More than 70% of Europeans live in cities and transport accounts for 23% of greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union (EU). Decisive action on urban transport and mobility is therefore increasingly necessary to make our cities climate-neutral by 2030. In addition, it is becoming more necessary to combat oil dependency, develop sustainable urban mobility plans or use harmonised data to improve traffic flow in cities. These were a few issues discussed at the Urban Mobility Days 2022, held from 20-22 September in Brno, Czech Republic.
Urban Mobility Days is a three-day event jointly organised by the European Commission, the Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport and the Czech Presidency of the Council of the EU. It brought together more than 1,000 transport professionals, policymakers, and political representatives to discuss ambitious climate targets and how to transform urban mobility. All of this is under the theme chosen for the 2022 edition, Moving people and goods more sustainably.
Zabala Innovation joined transport professionals and political leaders from across Europe at the event, which this year took place during European Mobility Week. Research and innovation projects that have received funding from the European Commission have been highlighted as examples of actions being taken to promote sustainable mobility.
Political actions with citizen involvement
Zabala Innovation was present at the Urban Mobility Days largely as a partner of Senator, a project funded under the H2020 programme that seeks to make urban logistics sustainable. It is an initiative led by Correos that will test its effectiveness in the real environment, in Zaragoza and Dublin as urban living laboratories.
This year’s edition set up strong links, on the one hand, with the new EU Urban Mobility Framework, launched in December 2021 to set out European guidelines on how cities can reduce emissions and improve mobility. This protocol will benefit urban transport users and all citizens concerned. The dynamic session focused on how the Member States can support their cities in implementing Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans. The results will feed into the forthcoming Commission Recommendation.
The event, on the other hand, held a panel discussion around RePowerEU, the plan that outlines the EU’s path towards energy independence from Russian fossil fuels by 2027. The debate focused on the power of behavioural change to reduce our dependence on oil and make urban mobility greener. The focus was also on the need for financial support and measures such as speed reduction in urban areas and the adoption of circulation schemes that bring quick wins for cities, improving air quality and curbing CO2 emissions.
CIVITAS, sustainable and smart urban mobility
The Urban Mobility Days, which attracted policy makers, local authorities, academics, NGOs, urban transport professionals and others, provided a valuable opportunity to exchange knowledge on current mobility issues between the different Civitas projects.
The Senator project is part of the Civitas initiative, a programme that helps the European Commission to achieve its mobility and transport objectives, and in turn those of the European Green Deal. It does so by acting as a network of cities dedicated to sustainable urban mobility. Since its launch in 2002, Civitas has promoted research and innovation in sustainable urban mobility and has enabled local authorities to develop, test and implement measures through different projects such as Senator.
The conference combined two major events in the European transport calendar: the Civitas Forum and the former European Conference on Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMP). In addition, this year the event celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Civitas Initiative.
The role of youth
Given that 2022 is the European Year of Youth, the organisers of the Urban Mobility Days put the spotlight on the voices and views of young people to engage them on the main challenges affecting urban mobility, aware that changing lifelong habits requires not only action such as the Smart and Climate Neutral Cities Mission, but also the commitment of citizens and young people.
Young professionals, researchers, and representatives of youth organisations from the Civitas Education Network and the European Commission took part in some of the panels. Young speakers from the different sessions of the conference also held an interactive debate in which they presented their abstracts and shared their views on the future of urban mobility in Europe, in the framework of the closing event of the Urban Mobility Days 2022.
Key ideas included the importance of bringing sustainable mobility issues closer to citizens to involve them in decision-making and the need for clearer communication, reducing technicalities and explaining concepts to new participants.