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The importance of clean mobility: an interview with the Czech Republic’s National Coordinator

28 June 2023

Dominica Tchaou is looking forward to her second year as the National Coordinator for EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK in the Czech Republic. She works for the Ministry of Environment and has embraced a quick learning curve to join the Europe-wide campaign to promote sustainable and active mobility. While challenges remain, Dominica is excited to encourage people to step out of their comfort zone to travel actively and sustainably, and to advocate clean mobility solutions.

2022 was actually your first year as a National Coordinator. Do you have any examples of activities that stood out to you during your first ever EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK?

We have a lot of people and stakeholders participating, including companies and NGOs. One of the programmes that I really liked was “Bike to Work,” which is a month-long team challenge in May for companies and organisations. This project aims to motivate people to commute to work using active mobility. Last year, almost 25,000 people participated! I also liked “Walk to School,” which is organised by an NGO to encourage safe school zones and get kids and parents walking to school. We can actually already see some impacts from the “Walk to School” campaign as some of the participating schools have decided to permanently establish school streets that are now always closed to motorised vehicles from 7:30 - 8:30 in the morning. In 2022, 306 schools in 168 municipalities participated, impacting over 70,000 children.

That is fantastic! As you know, one of the issues we hope to bring awareness to is the role of sustainable, active travel in mitigating pollution. In Europe, at least 1 in 5 people are exposed to noise levels that are considered harmful to their health. How can sustainable mobility help to reduce noise pollution?

As part of the EU Zero Pollution Action Plan, we have a target for 2030 to reduce the share of people chronically disturbed by traffic noise by 30%. However, we are not progressing as much as we should and this may be because the amount of individual transport is increasing. Obviously, we would like to make the opposite the case, not only to fulfil goals at the European level, but to improve quality of life at the local level.

So what are some solutions? Well, one of them is creating low-emission zones in urban areas. This can instantly reduce noise levels and helps reduce air pollution. We are now trying to revise regulations for low-emission zones in the Czech Republic. We have incorporated them into our Air Protection Act and are improving the system so that municipalities will implement them.

When we discuss the problem of noise, electric mobility is a better alternative because the car engines are quieter. But we also need to consider the tire-pavement noise which level increases alongside with the speed of a vehicle. That’s one of the reasons why low-speed zones can be really helpful, especially in the residential areas.

Alongside noise pollution, air pollution remains cause for concern. According to the European Environment Agency, air pollution is the single largest environmental health risk in Europe. How are you working to introduce clean mobility solutions into the current infrastructure?

We have one national policy framework that puts everything into a single package: the National Action Plan for Clean Mobility. The Ministry of Environment is one of the ministries that is responsible for achieving these targets. The plan is currently being updated based on new Regulation for the Deployment of Alternative Fuels Infrastructure (AFIR), so now we need to actualise the policies and measures that are necessary to ensure mandatory targets are reached. The plan will also contain objectives regarding public transport, car-sharing and non-engine vehicles, like e-cargo bikes, and support measures such as financial support, awareness-raising and education.

Furthermore, we implemented The Concept of Urban and Active Mobility, as a strategy for walking and cycling and a methodological document for towns and cities to facilitate the development and updating of their SUMPs.

It seems like clean mobility is a key area for the Ministry. Why is it so important?

We are aware of the situation with the climate and that we need to take action to adapt and decrease emissions. In the Czech Republic, we need to urgently make progress and to replicate successful mobility solutions that are being used across Europe, like what we saw in Ghent (Belgium) for the EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK Awards ceremony.

As I see it, the car has a specific position in society and some people are still really attached to it. We need to make people understand that we don’t want to take their cars away to make their lives harder, but that we can actually make their lives better with sustainable and clean mobility, especially in the long term. And, to make this statement credible, we must support people by providing a sufficient amount of alternative transport modes.

Recently, the Minister of Environment decided that our Ministry will only add clean vehicles to its fleet from now on. By embracing clean transport, the Ministry hopes to set an example and encourage the adoption of more sustainable practices.

For more information about the upcoming EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK, take a look here.