By Admin Eltis / Updated: 12 Nov 2015

Imagine your city in 20 years: What would you want it to look like? A place where children can play safely? Where the air is clean? Where you can walk to do your shopping? With lots of parks and green space? Where businesses can prosper?


But how do you realise such a visioninfo-icon? Planning has become an increasingly complex task, and planners (as well as policyinfo-icon makers) are faced with many, often contradictory demands: maintaining a high quality of lifeinfo-icon while also creating an attractive environmentinfo-icon for businesses; restricting traffic in sensitive areas while not curbing the necessary movement of goods and people; ensuring mobilityinfo-icon for all while being confronted with financial constraints. In addition there are wider issues to be addressed, with regards to public health, climate change, oil dependency, noise and air pollution, etc. Particularly in urban areas – centres of economic activity and home to an increasing share of Europe’s population – addressing these issues is a complex matter.

The need for more sustainable and integrative planning processes as a way of dealing with this complexity and identifying an appropriate set of policies has been widely recognised1. A Sustainable Urban Mobility Planinfo-icon encompasses this idea of an integrated approach; it fosters the balanced development of all relevant transport modes while encouraging a shift toward more sustainable modes.

At local and national level some progress has been made to strengthen urban mobility planning and establish transport planning frameworks with a definition and / or guidance on Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans. The UK with the Local Transport Plans (LTP) and France with the Plans de Déplacements Urbains (PDU) are renowned for their comprehensive urban mobility planning approaches. However, Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans are a new or non-existent idea in other parts of the EU.

Recognising the important role Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans can play, the European Commission proposed in its Action Plan on Urban Mobility2 of 2009 to accelerate the take-up of Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans in Europe by providing guidance material, promote best practice exchange, and support educational activities for urban mobility professionals. In June 2010, the Council of the European Union stated its support for “the development of Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans for cities and metropolitan areasinfo-icon [...] and encourages the development of incentives, such as expert assistance and information exchange, for the creation of such plans”3.

This guidance document on ‘Developing and implementing a Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan’ outlines the main steps of defining mobility policies in the context of a clear vision and measurable targets to address the long-term challenges of urban mobility. The process seeks to ensure the involvement of stakeholders at appropriate stages and collaborationinfo-icon between relevant policy areas and authorities.

At the same time, developing and implementing a Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan should not be seen as an additional layer of transport planning, but should be done in compliance with and by building on present plans and processes. Its concept has been designed with the best European examples in mind and it should become part of the daily planning practice in all European cities and municipalities.

Last but not least, planning for the future of our cities must take the citizens as the focus; citizens as travellers, as business people, as consumers, customers, or whatever role one may assume, people must be part of the solution: Preparing a Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan means ‘Planning for People’.


A new way of planning urban mobility

The table presents in a simplified manner some of the main differences between the planning process described in this guidance document and a more “traditional” planning process.

Traditional Transport Planning


Sustainable Urban Mobility Planning

Focus on traffic


Focus on people

Primary objectives:
Traffic flow capacity and speed


Primary objectives: Accessibilityinfo-icon and quality of life, as well as sustainabilityinfo-icon, economic viability, social equityinfo-icon, health and environmental quality



Balanced development of all relevant transport modes and shift towards cleaner and more sustainable transport modes

Infrastructure focus


Integrated set of actions to achieve cost-effective solutions

Sectorial planning document


Sectorial planning document that is consistent and complementary to related policy areas (such as land use and spatial planning; social services; health; enforcement and policing; etc.)

Short- and medium-term delivery plan


Short- and medium-term delivery plan embedded in a long-term vision and strategyinfo-icon

Related to an administrative area


Related to a functioning areainfo-icon based on travel-to-work patterns

Domain of traffic engineers


Interdisciplinaryinfo-icon planning teams

Planning by experts


Planning with the involvement of stakeholders using a transparent and participatory approach

Limited impact assessmentinfo-icon


Regular monitoringinfo-icon and evaluationinfo-icon of impacts to inform a structured learning and improvement process


1 The United Nations via its Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) and in cooperation with EMBARQ are preparing guidelines on establishing a multi-stakeholderinfo-icon forum on urban mobility. Another example is Brazil where the national government adopted a national policy on urban mobility in early 2012, making it obligatory for any municipality with more than 20,000 inhabitants to develop an urban mobility plan by 2015.

Action Planinfo-icon on Urban Mobility, European Commission, 2009 (COM(2009) 490 final).

3 Action Plan on Urban Mobility, European Commission, 2009 (COM(2009) 490 final).