EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK News

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Enhancing public space through mobility management: an interview with MOBILITY ACTION award winner Metropolia GZM’s urban designers

27 September 2023

With its creative transformation of a local university car-park into a pedestrian-friendly green space, Metropolia GZM snatched the first-ever MOBILITYACTION award title this past spring. The installation, built at the University of Silesia in Katowice (Poland), has converted part of the campus’ car-dominated surroundings into a public space for students, academics and community members to enjoy. The project engaged professionals from the public transport, cycling, social development, sustainable mobility and urban policy sectors, to craft a prototype that would decrease traffic and increase the space’s usability for students. We sat down with Pawel Jaworski and Aleksandra Hantkiewicz-Lejman, the urban designers behind the award-winning MOBILITYACTION, to discuss their experience building the installation and what they learned.

Why did the University of Silesia and the City decide to build this installation? We heard that there was a question from students asking “where can we eat sandwiches?” Was this the idea that sparked this project?

Pawel: Well, I think that there are two important reasons; the first one relates to the European City of Science. Next year, Katowice will receive this title and so examples of cooperation between the University of Silesia and the local government that are trying to transform public spaces in the inner-city area are very important. The second argument for this reconstruction is user experience, and for us it's crucial. The university has been trying to redesign this place as a campus for years and they have prepared several projects, but nothing has happened in reality. The students told us that they have basic problems with using this space. Perhaps it sounds funny, but the lack of space for meeting and eating together is a real issue. All departments have a break at the same time, which is around 1:00 PM. During this break, all the young people go out and try to find a place for themselves. If they fail to find one, they occupy benches in front of housing blocks. This shouldn't happen, it's a campus, and the concept of a campus is to provide all functionalities of an academic district on-site. When we were conducting the first interviews last year, everyone was telling us about those sandwiches and about this break. We were laughing at the beginning, but we realized pretty quickly that we should try to solve this problem.

Aleksandra: Students come here to have their lectures, laboratories, activities and then go somewhere else to work, go home, or simply go into the city. Now remote working is much more popular all over the world, so people are more flexible regarding everyday habits. This space unfortunately did not have the identity or character of something dedicated to students and academic life, so people were not spending quality time here. Students would only take care of the necessary stuff here and would then go somewhere else, somewhere nicer. The third thing was that, and it's still visible, this space is basically a big parking lot.

Pawel: Yeah! It’s one of the biggest parking lots in the inner-city. You can park here for free - because it’s not a public road and in Poland only public roads can be part of paid parking zones. It’s a real issue that gives rise to an urban and mobility problem.

Aleksandra: The problem is that when you are a pedestrian in this public space on campus, you have to watch out because you can be hit by a car very easily. It was really an issue for us and that’s why we decided to make a change here on this small section.

What was your experience with reducing the number of parking spots? Was it difficult to convince people that this space should be used for something besides parking?

Pawel: Yeah! Katowice is quite car oriented. We have a highway in the city centre, and many students often use cars because they cannot get here using public transport. What’s unique about this university is that a lot of attending students don’t live in Katowice, but rather in the surrounding areas and cities. They arrive by train, by car, by bus and so on, but mostly by car because it is still the cheapest form of transportation.

Aleksandra: It's kind of funny because arriving here by car for roughly three days a week, as many students do, is still cheaper than the public transportation.

What have you noticed from people that were initially opposed to the transformation? How do people perceive this space?

Aleksandra: It was completed last November. Usually, people say they prefer it to [what was there] before because they have more greenery and places to sit, stay for a meeting or just wait for classes. [Some say] they would have built it with different materials with some changes. Regardless, I think that in this budget and in this time, it's a very good and genuine design. It was oriented like a minimum viable product (MVP). From the very beginning of this process, we were saying that it's only temporary and it's only for tests, so please don't expect that it will be state of the art.

Pawel: It’s all a part of the process. When considering complex changes, we cannot concentrate on the small details right now, especially since we have a limited amount of money. The university, along with its partners, is still searching for larger EU funding for the target transformation. Once they secure a bigger budget, they will be able to make significant improvements. But at this stage, it's only an MVP.

What are the next steps in this process? How long will the prototype be there? If you receive more funding, what will happen?

Pawel: It started as a temporary change, but we noticed that it works well. Therefore, it will remain in place until the target transformation, although we’re uncertain when that will happen due to unclear funding possibilities. The university staff have submitted applications for various grant contests, aiming to secure funding for the next phase of the design work. I believe it will take years to prepare it properly, given the complexity of the area.

What were the main successes of this project? Do you wish to see similar projects implemented in the future?

Aleksandra: We had two real successes: the first success is that people are using it often, which was what we were dreaming of. The next success is that people engaged in university issues said they are encouraged with our work and the MOBILITYACTION Award. They want to make these types of prototypes in more locations around this campus. If we have managed to teach them how to do it without our support, then it would be a big success.

Pawel: We work across different countries. I do my design work in Poland and conduct most of my research in Germany. It's been great to observe the experiments and temporary solutions in Berlin over the years, and I hope we can implement similar processes at the municipal level. Currently, we are trying to improve our prototyping model, recognising that there are numerous obstacles to overcome.

Perhaps the most significant success is that this small area has evolved from a mere parking lot into a semi-permanent greenfield. While the architectural shape can still be improved, the new function is undeniable and unquestionable. Just last summer, we were sketching out new traffic schemes and designing furniture. Today, after several months have passed, nobody wants to entertain the idea of reverting to the initial state, removing the installation, and returning it to a parking space. This, in my opinion, is the most rewarding outcome of our efforts.

Managing this project was a huge challenge, perhaps the greatest of our professional lives. We believe that now is the time to approach officials for a more substantial change. We've taken the first step, and we're ready for the second and third ones.

To learn more about MOBILITYACTIONS and how to register, click here.

 

EUROPEAN MOBILITY WEEK 2021: safe and healthy with sustainable mobility

16 September 2021

EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK, the European Commission’s awareness-raising campaign promoting clean and sustainable urban transport, comes to towns and cities across Europe and beyond starting today until 22 September.

Around 3000 towns and cities from approximately 50 countries will participate by hosting events on the theme “Safe and healthy with sustainable mobility” and giving people the opportunity to explore the role of mobility in their daily lives by experimenting with clean transport modes. Importantly, the campaign supports the use of public transport as a safe, efficient, affordable, and low-emission mobility solution for everyone.

EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK culminates in the popular car-free day, which sees streets closed to motorised traffic and open to people.

This year marks a special occasion for the campaign as it celebrates its 20th anniversary. In recognition of this milestone, EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK is launching a virtual museum, which will showcase the history of the campaign, the impact it has achieved, and its links to the European Commission’s broader sustainability priorities, such as the EU Green Deal. The museum will also highlight personal stories of behavioural change, illustrating how EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK has inspired residents from across Europe to adapt their mobility habits in favour of active mobility, public transport, and other clean, intelligent transport solutions.

EU Transport Commissioner Adina Vălean said: “A clean, smart and resilient transport system is at the core of our economies and central to people’s lives. This is why, on the 20th anniversary of the EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK, I am proud of the 3000 cities across Europe and beyond for showcasing how safe and sustainable transport options help our communities to stay connected during these challenging times.”

Initiatives across Europe

EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK provides an opportunity for local governments across Europe (and beyond) to invite residents to try out active mobility options and discover the benefit of sustainable forms of transport.

  • This year, The Hague (Netherlands) will collect and repair old and abandoned bicycles found in the city, and donate them to people who cannot afford to buy their own.
  • Trelleborg (Sweden) will celebrate EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK by organising an exhibition on electric and hydrogen cars, and electric bicycles.
  • In Bremen (Germany), the city will transform several car parking spaces into parklets – areas where local residents can meet to socialise, play sports, or discuss urban mobility. The city will also organise a film night ride, where a cinema screen is transported around the city by cargo bicycle, stopping in different locations to screen films highlighting this year’s theme: “Safe and healthy with sustainable mobility.”
  • Râmnicu Vâlcea (Romania) will organise climate change workshops with students aged 16-17 and organise campaigns for school children aged 6-10, to encourage them to travel to school more sustainably.
    Alicante (Spain) will set up bicycle repair stations across the city, and organise a number of activities to promote safe cycling.

To discover what your town or city is doing to celebrate EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK, click here.

European Year of Rail

This year marks another special year for sustainable mobility, as it is the European Year of Rail. Highlighting the important role rail has to play in contributing to the EU Green Deal goal of becoming climate-neutral by 2050, the Connecting Europe Express is currently making its way through Europe. The train will stop in most European capitals to promote the many benefits of rail for passengers, freight and the environment. Today, 16 September, it is traveling from Sofia to Ruse (Bulgaria). For more information, and to see if the Connecting Europe Express is stopping in a city near you, click here.

Public consultation - new urban mobility framework

To help the EU build on its 2013 Urban Mobility Package and meet its 2050 climate targets, a new urban mobility framework will propose measures to encourage EU Member States to develop urban transport systems that are safe, accessible, inclusive, affordable, smart, resilient, and emission-free. The initiative will also address transport pollution and congestion, and draw lessons from the impact of COVID-19 on public transport to support the transition to a climate-neutral economy and emission-free transport at the local level. The European Commission invites the general public and stakeholders to express their opinion on this new initiative. The Open Public Consultation closes 23 September 2021.

For more information, and to share your views, click here.

Award applications open

Once EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK comes to a close, towns and cities in Europe will have the chance to apply for one or more of the three European Commission Sustainable Urban Mobility Awards. The deadline to apply for the EU Urban Road Safety Award, the Award for Sustainable Urban Mobility Planning and the EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK Award is 31 October. Online application form and criteria on www.mobilityweek.eu

EUROPEAN MOBILITY WEEK 2020: promoting zero-emission mobility for all

16 September 2020

Watch out for car-free streets, walking tours, and interactive workshops as EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK (16-22 September) kicks off today in towns and cities across Europe.

The clean and sustainable transport campaign will see over 2,700 towns and cities from close to 50 countries host their own events, shining a spotlight on the importance of zero-emission mobility for all. This is the 19th year of EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK and its well-known car-free day, when streets close for motorised traffic and open for pedestrians, cyclists, hoverboarders, e-scooter riders and more!

EU Transport Commissioner Adina Vălean said: “This year is a big challenge for our towns and cities. But the pandemic also showed us that people appreciate and expect our cities to become safer, cleaner and accessible to all. During this week and beyond, our partner cities from all around Europe will show how greener and more digital European towns and cities could look.

In parallel, and in cooperation with EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK, the European network of road traffic police forces (ROADPOL) is organising a new campaign for road safety – the ROADPOL Safety Days (previously ‘Project EDWARD’). As part of the campaign, national police forces will record the number of road deaths on 17 September, aiming for zero deaths on that day. Public events will highlight the role that every road-user can play in avoiding fatalities, as well as the importance of traffic police in enforcing the rules and working towards the EU’s ‘Vision Zero’ – zero road deaths and serious injuries on European roads by 2050.   

Initiatives across Europe

EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK provides an opportunity for local governments across Europe (and beyond) to enable residents to test out active mobility modes and discover the benefits of sustainable forms of transport.

This year, Essen (Germany) will launch the city’s first sidewalk extension (or parklet), and will organise workshops on road safety and sustainable mobility, examining for example how local businesses can become bicycle-friendly employers. In addition, the city will launch a new e-charging station, and will install smart lamp posts.

Lahti (Finland) will celebrate the week with guided walking tours, workshops and seminars on the importance of sustainable mobility. A clean-up day will be organised, where residents are encouraged to get together clear litter from public areas around the city.

Cesena (Italy) will use the week as an opportunity to seek feedback from local residents on their new sustainable urban mobility plan. In addition, the city will invite children to submit photographs and drawings, illustrating their experience of commuting in the city.

Girona (Spain) will hand out a free breakfast to reward those who cycle to work. In addition, the city will organise guided walking tours, workshops on bicycle safety and maintenance, an exhibition on electric and hybrid vehicles, and a film screening on sustainable mobility.

Gdańsk (Poland) is arranging bicycle trips to local monuments and attractions. During car-free day, residents owning a car will be able to access public transport for free.

Participation

This year, in light of the pandemic, towns and cities have maximum flexibility when participating. Local authorities can register their events and permanent infrastructure initiatives as usual, but also their online alternatives and their short-term measures to help people move around safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Measures may include the temporary reallocation of road space to create pop-up bike lanes, or the introduction of speed restrictions.

Besides towns and cities, participation is warmly encouraged by others, including businesses, institutions, NGOs, schools and higher education institutions. All may register their MOBILITYACTION all year round.

Local authorities can apply for several awards in the context of the EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK:

  • EU Urban Road Safety Award, rewarding local authorities for innovative measures to improve road safety. The call for applications is open from 29 September to 31 October 2020.

  • EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK Awards for local authorities that make significant efforts to promote sustainable urban mobility during the campaign. The application period is from 29 September to 31 October 2020.

  • SUMP Award presented to local and regional authorities that have achieved excellence in sustainable urban mobility planning (SUMP). The deadline for applications is 31 October 2020.

EUROPEAN MOBILITY WEEK Best Practice Guide 2020 released

11 September 2020

The 2020 edition of the EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK Best Practice Guide features the outstanding achievements of the six local authorities that were selected as finalists for the 2019 EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK Awards.

Kruševac (Serbia) the winner of the EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK Award for larger municipalities impressed the jury with its strong citizen participation and political support. During the week, the city installed new cycle paths, walkways, public squares,  urban parks,  benches, a public garage, and turned several traffic light junctions into roundabouts with greenery and sculptures.

Rethymno (Greece) and Wrocław (Poland) were the runners up for the EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK Award for larger municipalities.

Karditsa (Greece) the winner of the EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK Award for smaller municipalities organised a festival-like week of mobility celebrations, involving dozens of partners, including schools, music schools, government departments, police, firemen, associations and businesses. 

If the atmosphere alone wasn’t enough, new incentives like financial benefits for companies adopting sustainable mobility measures, and days off work for employees commuting by bicycle or on foot showed people that safe walking and cycling are appealing for reasons beyond health and wellbeing.

Alfândega da Fé (Portugal) and Paide (Estonia) were the runners up for the EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK Award for smaller municipalities.

The guide also includes a number of inspiring MOBILITYACTIONs organised by NGOs, universities and private organisations, alongside good examples of activities carried out by municipalities both in and outside of Europe, and best practice by the National Coordination teams in a number of countries.

To download and read the Best Practice Guide, visit the Campaign Materials page.

Local authorities invited to apply for EUROPEAN MOBILITY WEEK Awards

25 September 2019

Local authorities from across Europe, who participated in the 2019 edition of EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK, are now invited to apply for the EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK Awards.

The Awards, which are given out in two categories: one for municipalities larger than 50,000 inhabitants, and one for smaller municipalities under this threshold, recognise local authorities judged to have done the most to raise awareness of sustainable mobility during EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK, 16-22 September 2019.

To apply, local authorities need to have signed the Charter and implemented the three criteria – held a week of activities focused on sustainable mobility, implemented one or more permanent transport measure(s), and held a ‘Car-Free-Day’.

Winners of the Awards, chosen by an independent panel of transport experts, will be announced at a high-level award ceremony, which is set to take place in Spring 2020.

For more information and to submit an award before the 25 October deadline, click here.