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Workshop finds young people need to be meaningfully engaged in sustainable urban mobility initiatives

6 August 2021

On July 29, young people (aged 16 to 24) and policy-makers met online to discuss the importance and need to collaborate in mobility policy-making processes.

The online workshop, which was organised as part of EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK, and moderated by ICLEI Europe, kicked off with a presentation by Rut Einarsdóttir of the Icelandic National Youth Council. She highlighted that while many cities may invite young people to share their opinions, this does not necessarily mean policy-makers actually listen. Cities must move away from involving younger representatives of the community as tokens and photo accessories, and adopt instead a meaningful youth engagement policy where young people’s voices are both heard and listened to. Young people are a big and growing proportion of our societies, and studies have shown that involving them in the decision-making process benefits, in fact, everyone.

Recognising the need for cities and policies to reflect the needs of all residents, Sara Borei spoke about Young Friends of the Earth Europe’s mission to collect the mobility visions of young people across Europe by way of the SystemReset project. These visions form the basis of a proposal for the European Green Deal. The project involved over 3,000 young representatives, at least 500 of whom were underrepresented. The collected visions called for fewer cars, especially in city centres, more space for cycling and pedestrians, and the prioritisation of more sustainable modes of transport over more polluting ones - alongside further mobility education.

Young people have less disposable income, have lower access to a car, and are more reliant on public transport – yet our transport system is set up around the car. Dr. Sarah Collings of University of the West of England reaffirmed the link between transport and young people’s ability to thrive, specifically pointing out the toll that inadequate transport can play when it comes to physical and mental health, personal, and professional development. Including the voices of youth and young people in urban mobility planning decisions will help address widening health inequalities, while allowing young people to thrive. Moreover, some of the same solutions that improve inclusion are in line with wider environmental policy priorities.

The workshop discussions were enriched by the contributions of a diverse array of participants. A representative of a regional authority in Ireland brought to light the steps the organisation was taking to ensure that young people were considered in planning, including an event in which only they were invited as speakers. When posed with the question as to how to engage young people, audience members were quick to respond with suggestions: adjust traditional engagement methods to include online and gamification approaches, ensure accessibility by including multiple language options, and show them results that prove to them that their voices matter. These are important aspects for local authorities to keep in mind when organising sustainable urban mobility campaigns, including EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK.

For more information, to read the recommendations and to view the workshop recording, click here.