Cities across Europe build on the SUMP concept

By Pavlina Dravecka / Updated: 22 Sep 2015

From the outside, the common mobility denominator between Copenhagen, Brest, and Thessaloniki may not be immediately obvious.

Copenhagen is the toast of urban cyclists, a city so linked with sustainable bicycle transport that "Copenhagenisation” is the accepted term for making cities more cyclists friendly. The French city of Brest has linked transport with other sustainability concerns, while Thessaloniki is an urban area caught in the midst of a wide-reaching austerity drive.

The answer is that these geographically, socially and economically diverse cities have all improved their transport situation through adopting transport strategies modelled on the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP) concept. Conceived through an integrated approach to planning, these strategies define sets of interrelated measures to satisfy the mobility needs of people and businesses both today and in the future.

Copenhagen's desire to build on its success is reflected by its transport strategy, the revision of their 'Plan de Déplacement Urbain' helped Brest to identify areas for improvement, and it is the  Thessaloniki SUMP that will now guide the allocation  of resources during a time of deep recession.

Copenhagen aimed to achieve a 14 per cent increase in the modal share for bicycles to 50 per cent in 2025. One of the primary ways of encouraging citizens to get on their bikes was by improving the capacity of the cycle tracks to the city centre. The transport strategy helped to ensure political engagement, a necessary component to achieve the infrastructural change necessary.

In 2010 the Brest agglomeration decided to simultaneously renew its transport strategy, land, housing, and climate and energy plans. The integrated approach aimed to increase the consistency in defining sustainability measures in the city, and ensure cross departmental cooperation. The revision of the four plans led to qualitative changes to the transport plan, with new measures defined. The public was also involved in a number of ways, including a five week public consultation during the plan’s final stages.

The Thessaloniki SUMP responds to the challenge of providing a feasible path to sustainable transport with a minimal budget. The city was faced with the cancellation of all public spending, while issues like rising traffic and a lack of co-ordinated mobility planning continuing unabated. Using European Commission funding, the Thessaloniki authorities produced the entire SUMP for around € 125 000. The money was used for consultants, data collection, and promotional materials, as well as to facilitate the involvement of stakeholders. The city’s final SUMP consists of 12 measures to be implemented by 2022.

One of the greatest advantages of the SUMP concept is its flexibility. As seen in the cases mentioned, it is not solely for cities struggling with sustainable mobility, nor the preserve of advanced cities looking to do more.  Transport strategies that build on the SUMP concept, are tailored to the requirements and realities of each municipality, to enable urban areas to become the type of places where people and businesses wish to be.