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An interview with Bilbao, winner of the first EU Urban Road Safety Award

25 June 2021

Alfonso Gil, Deputy Mayor and Councillor for Mobility and Sustainability, City of Bilbao, discusses what winning the EU Urban Road Safety Award means to the city.

What does winning the EU Urban Road Safety Award mean to the city of Bilbao?
Winning the award means a lot to us. It represents the collective effort of all of the residents of Bilbao who saw that change was needed. These were people who recognise that a cleaner city is one that is better to inhabit, so made efforts to improve pollution and noise locally. Now they see that their efforts have been rewarded by the European Commission. We are not alone in Bilbao in recognising that change is needed. Indeed, both Europe and the towns and cities that comprise it also have an appetite for change.

What has the reaction been among citizens and stakeholders to winning the award?
Everyone in Bilbao is very proud of this accolade. It is true to say that the citizens of Bilbao feel the prize as theirs, because individually and collectively they have made an effort to change. It is very important that the local community understand that these awards contribute greatly to their quality of life and above all to the improvement of their health. When commuters are not exposed to car fumes and noise, they live longer. A citizen who walks lives longer, a citizen who cycles lives longer. Therefore, let’s use sustainable and healthy modes of mobility to help reduce the strain on health services.

The city of Bilbao is a frontrunner when it comes to lowering speed limits in urban areas to 30km/h. What benefits have you seen from this policy? And what advice would you give to cities that are interested in doing the same?
Several studies illustrate that noise pollution caused by traffic has a negative impact on the health and well-being of city dwellers, leading to increases in the likelihood of developing heart disease, and illnesses such as Alzheimer’s. The negative health implications associated with air pollution caused by road traffic have also been well documented. Therefore, reducing speed limits in urban areas not only leads to fewer road traffic victims, but also results in a host of different health benefits.

If I were to offer advice to cities interested in reducing speed limits in their urban areas, I would say – be brave! Your reward will be local residents that live longer and healthier lives.

What advice would you give to cities that are looking to follow in your footsteps and win the EU Urban Road Safety Award?
If cities work hard to improve urban road safety then they will be able to compete for awards such as this. A city with zero road traffic victims is a city with less noise, and fumes, and one where its inhabitants live longer, and healthier lives.

If you are interested in applying for this year's edition of the EU Urban Road Safety Award, click here.