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Jerome Simpson reflects on his role in the EUROPEAN MOBILITY WEEK campaign

26 March 2019

In this interview Jerome Simpson, who has been closely involved in running EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK since 2011, discusses highlights and successes over the last eight years, the appeal EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK has for cities, and his vision for the future of sustainable urban transport in Europe.

1. You started working on the campaign in 2011. Can you tell us about your role and what working on the campaign has meant to you? 

My organization, REC, was invited to be part of the team following several successful years serving as part of the CIVITAS Secretariat. The aim was to strengthen the ties between DG MOVE’s CIVITAS Initiative for ‘Cleaner and Better Transport in Cities,’ and EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK, which was then overseen by DG Environment. More specifically, we took over responsibility for its national coordinators’ network. Checking my notes from my first year, we had about 19 active coordinators. Today, it is double that number.

Without doubt, that network and the convivial, family spirit that endures means the team has achieved great things in the last few years. And that’s not least thanks to the fact we could bring it together regularly to exchange ideas and experience. The national coordinators could see they are not alone in what they do.

2. What is it about EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK that makes it so appealing to cities in your opinion?

It’s not heavy on the academic or theoretical side. Conversely, it’s a celebration which means city coordinators with a communications background can feel at home in setting up dialogues with local residents on mobility matters, campaigning for healthier, car-free lifestyles, while mobility measures like bike infrastructure bring tangible, visible improvement which is media-friendly. At the same time, people are becoming more aware of the need to change their travel habits thanks to everything from shared bikes and scooters on the streets to mobile apps and journey planners in their pockets. On the other hand, the campaign is an opportunity to demonstrate solidarity across the European Union because the week’s dates are the same in every country.

3. What are your favourite memories from working on the campaign? 

Building up and maintaining a thriving coordinators’ network has been my main task and so that is one. Germany was a real tough nut to crack but perseverance paid off when finally, in 2014, Umweltbundesamt (the German environment agency) agreed to take on the campaign. I’ll never forget sitting in its Berlin office with a pile of CVs in front of us knowing that a coordinator’s appointment was a few weeks off. Now we see participation levels back up to where they were in 2010. I also fondly recall holidaying in Iceland that year, and at the tail end of the trip, dropping in to visit our national coordinator at the environment ministry. A personal touch makes a difference and Bergthora Gudmundsdottir has been a regular at our meetings since then. It’s also been rewarding to see the campaign supported by UNDP in four countries, and to see it take on a more visible position at the CIVITAS Initiative’s annual forum conference. We hosted two great EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK sessions in recent years – a trend I hope will long continue. And of course, I can’t help but mention three consecutive record years in terms of participation.

4. What do you see as the future of EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK? What do you see as the future of sustainable urban transport in Europe?

The campaign can look forward to a bright future because there’s still so much to be done. Just look at the kids skipping class world-wide as they campaign for more to be done to cut greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand, I’ve always felt that we’re barely scratching the surface when it comes to engaging Europe’s towns and smaller municipalities. Austria shows us how it can be done and I was excited to hear Turkey, whose coordinator was appointed last year, commit themselves to better the Austrians!

As for the future of sustainable transport, innovation continues to drive development. Last year we had an Icelandic grocery store chain register as a MOBILITYACTION its use of Israeli-designed drones to deliver orders. Vehicle automation offers the promise of cars that actually respect speed limits. The sharing economy now means city dwellers really don’t need to own a car, while the advent of mobility service providers and transportation network companies means there are an increasing variety of first- and last-mile solutions available at the touch of a button. E-Bikes are taking the sweat out of long-distance or freight-based rides. And there’s much more still to be made of telecommuting.

So while there’s plenty of work ahead, there are myriad solutions on the table. Therefore, I am happy, after REC’s positive contribution to EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK, to have the chance to continue in the sector and walk through doorways that the campaign helps to push open.

In March 2019, Jerome Simpson joined MaaS service provider nextbike, a tech-savvy market leader and restless pioneer in shared bicycle mobility, whether dock-based, free-floating or hybrid in nature. Boasting a lifestyle choice in 27 countries in 200 cities worldwide, together with the international business development team, Jerome is responsible for leveraging new European business to government projects. He can be reached via email at: