This month, Eltis interviews Dr Barbara Möhlendick from the City of Cologne, and a partner in the GrowSmarter project.
BM: GrowSmarter brings together cities and industry to integrate and demonstrate 12 smart city solutions in energy, infrastructure and transport, to provide other cities with valuable insights and opportunities for replication.
Sustainable urban mobility is one of three action areas on which GrowSmarter focuses. How has Cologne so far benefitted from the project’s work in this field?
BM: Besides a lack of affordable housing, the main challenge in Cologne and other European cities is mobility. Not only that the present urban mobility is already reaching in some areas its capacity limit, a fast growing population will create even more mobility. Thus, Cologne authorities are forced to foster more effective and environmental friendly modes of transportation beyond the traditional individual traffic.
The GrowSmarter project is a keystone in Cologne’s long-term strategy to reach by 2025 two-thirds eco-friendly mobility. The district of Mülheim can be regarded as an urban lab for Cologne where we test new advanced mobility technologies and concepts. A central part of the GrowSmarter project is the mobility hubs, which will offer different modes of urban mobility to the public. In case these hubs will be successful and show measurable positive result, we plan to implement them in other parts of the city.
The concept of mobility hubs seems rather simple; however, Cologne and the state of North-Rhine Westphalia (NRW) constantly discover new legal obstacles during the implementation process. As a front-runner in NRW, we try to identify these problems and together with the state government, we eliminate them. This will make life of other cities in NRW much easier, which might follow our path towards eco-friendly mobility.
Nevertheless, also our administration learns a lot from the GrowSmarter project. The integrated approach makes it mandatory for all parts of the administration to work closely together. A traditional thinking in boxes is no longer possible. This is necessary to implement smart mobility in our city. So far, the approach has been presented to other local authorities in Germany and the EU. It is a solution cities are adopting, since the widespread offer of mobility modes (such as e-carsharing, e-bike sharing, conventional car and bike sharing at tram and train stops) makes individual transport less interesting.
What are the key project publications or resources (current or future) related to sustainable urban mobility, and how can cities use them?
BM: The GrowSmarter project is producing a series of technical factsheets on smart solutions. These include sustainable urban mobility solutions, which the project is introducing in each of the Lighthouse Cities. We are launching a series of technical factsheets at October’s Building Sustainability conference in Stockholm. Presentations on establishing fast-charging facilities for electric vehicles are already available online.
What opportunities are there to become involved in the project?
BM: The GrowSmarter project is looking to recruit 20 cities to be part of its City Interest Group. Members will have the opportunity to closely follow activities within the Lighthouse and Follower Cities and participate in the capacity building/study visit series in the Lighthouse Cities.
The first three members that produce an Implementation Potential Study will have the opportunity to receive one on-site capacity-building workshop to support the development of a full Replication Plan, organised by ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability. Visit the GrowSmarter website for more information.
Industry partners might offer solutions to better organise and monitor traffic movements, parking space and peaks. There are startups involved in the project that are addressing the problem of traffic caused by vehicles searching for parking space.
There is also business-case potential based on open data in Cologne for IT companies. The philosophy in Cologne is to offer high quality open data, including on transport, and to incentivise the active IT community in Cologne and the region to produce services and apps for citizens. This will create new job opportunities, benefit the local economy, and of course improve mobility, air quality and the climate footprint.
How can people keep up to date with project activity?
In Cologne, citizens can also use these channels to follow the implementation and planning process in the city. In areas where we directly implement measures or refurbish buildings, people can attend public hearings. In the most effected neighbourhood, we opened an ‘information café’ where a member of my team is frequently present and can discuss concerns and proposals from citizens.
We will also launch twice a survey where we try to get a better idea what local citizens really need. The results will be used for the further work of the city.
Name one development/innovation that you think will affect urban mobility in Europe over the next 5 years.
BM: In Germany, constant and fast urbanisation in some areas (e.g. Cologne-Düsseldorf-Bonn, Hamburg, Berlin and Munich) will lead to a strong movement towards eco-friendly forms of mobility. Thus, new mobility innovations, such as mobility hubs, will play a much more important role in city planning. If the mobility offer is suitable and close to their homes, citizens no longer depend on their individual cars,
What is the most interesting mobility-related book/paper/research you have read recently?
BM: A very useful and inspiring article to foster carsharing and e-mobility is WiMobil: Praxisleitfaden für Carsharing und E-Mobilität. Concerning climate change and digitalisation, I recommend Klimakriege by Harald Welzer, and Blackout and Zero by Marc Elsberg, which explains how digitalisation will influence our cities more than we currently imagine.