.

What advice would you give to cities that are looking to take home the

It is necessary to have a team of varied stakeholders, in order to design interesting activities for different age groups. Special attention should be paid to vulnerable groups, and those who may have difficulty in moving around the city. Through involving them in the event, you give them visibility and can reassure them that their needs will be met. 

We designed activities and included Associations of Persons with Disabilities, Associations of people with Diabetes (active mobility is very important for them), senior citizens, and children. Last year, for the first time, we used the EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK campaign mascot, which was invaluable and attracted the attention of citizens of all ages. And of course, last but not least, you need to have the support of sponsors, to make the activities more attractive, and to ensure good media coverage and promotion of activities, so that those who may have missed the event will take part next time.

An interview with Karditsa, winner of the EUROPEAN MOBILITY WEEK Award 2019 for smaller municipalities

26 June 2020

Natalia Tzellou, Head of the Department of Development Planning of Directorate of Development Planning, Information & Transparency, Municipality of Karditsa (Greece), discusses the city's recent EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK Award for smaller municipalities victory

What activities did Karditsa undertake to help it win the EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK Award? Were there any activities that you are particularly proud of?
During EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK 2019, we organised numerous activities for citizens of all the ages, with special attention paid to people with disabilities. Every morning during the week of EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK, we carried out educational activities at schools across the city, and in the afternoons, we organised many recreational activities at different venues across the city.

In addition, we partnered with dozens of organisations including schools, music academies, government departments, police, fire brigade, civil society organisations and businesses, all of which were invited to participate in a festive week of mobility celebrations. Other initiatives included financial benefits for companies introducing sustainable mobility measures and days off work for employees who commuted by bicycle or on foot – to show that safe walking and cycling are appealing for reasons beyond health and well-being.

What has the reaction been among citizens and stakeholders to Karditsa winning the award?
The citizens of Karditsa were very happy to hear the good news and felt great satisfaction that out of the 3,135 other European Municipalities who participated in EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK 2019, a small municipality like Karditsa, could take home the first place position! We all are very proud to have won the award and our work is not going to stop here! Over the coming years, we are going to work much harder to promote sustainable mobility.

What does winning the EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK Award for smaller municipalities mean to the city?
Winning the award is a great distinction for our city! The award is very prestigious and has a strong reputation across Europe. Securing the first place prize makes our city and Municipality stand out in Europe, and highlights its advantages in Europe. This award recognises and rewards all the projects and measures we have undertaken to promote sustainable mobility in our city. But at the same time, it encourages us to work harder to promote sustainable mobility further in the city and to implement new permanent measures, in order to make our city accessible to all, to reduce the number of cars, and to provide more sustainable means of transport.

Over the next three years, we have planned to construct new infrastructure, such as bicycle paths, and pedestrian crossings for disabled people at roads and at schools. In addition, we have plans to redesign many squares and central roads in the city. By next spring, we are going to upgrade the existing bike sharing scheme and supply 23 electric bicycles, 2 electric bicycles for disabled people, and 9 electric cargo bikes. Four of these will be placed at the bus and rail station to ensure travelers’ mixed transportation needs are met. The rest will be used in a pilot programme for free haulage in the city center.

By August, we are going to permanently reduce the speed limit in the city from 50 km/h to 30 km/h. The Mayor of Karditsa, Vasileios Tsiakos, is very supportive of new ideas and suggestions. This is one of the reasons why Karditsa won the award, and it encourages us to make our Municipality a role model and to raise its ambitions and reputation even higher in the future.

What are the benefits of taking part in EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK for smaller cities?
Through participating in EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK, we have learned and found new ways to make our lives better and every year have implemented new permanent measures that help to promote sustainable mobility and improve the quality of the environment. EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK acts as a strong motivation to do all of this.

What advice would you give to smaller cities that are looking to follow in your footsteps and take home the EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK Award?
To cities that are looking to follow in our footsteps, we would encourage them to try hard during the whole year and not just during the week of EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK itself. Equally, we would encourage them to take steps to improve the quality of life of their citizens’ and also of visitors to the city. The city needs to have a dream and goals, as we did, and needs to try to make them a reality. They need to work as a strong team - sometimes even working day and night, in order to succeed.