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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 at the Ministry of Infrastructure. During her time as National Coordinator, she has helped the campaign grow - last year 242 Polish cities participated - and even continued to promote safe, sustainable and active mobility solutions throughout the height of the pandemic. 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 cycle 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.

As you say, it sounds like 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.