Better mobility starts in cities

19 March 2024

“Radical change needs political will. Your decisions will matter. Who are the politicians who will dare?” said Andreas Røhl, Mobility Lead at Gehl, in his keynote speech yesterday at the Eurocities Mobility Forum in Utrecht on ‘Radically Reshaping Urban Space’.

From the ground: city measures

The will of local politicians has already been translated into action in many European cities. Host city Utrecht, for example, will introduce a zero-emissions zone for logistics in January 2025 and is already reaping the benefits of establishing a 30 km/h speed limit in its inner city.

In fact, cycling in the city has increased by 30%, and “30% of car traffic disappeared, and we don’t find it elsewhere,” said Lot van Hooijdonk, Utrecht Deputy Mayor for Mobility.

Amsterdam also recently introduced a 30 km/h speed limit, hoping to tackle road safety issues. For instance, three people are badly injured every day in Amsterdam due to road accidents.

Melanie van der Horst, Deputy Mayor for Traffic, Transport and Air Quality, Public Space and Greenery, Water and Amsterdam North Approach, added: “The EU could help us inform cities about the benefits of setting a 30km/h limit and collecting the data.”

Eugenio Patanè, Rome Deputy Mayor for Mobility, and Lot van Hooijdonk, Utrecht Deputy Mayor for Mobility. Photo ©

The Italian cities of Rome and Turin have been on a revolution of their own. In Rome, the city deals with more cars than driving licenses, which mostly stay in their parking spaces. “We want to move from the dictatorship of the car to the democracy of other transport modes,” said Eugenio Patanè, Rome Deputy Mayor for Mobility.

Rome has introduced different urban vehicle access restrictions (UVARs), focused on increasing the number of people using public transport offer and in promoting cycling as an alternative mode. The Great Ring Road for Bikes, for example, is a cycling and pedestrian ring accessible to everyone, stretching for 45 kilometres within the city.

Turin has been the automotive capital of Italy for many years and struggles to convince its locals to move on from this legacy. “30% of people in Turin are over 60; the cultural change is difficult,” says Chiara Foglietta, Turin Deputy Mayor for Ecological and Digital Transition, Innovation, Mobility and Transport. However, the city is using the EU’s Recovery Funds to invest in and renew its public transport network and pedestrianise the city centre and its outskirts.

As demonstrated by these examples, city leaders around Europe are using their Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans to redesign urban spaces, improving air quality and making them more welcoming, safer and inclusive.

For example, they are committed to transitioning to zero-emission mobility in five years, with the help of mainstreaming zero-emission vehicles and lighter transportation options, as well as creating a multimodal, convenient and reliable mobility system encouraging travel habits that will favour public transport, walking and cycling.

City recommendations to the next EU mandate

However, city leaders need the EU to support their ambitions with the corresponding policies. That’s why, building on the Eurocities manifesto ‘A better Europe starts in cities’, deputy mayors from Utrecht, Rome, Stockholm, Amsterdam, and Madrid presented their recommendations for the next EU mandate at the Eurocities Mobility Forum.

To achieve their vision, cities ask the EU to fill in the current EU mobility policy gaps. They demand clear rules applicable to urban areas, and more city involvement in decision-making and funding to support urban and long-distance transport infrastructure investments, based on sustainable urban mobility indicators.

“In Madrid, we have experienced first hand the importance of data for planning and evaluation of measures. Our traffic model covers the entire city and is crucial for decision-making,” explained Lola Ortiz, Madrid General Director of Planning and Mobility Infrastructures. “However, we must address the lack of availability and quality of mobility data held by private stakeholders and made available for local authorities.”

Data availability is one of the points addressed in the recommendations, where city leaders urge the EU institutions to address data availability and encourage guidance on business-to-government data sharing to improve urban mobility and road safety.

Linked to this issue is the recent discussion on the cross-border enforcement directive, where cities that introduced UVARs find it challenging to apply them to foreign vehicles due to a lack of data exchange.

Participants in the Eurocities Mobility Forum in Utrecht. Photo ©
Sharon Dijksma, Mayor of Utrecht, welcomes participants. Photo ©
Andreas Røhl, Mobility Lead at Gehl, who delivered the keynote speech. Photo ©
Eurocities Executive Director, Dorthe Nielsen. Photo ©
Photo ©
Photo ©

Journeys: within the city and beyond

Crossing borders also means strengthening the link between urban and non-urban travel. Patanè pointed out that the EU’s TEN-T regulations acknowledge the local administration’s role beyond urban transportation. However, to better connect the dots between long and short-distance transport, the EU institutions should clarify the role and responsibilities of cities, give them a seat at the decision table, and increase their budget.

Torsten Klimke, Head of the Innovation and Research Unit at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport, who was present at the event, agreed that the link with cities should be strengthened and that there should be a comprehensive dialogue around TEN-T. He also stressed the significance of local governments coordinating with the member state level.

Several cities raised their concerns about public transport. “Public transport shouldn’t suffer from austerity,” said Bart Dhondt, Alderman for Mobility at the City of Brussels. “We need better legislation and funding for public transport,” added Lars Strömgren, Stockholm Vice Mayor for Transport and Urban Environment.

In the future, innovation will continue to drive mobility services. Cities need adapted funding, capacity-building programmes, and improved data sharing between businesses and governments to best adjust and plan their infrastructure.

“If the same rules apply to all European cities, the market will adapt much faster and drive innovation in zero-emission transport,” says Eva Oosters, Utrecht Deputy Mayor for Carbon Free Mobility.

“The task of the next EU policymakers will revolve around keeping the EU on track to meet its targets for 2030 and beyond in terms of climate, road safety, air quality, noise and other Green Deal objectives,” underlines the document.

Join in the conversation

Following the presentation of the recommendations in Utrecht, the Eurocities Mobility Forum will organise a series of online and in-person events to share the key messages with relevant stakeholders. Between March and December, cities, business representatives, sector organisations and EU institutions representatives will present and discuss specific topics.

Among the upcoming topics will be the size of vehicles and their impact on climate, road safety and the use of public space in urban areas; the obstacles to unleashing business to government mobility data sharing; the role of cities in long-distance connections; and the future of the EU Cycling Declaration.

Stay tuned to learn more and take part in the discussions.

Read Eurocities latest policy statement, in the context of our European elections campaign ‘A better Europe starts in cities’:

A better mobility starts in cities