1.3 What are the main elements of Sustainable Urban Mobility Planning?


By Ash Oyofo / Updated: 28 Nov 2019

This chapter provides an overview of the elements and process of Sustainable Urban Mobilityinfo-icon Planning. It introduces the twelve steps of the “SUMP cycle” with a focus on the role of decision-makers, whereas details for planners can be found in Section 2.



Since the publication of the SUMP concept in 2013, the process of developing and implementing a Sustainable Urban Mobility Planinfo-icon has been applied in many urban areas across Europe (and worldwide). The “SUMP cycle” represents it by using the visual metaphor of a clock face (see Figure 2). This is, of course, an idealised and simplified representation of a complex planning process. In some cases, steps may be executed almost in parallel (or even revisited), the order of tasks may be adapted occasionally to specific needs, or an activity may be partially omitted because its results are available from another planning exercise.
This need for flexibility is fully understood and planners are encouraged to make reasonable adaptations if required by their specific situation - as long as the overall principles of Sustainable Urban Mobility Planning are followed. Chapter 1.4 discusses these points more broadly. Figure 2 presents the four phases of Sustainable Urban Mobility Planning, each of which begins and ends with a milestone and each of which is subdivided into three steps (for a total of twelve steps in the planning cycle). This Figure presents an overview for decision-makers, whereas Figure 9 provides a more detailed description for planners.

Figure 2: The 12 Steps of Sustainable Urban Mobility Planning (2nd Edition) – A decision maker’s overview


Phase 1: Preparation and analysis

The first milestone and the starting point for the SUMP process is an explicit decision by policymakers to prepare a Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan. In the first phase, the groundwork for the planning process is done by answering the following questions:

What are our resources?

Analyse all available (human, institutional, financial) resources for planning and set up appropriate working and participationinfo-icon structures to get started. At this stage, decision-makers need to ensure that the key institutions and policymakers support the SUMP’s development and contribute to setting up a core planning team.

What is our planning context?

Identify factors that will have an impact on the planning process, such as existing plans or legal requirements. Analyse traffic flows to determine the geographic scope of the plan – and ensure that neighbouring authorities and stakeholders are ‘on board’. Agree on the planning timeline and recruit external support as needed. Activities in this and the previous step are closely linked and often run in parallel. A key task for decision-makers at this point is to ensure that the ‘functional urban area’ serves as the planning area for the SUMP. This is often an institutionally and politically complex decision.

What are our main problems and opportunities?

Analyse the mobility situation from the perspective of all transport modes and relevant sustainabilityinfo-icon aspects by using an appropriate set of current datainfo-icon sources. The concluding milestone of the first phase is a completed analysis of the major problems and opportunities related to mobility in the entire functional urban area.


Phase 2: Strategyinfo-icon development

The goal of the second phase is to define the strategic direction of the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan in cooperation with citizens and stakeholders. The key questions in this phase are:

What are our options for the future?

Analyse the likely changes in external factors important for urban mobility (e.g. demography, information technology, climate) and develop scenarios that explore alternative strategic directions. Scenarios try to capture the scope of uncertainty that comes with “looking into the future” in order to have a better factual basis for strategic decisions.

What kind of city do we want?

Use visioning exercises with stakeholders and citizens to develop a shared understanding of desirable futures, based on the results of the mobility analysis and scenarioinfo-icon impacts. A common visioninfo-icon and objectives are cornerstones of every SUMP. A vision is a qualitative description of the desired mobility future for the city, which is then specified by concrete objectives that indicate the type of change aimed for. Make sure that your objectives address the important problems and that they cover all modes of transport in the functional urban area. Decision-makers need to get actively involved at this stage, as this is the point at which the strategic direction for the next years is decided.

How will we determine success?

Define a set of strategic indicators and targets that allows you to monitor progress in all objectives without requiring unrealistic amounts of new data collection. Decision-makers should ensure that the targets are ambitious, feasible, mutually consistent, widely supported by stakeholders, and aligned with other policyinfo-icon areas.

At the end of the second phase, you have reached the milestone of a widely supported vision, objectives, and targets. If possible, decision-makers should adopt these strategic priorities to ensure a stable guiding framework for the measureinfo-icon phase.


Phase 3: Measure planning

With the third phase, the planning process moves from the strategic to the operational level. This phase focuses on measures to achieve the agreed objectives and targets. Here the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan is finalised and its implementation prepared by answering the following key questions:

What will we do concretely?
Create a long list of measures and assess their effectiveness and feasibility to select those that best contribute to meeting your objectives and targets. Bundle measures into integrated packages, discuss them with citizens and stakeholders and assess them in detail to validate your selection. Plan monitoringinfo-icon and evaluationinfo-icon for each measure.

What will it take and who will do what?
Break measure packages down into actionable tasks (or ‘actions’) and describe them in detail, including their estimated costs, interdependencies, and risks. Identify internal and external financing instruments and funding sources for all actions. On that basis, agree on clear responsibilities, implementation priorities and timelines for each action. At this stage, it is essential to communicate the actions to political stakeholders and the public. For example, concrete building projects can be controversial even if their related objectives and measures are supported by a majority. Decision-makers are required at this point to recruit political and public support for the measures and actions of the SUMP, ideally achieving a formal agreement on responsibilities and timeline among decision-makers and key stakeholders.

Are we ready to go?
Many authors may have contributed to the various parts of the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan. Now it is time to finalise the document and check its quality. Based on your organisation’s conventions, a detailed financial scheme can be included in the plan itself or is part of a separate process. In either case, you should agree on a budget for each prioritised action and long-term arrangements for the distribution of costs and revenues among all involved organisations before SUMP adoption.

The most important milestone of the planning process concludes the measure planning phase: The Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan is adopted by the decision-makers of the competent political body.


Phase 4: Implementation and monitoring

The fourth phase focuses on implementing the measures and related actions defined in the SUMP, accompanied by systematic monitoring, evaluation, and communication. Here the actions are put into practice by answering the following key questions:

How can we manage well?

The responsible departments and organisations should plan the technical details of their actions, undertake implementation and procure goods and services if needed. As this often involves a large number of parties, the overall coordination of the implementation process requires particular attention.

How are we doing?

Systematic monitoring will make clear whether things are going according to plan, allowing corrective action to be taken if needed. Innovative mobility schemes can be a great disruption (as well as a great benefit) for daily travellers. Understanding public opinion, based on an active two-way dialogue, is crucial for a successful implementation process.

What have we learned?

The last step of the SUMP cycle is about reviewing successes and failures and communicating these results with stakeholders and the public. This review process also looks towards the future and considers new challenges and solutions. Ideally, decision-makers will take an active interest in understanding what has worked (and what has not), so that these lessons are considered in the next SUMP update.

The milestone ‘Measure implementation evaluated’ concludes the SUMP cycle.



  • A political decision initiates the SUMP process and provides overall guidance and leadershipinfo-icon;

  • A sound analysis informs scenario building and supports decision making;

  • A shared vision, objectives, and targets set the strategic direction;

  • Integrated measure packages are defined that can deliver the objectives and targets;

  • Measure packages are divided into actions (actionable tasks) that are further operationalised, including in terms of responsibilities and financing;

  • Based on all previous decisions, a SUMP is adopted that combines a long-term vision and a clear implementation planinfo-icon;

  • Overall measure coordination and regular monitoring ensure efficient and adaptive implementation;

  • Systematic evaluation of the implementation provides the basis for the next planning cycle.

A more technical description of the planning cycle and the 32 specific activities to be carried out within the 12 Steps is provided in Figure 9 and described in detail in Section 2.