Cities are important nodes of the European transport system as most trips start or end in urban areas. Urban transport plays a key role in achieving economic competitiveness, social cohesion and sustainable growth. However, many of the negative effects of transport such as congestion, road accidents or pollution occur mainly in urban areas. In addition, many European cities must deal with issues such as old infrastructure and narrow streets especially if they are home to historic sites. Further to these local challenges, cities face worldwide issues such as global warming, energy dependency as well as increased energy costs. Urban authorities in all EU Member States share common challenges ranging from public transport inadequacy to long commuting for its citizens. The most prevalent issue is congestion, with consequences on people’s health, on the use of public space as well as on local GDP.
Climate change-related high temperatures can put infrastructure at risk — deformed roads and rail tracks can hamper the supply of goods and commuters. Building infrastructure ready for future climate conditions and not in risk prone areas (such as floodplains) will result in lower costs and increased effectiveness. Climate risks need to be considered also in the transport and urban planning sectors, in an integrated fashion. Heat production due to transport and heat-storing surfaces (such as asphalt) aggravate heat waves impacts in urban areas. Hot temperatures exacerbate air pollution through increased formation of ground-level ozone (ozone precursors such as NOx are emitted during fuel combustion for example by road transport). Transport management can therefore reduce heat waves and air pollutants. Urban flooding is exacerbated by impervious soils, such as roads and parking places.
Urban Authorities have been working for many years with local, national and European initiatives and projects on sustainable urban mobility, in particular under the Covenant of Mayors to reduce GHG emissions and the Smart Cities and Communities policy framework (concretely supported by the European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities and the respective Horizon 2020 calls) to develop innovative, replicable solutions. Part of this work has been reflected in the establishment of Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMPs) allowing a long term common vision for cities’ mobility strategies with the citizen at the centre and making an effective use of public space. The UIA aims to support this. There are some key elements urban authorities proposing projects should consider:
- To promote and facilitate cycling (including e-bikes and cargo bikes), a healthy, clean and cost effective means of transport
- To support those solutions that will contribute to the implementation and the development of SUMPs as part of an urban authority’s integrated planning strategy
- Innovative multi-modal hubs and mobility services, allowing for a seamless transfer from one mode of transport to another where passengers are able to take an informed decision, ticketing, routing on how to proceed with their journey in the most effective and sustainable way
- The creation of logistic hubs to reduce congestion and increase average traffic speed.
- Endorse shared mobility solutions such as car-pooling or bicycle sharing schemes which are slowly becoming part of the urban landscape,
- Facilitate and implement innovative alternative fuels (e.g. biofuel, energy from waste, electricity from photosynthesis) infrastructure, in particular charging stations for electric vehicles, and other incentives.
- Roads can be transformed and redesigned as flood defences. Vegetated road-sides and tree-lined roads reduce flood and heat wave risks while improving air quality and quality of life.
- Contribute to measurable and replicable resource-efficiency solutions by documenting baseline use and progress observed, through standard indicators and appropriate data collection, formats and sharing and publishing rules.
- Ensure that any solution adopted to handle data is interoperable and based on open standards.
The types of activities proposed include technological, societal, cultural, economic and environmental aspects. They imply an active role for citizens and communities as well as businesses and public transport providers. While urban authorities should experiment with bold ideas, they should involve communities and citizens to ensure an easy transition to more sustainable modes of transport.
All new infrastructure proposed for EU funding should encompass an appropriate climate vulnerability and risk assessment, and take appropriate climate change adaptation measures where needed.