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An interview with Mönchengladbach, winner of the EUROPEAN MOBILITY WEEK Award 2020 for larger municipalities

23 June 2021

Dr. Gregor Bonin, Head of Department of Planning, Building, Mobility, and Environment at the City of Mönchengladbach (Germany), discusses the city's recent EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK Award for larger municipalities victory.

What is Mönchengladbach's sustainable mobility vision for the coming years? And how does participating in

Clearly, Mönchengladbach is not yet famous for sustainable mobility. However, we believe that a city can only provide its residents with a high quality of life when it provides a good mix of different mobility options. Therefore, sustainable mobility is vital.

At the moment, private transport is still dominating Mönchengladbach’s modal split, and an old car friendly infrastructure is still dominating the city. But we are making incremental changes to improve this:

  • We have built a great network and fostered great collaboration around sustainable mobility;
  • We are highly motivated;
  • We have developed concepts for sustainable mobility to achieve our goals, and political decisions were taken to support these aims; and
  • We are improving mobility infrastructure by implementing various measures.

Through a number of varied measures, we are seeking to improve our traffic system for everyone, including children, the elderly, and people with limited mobility:

  • We expanded our public transport network;
  • We offer smart sharing options (such as bike- and carsharing);
  • We extended our cycle paths and related infrastructure, such as cycle signposting; and
  • We have opened up more space to pedestrians, because a city should not be dominated by traffic, but instead should allow enough space for residents to walk, play, socialise, and enjoy life.

However, behavioural change does not only necessitate improving infrastructure, we also need to raise awareness and communicate our work. It is for this reason, we participate in the EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK campaign.

How did the COVID-19 pandemic impact your city's participation in

At first it seemed as though it would be impossible to organise the campaign. But we accepted the challenge, and organised a lot of decentralised events, such as Parking Week. During the week of EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK, we turned car parking spaces across the city into areas where people could read, play mini golf, or park their bicycles. Through our RAUMWUNDER (space miracle) platform, we used a cargo bicycle to travel around the city, moving from one car parking space to another each day. At each stop we would transform the parking space into a place where local residents could come to meet, relax, or socialise. Through the initiative we were able to highlight the alternative uses of these spaces.

At the end of each day, we published a short video highlighting the activities organised that day, and shared it through Facebook. We also had live broadcasts from two of our sites. In total, all of the videos produced have been viewed 8700 times collectively.

In order to carry out Car Free Day, we introduced additional health and safety measures. Wearing face masks and social distancing had already been normal practices of everyday life, and these were also followed on the day. Additionally, we implemented a one-way system. Despite the pandemic, all our events were well attended and the health and safety measures were followed.

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

Of course, we know that there is still much more work to do on our path toward more sustainable mobility in our city. However, we are proud that our engagement and commitment has been recognised, and we are proud to win this award. It illustrates that we, and all our supporters, have done a great job so far and that we have already improved a lot.

Winning the award is also a boost to our self-confidence and that of our great network. We are excited to take the next steps to make mobility in Mönchengladbach more sustainable and accessible for all, and we are looking forward to participating again in this year’s campaign.

Winning the award also illustrates our commitment to sustainable mobility, and helps win over some of those who are sceptical of this work.

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

Hang in there! – In 2016, we participated in EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK, organising only a small campaign, with just three or four actions, led by a network of three people. At the time, we were asked if participating in the campaign was not just a waste of time, but we stuck with it and are steadfast in our belief that the campaign is an awesome event with great, creative actions.

Since 2016, the network, and with that, publicity has grown. We have recruited a lot of partners, sponsors, and support from local residents.

Each year, we also try a new action or activity, like organising our first Car Free Day, implementing the Parking Day, and later developing it into the Parking Week. Examples of some of the activities we organised over the years include: airing radio announcements, organising social media events, live streaming our activities to reach more people, and working with different target groups. As a team we have always stayed positive and have motivated one another to keep on campaigning for sustainable mobility.

To learn more about Mönchengladbach's sustainable mobility work, take a look at their winning video.