EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK News

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Prioritising collective mobility: an interview with Poland’s National Coordinator

31 May 2023

Maria Perkuszewska has coordinated EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK in Poland for the past seven years as part of the Ministry of Infrastructure. During her time as a National Coordinator, she has helped the campaign grow - last year 242 Polish cities participated - and continued to promote safe, sustainable and active mobility solutions throughout the height of the pandemic. In light of the 2023 campaign’s recent launch, we spoke to Maria about improving public transport services and the inherent connection between accessibility and sustainability.

Sustainable mobility has the power to improve transport in towns, cities and beyond, including for children. What do you think it means to move sustainably?

Maria: When we speak about sustainable transport or sustainable mobility, we have to think about what it means for something to be sustainable. We often understand ‘sustainable’ to mean using resources in the most efficient way. When mobility is sustainable, it means it uses energy in a clean way and that it is not harming the environment or climate excessively. Sustainability should also be inclusive and sustainable development must be accessible to all.

We see all transport modes as part of sustainable mobility, but each mode has its own features that should be used in a sustainable way. When we are talking about urban transport, the most sustainable way of moving around the city is, of course, public transport or active mobility. Good public transport is one that is frequent, efficient, reliable, safe and convenient for passengers. Then passengers are happy to use it. Public transport is sometimes the only way to get around or be active in society for those who do not have their own car. That's why one of the goals of the Ministry of Infrastructure is to combat traffic exclusion and thus improve public transport offerings.

It's very important to educate children about sustainable ways to move. Then, when you have a small errand to run, the first choice will be to go on foot, to bike, or to run some errands using public transport. You don't have to always use a car.

Do you have some examples of what different cities or towns are doing in Poland to make it easier for people to use public transport or easier for kids to, for example, walk or bike to school?

Maria: I would first mention one thing: in Poland, we have a strategic document for transport, which is called the Strategy for Sustainable Transport Development 2030. In this document, we have defined some priority areas, one of which is changes in individual and collective mobility. We have defined some actions that have to be undertaken in order to make transport in Poland more sustainable.

When it comes to what you are asking, a lot of cities in Poland introduced the campaign “Rowerowy Maj”. During the month of May, a month when in Poland there is usually nice weather and kids can bike to school or use scooters, there is a competition between kids, between schools or between different groups to travel sustainably to school. It became very popular in many cities. Some of the cities even organise this campaign for adults, namely for people that commute to work. Some cities, such as Gdynia and Katowice, offer prizes in this competition.

What do you see as the biggest challenges to encouraging people to use sustainable mobility or make active mobility choices?

Maria: I would say that people are creatures of habit. We think the biggest challenge is changing behaviour; to convince people that, from time to time, they can use different modes of transport, they can try something new. The statistics are there: a lot of car trips are very short and actually could be replaced with other mobility modes, either on foot, public transport or by bike. I think that the biggest challenge is to convince people that there are options other than a private car, but the second challenge is to provide them with these options because we cannot create, for example, a car-free zone and not have relevant alternatives. If you want to close a street or some part of the city to cars, you need to give people who use them the possibility of reaching their destination other than by car. That’s either public transport or bike infrastructure, or facilities to park their cars outside the closed zone. If you want people to commute to work by public transport, the public transport has to be reliable, frequent, safe and comfortable.

Unfortunately, I think the pandemic negatively impacted the sustainability of transport because for many months public transport faced restrictions regarding the number of passengers. A lot of people were afraid to use public transport because they were afraid of becoming ill. Polish data shows that public transport is slowly recovering from the pandemic, which is a challenge for all organisers of this type of transport.

It makes sense, especially with the information we were receiving, that people had health concerns about using public transport during the height of the pandemic. Looking to the future, do you have any exciting developments for 2023?

Maria: We have good practices on how to support cities for EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK, including the distribution of promotional items and helping them register. Recently, we finished one of our reforms for a resilience plan for Poland, which is also related to Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMPs). We continue to support and encourage cities to create SUMPs. We also have some targets for the upcoming years, and right now we are supporting 46 cities in developing SUMPs. We are providing technical support and our experts are working with the cities on these documents. In Poland, we are seeing that the sustainable approach to mobility is becoming more common. All of the 16 regional capitals are finishing their SUMPs for the functional areas, so we are really excited about this because I think that everything starts with a good plan. If you have a good plan, you can move forward and build on this.

Every year, more Polish cities join the EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK campaign. We plan to continue this tradition and support them in promoting sustainable mobility.

Want to learn if your town or city participates in EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK? Take a look here.

 

Rethinking road safety to reduce fatalities

17 May 2023

Over 20,000 lives were lost on EU roads in 2022. Almost half of those were pedestrians, cyclists and people travelling by scooter or motorbike. In order to achieve Vision Zero - the European Commission’s goal to reduce road fatalities to zero by 2050 - we need to rethink road safety and mobility.

According to the Commission’s most recent data, 52% of road traffic fatalities occur on rural roads, 39% in urban areas and 9% on motorways. Within urban areas, vulnerable road users, such as cyclists and pedestrians, represent 70% of total fatalities. In fact, cyclists are the only road user group that has not experienced a drop in the number of fatalities over the last decade.

To significantly reduce these figures in the coming years and pave the way for a Europe with no road fatalities, we need to tackle all elements of the EU’s Safe System approach - safe infrastructure, safe vehicles, safe road use, safe speeds and better post-crash care. Sustainable and active mobility solutions are a key part of the equation: when prioritising active transport, including walking and cycling, and investing in clean public transport, it becomes clear that road safety is an intrinsic component of any mobility solution. For example, as part of EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK, 3,700 towns and cities have implemented new traffic regulations that support safe traffic circulation and create safer and more effective travel spaces for vulnerable users. Meanwhile, over 7,600 towns and cities have improved local infrastructure by building new footbridges, road crossings, wheelchair ramps and more, which, when correctly implemented, all improve road safety.

Because road safety and sustainable mobility are not mutually exclusive, the success of one often strengthens the effectiveness of the other. In addition to supporting local solutions, the European Commission also recently proposed updated requirements for driving licences and better cross-border enforcement of traffic rules. While bustling city centres are of major concern, the statistics reveal that rural roads are also deadly.

The proposed new driving licence rules are inspired by best practices in Member States and focus heavily on road safety. Measures include a zero tolerance rule on drinking and driving and adapting training to better prepare drivers for the presence of vulnerable users on the road. The EU is also proposing the first-ever digital driving licence that works across borders, which will allow for easier replacement, renewal and exchange.

With this Europe-wide update, we are one step closer to achieving Vision Zero. Nevertheless, long-term solutions in infrastructure are needed across Member States to protect vulnerable road users, especially in urban areas. And, there is really no excuse. Many measures require little investment and planning to implement. For example, 30 km h zones for pedestrians, new traffic signs and safety barriers. Measures that require more planning, such as better-integrated public transport, roundabouts and separate bicycle facilities, can be carried out in the near future. Regardless of the solution, there are many options for towns and cities to begin creating safer streets for all today.

For more information about permanent measures implemented as part of the EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK campaign, visit our Impact page.

Choose sustainably: Finland’s National Coordinators underline the importance of mobility habits

24 April 2023

In 2022, Finland broke its personal record for the number of towns and cities that participated in EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK. We sat down with Jenni Marsio, Finland’s National Coordinator, and Anni Hytti from Finland’s Transport and Communications Agency, to discuss their ambitions for the upcoming year, strategies for improving sustainable mobility in smaller towns (hint: trip-planning and electric bicycles!) and what they think of the 2023 theme ‘Save Energy.’


The theme for 2023 is ‘Save Energy,’ which is something that Finland also focused on in 2022. How can sustainable and active mobility help people save energy and reduce the use of fossil fuels in their daily lives?

Anni: I would say that active travel is actually the key to sustainable mobility, and energy saving as well. I think the challenge, at least for us, is to get people to move actively because there are quite a lot of people who still rely on their car, even for shorter journeys. That’s a real issue, I think. So active mobility is probably one of the key things. Really, whatever you do for sustainability and active [travel] modes is a good thing and helps in this matter.

There is also the Clean Vehicle Directive, which requires public transport organisations, and other organisations that do public procurement, to procure cleaner vehicles, so that public transport continues to become cleaner all the time. Electric vehicles are more energy efficient as well and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

In Finland, many people live in smaller towns or rural areas. For people who do not have direct access to public transport or need to travel greater distances, how can they travel more sustainably and save energy?

Jenni: This is of course something that we have discussed a lot when planning the campaign because some of the messages that work really well in bigger cities might not work in smaller cities. At the same time, of course, we have to remember that also in Finland urbanisation is happening and more people are moving to cities or to city-like environments, where they have access to public transport or they actually live so close that they can walk or take the bike. But there are areas where it's still a challenge and we have some recent studies that indicate that electric bikes might be helpful.

Anni: Yes, definitely. Not the most remote areas, though. That’s always a challenge, and there you have to plan how you move around so that you can make fewer trips. But in places where the distances are 10-20 kilometres, electric bikes offer a good solution, or at least help people move around. We are still in the process of writing the research, but we do have some results that actually support the idea that if you get an electric bike, you can give up your car for shorter journeys. Usually it's more fun to move around with an electric bike and it's easier because you don't have to think about parking so much and you can still easily carry quite a lot of stuff. Also, when you live in an environment where you have a lot of hills or if your commute is 20 kilometres, you probably don't want to do that with a regular bike because you sweat a lot and so on, but with an electric bike it’s already a possibility.

Jenni: I think what (Anni) said in the beginning is really important: planning a bit more, thinking about car-sharing, combining trips. This behaviour can help a lot!

Definitely! EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK is all about encouraging people to make more sustainable travel choices that make sense for them. What are the challenges to moving sustainably in Finland? What solutions have you seen that have been successful, both in big city centres and smaller towns?

Anni: One of the biggest challenges, as we’ve already mentioned, is changing habits and traditions. If you own a car, which many people do, and it’s just sitting there in your front yard, you are quite prone to using it. We have to unlearn using the car, especially for short distances. If you live somewhere and you have a supermarket that is 1.5 kilometres away, you may tend to take the car because it seems so easy. So, we have to find ways to encourage people to leave the car at home and walk or take the bike to the supermarket, for example. Because people have already made an investment in the car, people feel the need to use it as much as possible.

Jenni: We were discussing what has already worked well and there already are so many cities in Finland that are doing a lot for sustainable mobility in their infrastructure, by doing actions such as building new bike paths and creating plans for the future, not only in larger southern cities like Tampere and Helsinki, but also in northern cities like Oulu, which has such a good reputation for giving people the possibility to travel sustainably. Even the smaller cities are quite excited about the topic and even if they have not done so much already, they have created nice plans for the future.

Anni: One thing we should probably add too, is that one of the challenges is how you plan areas. Quite recently, there was research published in Finland about how children move in their daily lives, and how fit they are. What we can see over the years is that children’s fitness is declining and one of the reasons could be the fact that many kids are taken to school by cars these days, especially because schools are more spread out. This has to do with city cross-sectoral planning, infrastructure and ensuring that people can access the things they need.

What do you have in store for the 2023 campaign?

Jenni: Well, I think we were quite excited last year because we got a record number of cities to participate. And, as you know, we already had this topic last year of ‘save energy’ which was a huge topic in all of Finland and people seemed to really like it. So, we are still excited about that and obviously this year will still want to continue because we’ve proved that it works, it’s interesting and it’s really timely. Now we are aiming for even more cities. We want to break the record!

To learn more about EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK and if your town or city participates, click here.

An invisible threat: how sustainable mobility can help reduce noise pollution in cities

4 April 2023

Noise is the second largest environmental health threat in Europe. At least one in every five Europeans is exposed to noise levels that are harmful to their health.

With 20% of the EU population experiencing excessive noise levels, the most disruptive of which come from road, rail and air traffic, sustainable and active mobility offer key solutions to help combat this invisible health hazard.

Cities and towns across Europe struggle with the toll noise pollution takes on residents’ daily lives. Data from the European Environment Agency identifies Paris as one of Europe’s noisiest cities: more than 5.5 million people suffer due to noise that exceeds 55 decibels; 432,000 French residents take tranquillisers to cope with it. Meanwhile, 2.6 million people in London and 1.7 million people in Rome are exposed to disruptive levels of noise.

In addition to the myriad short and long-term health risks exacerbated or created by noise pollution, including increased blood pressure, problems focusing, insomnia and cardiovascular issues, the cost of noise comes with a heavy price tag. A report from CE Delft estimates that the social cost of road traffic noise in Europe is between 30 - 46 billion euros per year, representing approximately 0.4% of total GDP.

So, what is being done to mitigate this unseen threat to our health?

The European Environmental Noise Directive is designed to help cities identify, and reduce, noise pollution levels. Relevant authorities are also encouraged to join the Green City Accord to achieve better compliance with pollution-prevention laws, including the Environmental Noise Directive.

Local and national governments are also developing targeted Noise Plans to address pollution levels, such as Paris’ Plan Bruit which introduced numerous sustainable mobility solutions, including the installation of sound barriers, roadside noise checks and low-noise asphalt. In addition, the plan supports the French capital’s ongoing efforts to minimise car traffic in the city centre and expand cycling networks, while banning the most polluting vehicles.

Sustainable and active mobility solutions are an integral part of less noisy environments. As part of EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK, thousands of towns and cities across Europe have implemented permanent measures that reduce car speeds, especially around school zones, which is also an effective measure for reducing traffic noise. The extension or creation of green areas is another holistic solution to tackle both noise and air pollution, and as part of the campaign, over 3,600 new greenways have been constructed.

While noise pollution may not be the most obvious issue cities have to confront to improve quality of life for residents, it is an important part of people’s daily lives and can significantly impact wellbeing. Sustainable mobility solutions and active mobility choices, such as walking or cycling, can help reduce noise pollution and create environments that are more comfortable to live, work and play in.

Learn more about the impact of the EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK campaign and the permanent measures implemented by participating towns and cities, here.

Braga and Metropolia GZM win European urban mobility awards; Ukrainian cities receive special mention

24 March 2023

In 2022, nearly 3,000 towns and cities from over 50 countries participated in EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK to raise awareness about sustainable mobility and foster Better Connections with their local communities. In addition, 1,456 MOBILITYACTIONS were registered by businesses, civil society organisations, and more, to promote behavioural shifts toward sustainable urban mobility.

From Cyprus to Iceland, Portugal to Finland and beyond, permanent measures, interactive awareness-raising activities, mobility management plans and active mobility events were implemented to demonstrate the benefits of a world in which active, sustainable travel is the norm.

Of all the participants, two rose to the top for their outstanding campaign-related efforts: Braga (Portugal) and Metropolia GZM (Poland) snatched the titles of the EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK award 2022 and the first-ever MOBILITYACTION award, respectively, at the MOBILITYAWARDS ceremony in Ghent, which featured a keynote speech from Ghent’s Mayor Mathias De Clercq. A well-deserved special mention was also bestowed on Chernihiv, Kamianets-Podilskiy, Lviv, Poltava and Uzhhorod (Ukraine) for their participation in the 2022 campaign despite the ongoing war.

Braga impressed the jury with its commitment to raise awareness on sustainable mobility with many stakeholders, including universities, local businesses and residents. During the campaign’s main event week, from 16 - 22 September, the Portuguese city worked with over one hundred companies to open streets for pedestrian use and construct interactive green spaces. A “Mobility Safari” involving 30 companies was also held to illustrate the importance of decarbonisation and the impact of sustainable mobility in advancing this goal. Active mobility activities for all ages - such as gymnastics and cycling - were organised to spread awareness on the benefits of sustainable mobility. The city also launched the first phase of implementation for its bike-share service.

Meanwhile, the MOBILITYACTION jury selected Metropolia GZM for its comprehensive approach to transforming a local university car park into a green, pedestrian-friendly space. Engaging professionals from the public transport, cycling, social development, sustainable mobility and urban policy sectors, the Polish metropolis co-created a car-park transformation that would not only benefit the university, but would also decrease related traffic and encourage locals to use the space. Urban furniture and greenery were installed, as well as traffic calming measures. The first reports show more people from on- and off-campus frequenting the area. Urban designers are currently conducting interviews to better understand how to remove all ground-level parking spots and implement accessible public transport solutions across the campus.

Braga competed against Sofia (Bulgaria) and Zagreb (Croatia) for the title, while Metropolia GZM was in competition with Ar2gether (Italy) and UCB Pharma (Belgium).

In addition to celebrating the winners’ achievements during the award ceremony, a spotlight was placed on the five brave Ukrainian towns and cities that participated in the campaign in spite of Russia’s continued aggression against Ukraine.

Lesya Loyko, National Coordinator for Ukraine, described how it felt to receive an unexpected special mention:

“It came as a total surprise to me, the organisers managed to give it in complete secret. I was told there would be this little video about five Ukrainian cities and I appreciated that very much…when I saw the award, I was very touched. Surely, I take it as a sign of appreciation for the cities. It is not my award as a National Coordinator, but it is truly an award for the cities that try to do important things through the pleasant approach of EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK. The cities are in a difficult situation because of different aspects. They have an agenda to first address the critical needs of their people, but still they are on this route to sustainable mobility and they use the EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK to underline important things, such as changing the city's environment in favour of pedestrians, cycling and public transport.”

Chernihiv, Kamianets-Podilskiy, Lviv, Poltava and Uzhhorod organised sustainable mobility awareness raising activities during the week of 16 – 22 September. Activities included a cycling race to bring humanitarian aid to a local village, opening city streets to pedestrians for a ‘Car-Free Day’ and workshops on tactical urbanism.

To learn more about the EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK and MOBILITYACTION awards, click here.

To learn more about campaign participants, click here. Discover MOBILITYACTIONS, here.

When we travel ‘slowly’ the journey becomes as important as the destination

21 February 2023

Why do we travel? Is it to learn more about other people and places? To explore new cultures and cuisines? Today, there are more ways to travel than ever before. In our fast-paced world, people are often focused on ticking destinations off a list, instead of slowing down and enjoying the journey. ‘Slow travel’ is a movement pushing back against the idea that “more” is better and “faster” is always fun.

Like the Slow Food Movement, which began in Italy in the 1980s as a way to protect local cuisine and traditional farming and cooking methods, Slow Travel underlines connection to people and places, and rejects the ‘fast life’.

Slow travel, and tourism, encourages people to take their time while exploring local heritage and history, and to keep an eye on how their travel and activities impact the local community and the environment.

Sustainable and active mobility is an important part of slow travel because it helps to reduce emissions and save energy. This could mean choosing to take the train for several hours to your destination of choice, instead of opting for a one-hour flight. Or it could mean planning a bike trip to a nearby town or heritage site, instead of renting a car.

In addition to saving energy and helping to reduce transport related emissions, travelling sustainably can also add to the travel experience: just take a look at these six train routes across some of Europe’s most beautiful landscapes, including the German Rhineland, the Swiss and Italian Alps, Ireland’s Golden Vale and the Tarn Valley in France. All of these trips can be taken with an Interrail pass. When you travel ‘slowly’ the journey becomes as important as the destination.

Of course, it is not always possible to choose public transport or active mobility modes to arrive at your destination. However, slow travel is also about mindset. It can be practised once you arrive at your destination - by choosing to travel sustainably to local sites and restaurants and to support local businesses - and encourages you to live in the moment, while reflecting on how and why you travel.

Some tourist destinations are starting to support ‘slow travellers’ by making it easier to make sustainable travel choices. For example, Destination nature is a programme offered to visitors of the Swiss National Park and surrounding areas. The programme creates, and promotes, travel packages with attractive public transport prices. There are also many innovative, flexible and sustainable mobility options on site to support travellers as their plans develop.

So, the next time you’re thinking about travel, ask yourself: why do I want to go here? How do I want to get there? What impact am I leaving behind? If you ask yourself these questions, then you may begin to see how slow travel can help you get the most out of your experience, while leaving less behind.

Clean, intelligent and sustainable transport solutions are needed to achieve Europe’s climate ambitions

8 February 2023

Transport is responsible for 24% of global carbon emissions and is the only economic sector in which the number of emissions continues to rise. In Europe, 77% of all transport-related emissions come from road transport. Switching to sustainable mobility solutions – such as public transport, walking and cycling - presents a key opportunity to reduce emissions, decrease pollution and improve quality of life for all.

Authorities at the local, regional, national and international levels are largely responsible for creating the proper conditions and incentives for sustainable mobility, while people have the power to make sustainable mobility choices. In order to achieve Europe’s ambitious goal to become carbon neutral by 2050, and to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, towns, cities, businesses and organisations need to focus on developing and implementing clean, intelligent and accessible transport solutions.

Alongside investments in green transport infrastructure, and the provision of a cohesive legislative framework and incentives, society needs to see decisive changes in behaviour. Currently, one third of cars sold in Europe are sports utility vehicles (SUVs). There are now 200 million SUVs around the world, which represents a 60% increase in the global car fleet since 2010, according to the IEA. A cultural shift is necessary; one that prioritises sustainable transport - including trains, trams and buses - and favours active mobility choices - like cycling and walking - which have been shown to improve physical and mental well-being.

Fortunately, many Europeans are already demonstrating their support for more sustainable transport. A recent survey conducted by the European Investment Bank shows that 64% of Europeans are willing to make the switch from cars to public transport based on environmental concerns. Eastern Europe in particular stands out for its high use of public transport.

In addition to people voicing their approval for greener transport, many towns, cities and countries offer proven innovative solutions that can be replicated in similar contexts throughout Europe. For example, Barcelona (Spain) is prioritising pedestrians with its ‘Superblocks’ plan to turn 1 out of every 3 streets in the city into a green street with more space for people to meet and interact, and to reduce traffic. By 2024, the city hopes to see 80% of trips taken by foot, bike or public transport and it is already noticing a significant reduction in air and noise pollution in existing superblocks.

In Austria, citizens are now able to purchase a ‘Klimaticket,’ which is a yearly ticket that includes all travel by bus, train, tram and other state-run transport. With this ticket, Austria hopes to reduce its CO2 emissions and make sustainable transport more accessible and affordable.

Meanwhile, across Europe, new night trains - from Brussels to Berlin, Warsaw to Prague, Zagreb to Zurich and more - offer a more sustainable alternative for those who need to travel greater distances. Citizen initiatives and businesses – like the MOBILITYACTIONs 30 Bologna and Solar City Cars - are also supporting the switch to sustainable travel by addressing city traffic and road transport.

As demonstrated by the nearly 3.000 EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK participants in 2022, many towns, cities, organisations and people are taking steps in the right direction. Nevertheless, to meet our climate ambitions, an even greater shift to sustainable transport options, such as public transport, walking and cycling, is needed. A greener Europe, and a Europe with fewer emissions and less pollution, depends on the implementation of clean, intelligent and sustainable transport solutions.

Learn more about the EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK campaign and how towns and cities are taking action by raising awareness on sustainable mobility and introducing new permanent infrastructure.

Valongo embraces active mobility to improve quality of life and tackle energy crisis

8 December 2022

In 2022, EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK promoted Better Connections to improve sustainable mobility policies, practices and behaviours across Europe, and beyond. As the year comes to a close, we sat down with Alderman Paulo Esteves Ferreira of Valongo, Portugal - a 2021 EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK Award winner - to learn how the municipality is using sustainable mobility to strengthen connections in the local community, reduce its carbon footprint and to tackle the ongoing energy crisis.

What did it mean to Valongo to win the EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK Award for smaller municipalities in 2021?

Besides being a surprise, we were filled with pride and the feeling that we are doing the right thing. Sometimes we have an idea - a strategy for the city - but that does not mean it is right. Each person has their own opinion and their own truth, so sometimes we think something is right and it might not be. But when someone from outside, impartial and within the scope of [many] applications tells a small town in Portugal that they are [doing something] right, it is a joy and brings great pride to be recognised for doing things well.

What are the objectives of the sustainable mobility transformations in the city?

We were elected in October 2013, and the idea has always been that we will be here for a maximum of 12 years because that is what the law allows us with a three-term limit. Therefore, we thought, “what are we going to do to receive this municipality and transform it into something better? And what is this 'something better'?” There was an image that was very attached to Valongo of being a dormitory city, a crossing city where people just pass through. There are those who sleep [here] because they are going to work in Porto, but it is cheaper to live here. We want to change this image of a dormitory city, a crossing city, to an image of a city where people can really live, and live with quality of life.

Is there anything in particular that you are most proud of or that you think worked better for people in terms of mobility transformations?

The [measure] that had a greater impact, with a relatively low investment, is what we did on Lagueirões Avenue, where we had four car lanes and we removed one on each side to get people to run. It is an example of what we want to do in terms of changing the importance of the car in the city and passing this importance on to the people. However, there was a lot of resistance at first. I was even confronted by some people who lived there. Now, I think it is unthinkable [for Lagueirões Avenue] not to be like that. If another political executive comes along and wants to change it, people will not accept it.

There is usually some resistance to changes on roads or spaces for cars from the population. How did Valongo deal with this?

It is worse in small towns than in big cities because in big cities people who don't like it don't complain to anyone. There are many people who don't live there, who just work and visit, so it's easier to accept. In the small town, people complain directly to us, everyone knows each other and we are directly confronted when we go out on the street. I am confronted frequently. What I do first is to explain what we are doing and ask what exactly is wrong because many times the person does not even know what is wrong.

We are not doing this to upset people; we want to please, not displease. If we want to be politicians with a long-term strategic vision, we have to have the courage to do things that people often don't immediately recognise, but eventually will, as happened with Lagueirões Avenue. At first there was a lot of criticism, but now everyone thinks it’s spectacular. Right now, those who live there say that their houses have increased in value, however, that recognition took half a year.

The 2022 theme for EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK is Better Connections. How can citizens make use of these sustainable mobility transformations to better connect with other people, places and new ways of getting around?

Returning to what I said at the beginning, there were many people who only came to Valongo to sleep. They get in their cars, enter the garage, enter the elevator, and go home. When one wants to do something, they go to the elevator, garage, get in the car and leave to go to the supermarket, to the cinema or out of town. And what we're trying to do is give people an opportunity to remember that they can do things within the city, like take a walk, see the shops, talk to other people, go to the mountains... There is even a workshop for kids to understand the importance of Valongo. We are creating a set of possible outdoor infrastructures. We are going to hold municipal art workshops, create bike paths to connect these points, and work on riverbanks so that people can walk along the river. Instead of going to the seaside, you can walk along the riverside here. This is what will lead people to connect with themselves and with the city, develop social ties with their neighbours and create a face-to-face social network. So this is the transformation, which in the future will certainly last. There is no going back.

Europe is experiencing an energy crisis. How does Valongo deal with increases in energy and fuel prices through sustainable mobility policies? Is there a connection between the two?

Yes, because by creating these possibilities to use other means of transport, we are giving an alternative to the car. Travelling by car is very expensive, so now people can walk to the centre, which is not as dangerous as it used to be. By creating these tours and projects related to bicycles, we are giving adults and children another option. Parents usually pick up their children by car, which wastes fuel and is expensive, but children will be able to move around on foot or by bicycle because now it is safe. When we bet on these soft modes and invest in more sidewalks and bike lanes, we are giving an opportunity to reduce spending on fossil fuels and gasoline. Walking is also much more economical.

We have [also] renovated public transport, for example, our train stations to make them more inviting, but also to support intermodality. It is a transfer from bus to train, bus to bicycle, to create alternatives so that people can leave the car and, therefore, reduce their carbon footprint. And we've already done something else in this regard, which was to change all the public lighting that used to be conventional fixtures to LED coating - all public lighting. There are still municipalities that are in this process, we have already surpassed it, and we have also reduced this footprint a lot. Everything we have been doing is clearly aimed at decarbonising and helping to have a better future.

Learn more about Valongo, here.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Donate your bicycle to support aid workers in Ukraine

2 December 2022

On 24 February, 2022 Russia invaded Ukraine. Despite months of bombing and violent attacks, the people of Ukraine continue to show incredible resilience. The EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK National Coordinator for Ukraine, Lesya Loyko, shares some of the central challenges that Ukraine faces as a result of the immense damage to its public transportation infrastructure, and how you can help.

Among the many consequences of Russia’s invasion, mobility and people’s ability to get around have been severely impacted. What impacts have you seen?

In the very first period after the war started, public transport was immediately stopped because it was unclear how the shelling or bombing would happen. The enterprises responsible for running the services for public transport were afraid of what would happen if people were in trolley buses or trams. Also, the role of public transport changed: many buses were mobilised to transport people from areas under shelling to safe places. Green corridors were organised and about 50 buses were just transporting people [to safety]. On the other hand, the subway - also public transport - was being used as a shelter, especially in the capital city. Each night people moved to the subway, so it was open 24 hours.

When the situation improved a bit and stabilised, public transport began again, but was facing challenges due to fuel shortages. Unfortunately, many fleets were just hit by missiles and bombs and transport enterprises lost buses, trolleys and trams. For electric transport, the network has also been destroyed and there are kilometres of it that will need to be rebuilt. Mayors understand the importance of public transport and are really investing every effort to get it up and running again. There were periods in some cities that transport was free of charge so that at least people could get to medical centres and so on.

In spite of all the challenges you mentioned, you still had some towns and cities participating in this year’s EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK. How was the effort to engage them? What did they focus on?

I noticed that, interestingly, the activities that were organised were patriotic. For example, in the City of Lviv there are two great initiatives. One is ‘Bike, Friend!,’ which is very moving because they try to find local people who bike and connect them with internally displaced people fleeing the war. Lviv got 150,000 new people as a result of the war over a few months. This initiative is trying to connect these people so they can share bikes. Another one is a social bike sharing scheme for internally displaced people. If you are registered you receive some support from the state and those who have registered as internally displaced can apply to get bikes brought from Europe. Then you can rent a bike for a week and return it so someone else can use it. Sometimes people’s cars are damaged or they have had to leave [their home] with two bags, maybe a cat or dog. They have what they brought and that’s it.

Also, some cities implemented permanent measures. It was a challenge because we have a law now, because of the war, that states that municipalities can only spend money on repairs because all of the money is being collected for the army and people. So even if our municipalities did permanent measures like the improvement of pavements or small things, like street crossings, it was also important.

It seems that the bike is now a critical tool for Ukraine.

When all this chaos was happening the bicycle was the saving means of moving for some people. It’s at home, it’s easy to use, even for escaping. I know cases where they would put two bigger bags on a bike and escape, using them as carriage transport. Those NGOs who were actively promoting bikes before the war continue to do so. For example, in the capital city Kyiv, a bicycle count is organised twice a year and they even managed to do it earlier this summer. For this event, people physically go out to certain streets and count how many bicycles go through in the morning, in the evening, on a working day, weekend day, etc. Actually, the numbers didn't drop. People continue to use bicycles despite the danger. Now there is a national campaign Vision Zero - meaning zero deaths on the road - and one of the messages behind this [for us] is that people are killed in the war so let’s put some effort in to ensure that people are not killed on the road. The situation is difficult, but at least the people I know are enthusiastic and want to make the country even better than it was before the war.

You helped launch a campaign called #BikesforUkraine with six NGOs. Can you tell us a little bit more about it and how people can support it?

This campaign is meant to help those cities who have suffered most from the Russian invasion. Cities where the infrastructure has been destroyed, where people have left and neighbours or relatives in need are stuck in the city and it is difficult to reach them. #BikesforUkraine is about collecting new and old bikes, spare parts, donations to support volunteers, social workers, medical workers, those who are really the helping hand for people who are in a desperate situation. These bicycles are distributed among organisations within the cities that help other people.

How one can help: it’s easy. We are a coalition of six NGOs that started this initiative and anyone who would like to help Ukraine in a good, humanistic, positive way can contact us. We have contacts that we share and we can explain more about how the campaign works.

If someone has a few bikes and would like to send them to you, what should they do?

There are hundreds of ways this can happen, but let’s give an example of Freiburg (Germany) which is a sister city to Lviv. Freiburg already organises different kinds of support like medicine, food, and mattresses and is sending this to Ukraine. Knowing this we can go to Lviv and ask them when the next shipment from Freiburg will come. Then we could say, would you please pick up three bikes for us?

To organise the donation, drop off or delivery of bikes, fill out this form.
For more information about the #BikesforUkraine campaign, visit the website: here.
Contact info@avk.org.ua for more information.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

Reduce fuel consumption and build better connections with regular Car-Free Days

21 October 2022

It’s been almost a month since EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK’s main event came to a close on World Car-Free Day. 2,988 towns and cities from 51 countries registered sustainable mobility awareness-raising events and activities from 16 - 22 September. Many participated by organising their very own car-free day or weekend. But cities and towns don’t have to wait for World Car-Free Day, or EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK’s main event, to coordinate a car-free day.

In light of Russia's ongoing aggression against Ukraine and the need to drastically reduce Europe’s dependency on (Russian) fossil fuels as quickly as possible – as detailed in the European Commission’s REPowerEU plan - there has never been a better time to organise a monthly or weekly car-free day. The Clean Cities Campaign estimates that one weekly car-free day in all major European cities could reduce Europe’s annual oil consumption from urban transport by 3 – 5%. This is equivalent to having the European workforce work from home three days a week or 0.63% - 1.10% of the EU’s total annual oil consumption, which is the same as annual oil demand from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

In addition to a reduction in fuel consumption, organising more regular car-free days would improve local traffic congestion while lowering related air and noise pollution levels. Car-free days are also a wonderful opportunity for residents of all ages to form better connections with their peers, public transport and the city or town in which they live: just ask the 1,191 towns and cities that recorded a car-free day during EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK’s main event week in 2022.

And for those local authorities who have not yet been able to coordinate a car-free day or who are wondering where to start, EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK has got you covered! Our ‘How to organise a Car-Free Day in 10 steps’ infographic will help you prepare your town or city for its very first car-free day.

No matter how many towns and cities are able to organise, any car-free day is a great way to further promote sustainable urban mobility and its many benefits, while significantly reducing fuel consumption.