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POLIS Annual Conference spotlights the importance of active mobility & shared urban space

11 December 2023

At the annual POLIS Conference hundreds of stakeholders gathered to discuss mobility solutions and initiatives with “active mobility for all” and the “reallocation of urban space” emerging as two key topics.

At the conference, which took place from 29 – 30 November in Leuven (Belgium), the need for a holistic approach to sustainable urban mobility was underlined. A presentation from Mobiel 21 highlighted active mobility’s key role in making mobility more inclusive: in the Flemish region of Belgium (Flanders), a network of “fiets scholen” or “bicycle schools” was created to offer people the opportunity to learn how to ride, repair, buy or rent a bike. Flanders is largely flat and quite densely populated, so cycling is often an inexpensive and effective solution to get from A to B. Not only is the bicycle an affordable solution for many, but by teaching people how to cycle safely the “fiets scholen” are able to include groups that might normally not feel comfortable cycling. In fact, of the over 1,000 people that the bike schools have taught to cycle, 90% of the participants were women and of these participants two-thirds belonged to lower income groups.

Cycling is a powerful tool to improve social inclusivity, especially among groups that have historically been sidelined in urban planning. The new EU Cycling Declaration highlights this point and lays out clear principles to make cycling infrastructure more inclusive and safer for everyone, including women, children and people with reduced mobility. The MOBILITYACTION Bicycle Heroes - Youth Voices for Active Mobility is another great example of active mobility offering a new perspective to urban mobility solutions. The initiative works with kids between the ages of 10 – 14 in Rome (Italy) to solve urban mobility challenges related to cycling. The action identifies barriers for cycling and smart design solutions to overcome these obstacles, which are then shared with the public.

Meanwhile, the reallocation of urban space surfaced as another important topic at the POLIS conference. Whether space is transferred from motor vehicles to cyclists through the creation of new bike paths or by increasing the pavement area, or the number of parking spaces are reduced to leave way for more greenery – every change has a direct impact on the mobility mix in towns and cities. A presentation from the German region of Baden-Württemberg proposed a new framework for inner cities with twenty towns and cities chosen as pilots. The participating cities were provided with a dedicated budget and expertise to support them in co-creating measures to restructure their centres. The reallocation of space in the centres was done using temporary street furniture and featured people-focused planning. Several of these plans are set to be permanently implemented in the near future.

Many cities and towns are taking the leap to reallocate urban space in favour of pedestrian use, road safety and ample greenery, including the prototype rearrangement of traffic at Miarki Street in Bytom (Poland), a recently registered MOBILITYACTION. The Polish city enhanced the space for pedestrians and cyclists while reducing the average speed of motor vehicles.

As 2023 comes to a close, the POLIS Conference spotlighted some of the most important mobility topics for 2024, including active mobility and shared urban space, among others. For more information on the conference click here.

For more information on MOBILITYACTIONS click here.