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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.

An interview with Lilienthal, winner of the EUROPEAN MOBILITY WEEK Award 2020 for smaller municipalities

25 June 2021

Dr. Mara Jekosch, and Ingo Wendelken, Initiative Mobilität, Lilienthal (Germany), discuss the city's recent EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK Award for smaller municipalities victory.

What is Lilienthal's sustainable mobility vision for the coming years? And how does participating in EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK support it?

According to Kristian Tangermann, Mayor of Lilienthal "future mobility projects will focus on infrastructure for pedestrians and cycling. We need to improve road allocation to increase road safety."

Local residents are calling for mobility issues to be resolved. The further implementation of mobility measures will reduce traffic congestion, noise and environment pollution, and in turn will increase quality of life. However, the most effective way of reducing road traffic accidents and increasing road safety is through raising awareness among all stakeholders. Driving respectfully and considering others will remain key.

Participating in EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK, which was coordinated by Initiative Mobilität – a voluntary organisation in the city – had a great impact on sustainable mobility in the city. In particular, more attention was paid to the topic, which in turn led to local politicians approving investment for a walking and cycling project.

We are now no longer just building a network and cooperating with other cities and organisations around the week of EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK, but instead are doing this throughout the entire year. It is through working with other relevant partners that we are able to reach our common goal.

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

Of course, we had to rethink our initial plans, but then decided to focus on groups of individuals who were allowed to meet under COVID restrictions. Namely, school students, sports teams, dancing groups, etc.

The activity "streets belong to everyone" was a huge success, as it could be organised while reserving social distancing rules – families were encouraged to use their front gardens to eat, chat, paint the streets, while pedestrians could interact with them. Cars were encouraged to drive slowly through the streets during the event.

Encouraging students from schools in Bremen and Osterholz – a local district nearby – to participate in the car free school day was also possible under COVID restrictions.

COVID did however impact on some of our activities. For example, the annual Car Free Day needed to be postponed. But it did not stop us from participating in the campaign, and as you can see, Lilienthal is already registered to participate again in this year’s campaign.

What has the reaction been among citizens and stakeholders to the city winning the award?
We were congratulated by many citizens and stakeholders. Children reading the local news recognised the role they played in the campaign, as did sponsors who were proud to see what their support achieved. The announcement appeared in the local newspaper and was shared widely through social media.

Some were critical of our award win, saying things such as: "why does Lilienthal deserve a mobility prize?" – most likely because of the existing infrastructural issues we need to address.

Yes, it is true to say that we still face mobility issues, but that is the reason why Initiative Mobilität campaigns for the introduction of sustainable mobility measures, and coordinates Lilienthal’s participation in EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK. Through raising awareness of the fact that everyone has a role to play in achieving sustainable change, we are able to kick-start discussions, and encourage more and more people to get involved in the topic.

Our initiative is less than 2 years old, but even with little money, so much can be achieved once you work with committed people, associations, companies, etc. Our victory shows that we are on the right track and it is just the beginning.

What does winning the EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK Award mean to the city?
Winning the EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK award is a great success for Lilienthal, which brings European recognition of our engagement in sustainably mobility. Of course, we need to make further infrastructural improvements. Change is linked to people, and it is through engaging everyone that we can build a healthier future. With this award, politicians in Lilienthal might be convinced to include a permanent annual budget to fund mobility programmes.

We will treat the award as a "Travelling award". The award will move around the city, from one organisation to another, allowing all stakeholders the chance to display the award. We won this award thanks to the actions, ideas, and motivation of everyone in Lilienthal, and this award belongs to us all.

What advice would you give to cities that are looking to take home the EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK Award?
Invest in a good camera and promote your work through posting short videos on social media.

Think broadly when approaching the topic of sustainable mobility. Some activities might not seem directly related at first, but through linking these to the topic, you are able to open up a discussion and exchange around it, which may result in surprising and fruitful conversations.

Invite everyone in the city to participate and suggest activities. Inspire them through successful examples, but give them enough room to be creative.

Work with non-profit organisations in the city to help communicate and disseminate your work.

As opposed to banning or discouraging particular mobility behaviour, focus the narrative and messaging on being inclusive. For example, by saying, "streets belong to everyone". When the focus is on restricting mobility behaviour, it can lead to fewer people wanting to engage in the topic. And this is the opposite of what we want, as based on our experience, including everyone is key to making change happen.

Participating in the campaign as a community, motivates everyone in the community to get involved. People want to be part of broader movement and want to engage in a meaningful and important cause.

Last but not least, have fun!

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

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.

10th SUMP Award now accepting applications

15 June 2021

Each year, the European Commission presents the European Award for Sustainable Urban Mobility Planning (SUMP Award) to a planning authority that demonstrates excellence in the field. The award encourages the adoption of Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMPs) by local authorities across Europe, and rewards outstanding planning achievements under each year’s thematic priority area. 

Applications for this year's edition of the award are now open, with this year marking a special year for the award, as it celebrates its 10th anniversary.

The theme of this year’s edition is “Safe and Healthy with Sustainable Mobility”. The topical focus is based on this year's EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK theme, which pays tribute to the hardships felt by Europe – and the world – throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. It also reflects on the opportunities for change resulting from this unprecedented health crisis in Europe. To learn more about the theme, read the Thematic Guidelines.

The SUMP Award is presented together with the EU Urban Road Safety, and EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK awards, and honours local authorities that have developed a SUMP that satisfies the diverse transport needs of people and businesses, whilst improving quality of life.

Applications will be accepted from European local and regional public authorities that have legal competence in developing and implementing a SUMP on their territory.

For more information about this year's edition of the award, the entrance criteria, and how to apply before the 31 October deadline, click here.