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Eltis interview: celebrating sustainable mobility alternatives with citizens

By News Editor / Updated: 26 May 2016

This month, Eltis interviews Jerome Simpson from the Regional Environmental Center, the project co-ordinator of the EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK campaign.


Please sum up EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK in a sentence

JS: The campaign is a celebration of alternative modes of transport to fossil-fuel based cars and seeks to realise a modal shift through promoting behavioural change.

In what way are local authorities already benefitting from your project?

JS: Some 2 000 towns and cities show solidarity with one another when they sign up to MOBILITYWEEK each year and become part of this Europe-wide campaign. During the week they undertake measures on 22 September such as car-free days, inaugurate infrastructure that encourages walking, cycling or safer streets, while the best undertake a week-long schedule of campaign activities – because they are serious about creating more liveable cities. But the week is also an opportunity to experiment with more controversial measures such as access restrictions or car-free zones.


What are the key project publications or resources (current or future), and how will they be used by cities?

JS: The Thematic Guidelines explain the campaign slogan, which this year is ‘Smart Mobility. Strong Economy.’ They explain the economic benefits of sustainable mobility from different perspectives including societal, individual and those of economic actors, such as small businesses. The guidelines also include many examples of how to apply the theme locally. They are available in 23 languages in the Campaign Materials section on the website. 

The Handbook for Local Campaigners, on the other hand, provides authorities with all they need to know to organise and promote the week. It offers programme ideas for each and every day of the campaign and examples for each of the week’s pillars - also available on the website.

EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK encourages European local authorities to introduce and promote sustainable urban mobility measures and to invite their citizens to try out alternatives to car use. However, some would argue that it doesn’t stimulate the long-term change necessary to change the mobility patterns of citizens. What is your answer to them?

JS: Campaigns like EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK are indeed considered ‘soft measures.’ However, it is a pillar of the European Commission Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport's awareness-raising campaign, and during the EMW2016 launch workshops in April in Brussels we hosted a session that explored why such measures can yield a high return on investment (despite the relatively low investment).

Many transport planners and decision-makers need to be convinced with solid evidence of this and part of the problem is that good evaluation data is scarce, making it hard to quantify the economic impact of mobility management. However, examples exist of projects that have generated a measurable modal shift in their target groups through pure awareness-raising. One thing that often goes unnoticed in the appraisal of soft measures is the hidden costs of car traffic, such as the impact on environment, costs to human health, accidents, contribution to climate change, etc., versus the hidden benefits of active modes (fewer sick days, longer lifetime and greater mental perception).

What opportunities are there for non-cities to become involved in the project?

JS: For those other than cities, we’ve established the MOBILITYACTIONS series: an all year round ‘add-on’ to EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK. It offers a platform for NGOs, citizen groups, employers, etc., to promote their actions on sustainable mobility. At the same time it becomes a pool of inspiration and a basis for collaboration with local authorities. The best actions stand a good chance to be invited to present at the annual EMW spring workshops.

How can people keep up to date with project activity?

JS: The best is to ‘Like’ the EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK Facebook page and follow the campaign on Twitter. Those interested can also subscribe to our e-newsletter.

Name one development/innovation that you think will impact urban mobility in Europe over the next 5 years.

We heard a lot at the EMW2016 launch workshops in April about cargo bikes. Did you know for instance that between 51 to 68 per cent of all urban logistics can be done by bike or cargo-bike? In late-April I attended an event hosted by the International Road Transport Union in Minsk (Belarus). You could imagine the look of shock on the faces of those supporting the trucking of freight around the world when I mentioned this, alongside the Commission's goal of achieving a 50 per cent modal shift of intercity passenger and freight journeys from road to rail and waterborne transport by 2050!

What is the most interesting mobility-related book/paper/research you have read recently, and why?

JS: I recently read a paper published by the Commission's Joint Research Center (JRC) in collaboration with the Istanbul Technical University called 'A Framework to Analyze the Vulnerability of European Road Networks due To Sea-Level Rise and Sea Storm Surges'.  For transport systems, sea-level rises (recently forecast at 50–200 cm above 1990 levels by 2100) and storm surges are considered to be the most destructive among the climate change exposures.

That’s a threat we can no longer take lightly, especially in northern Europe where the threat could be greater by an additional 15–20 cm. My organisation, the Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe, is involved in developing and testing a methodology for the assessment of climate risks to passenger and freight transport corridors (including road/rail/waterway networks and ports) on behalf of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe's Inland Transport Committee, and we hope to have that methodology tried and tested by Q3 of 2016.

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