Budapest wins European urban mobility awards

15 March 2024

It was a warm sunny evening in Brussels yesterday when almost 200 people gathered at La Bellone and found out Budapest won the European Mobility Week Award for activities conducted in 2023 under the theme ‘Save energy’.

“It almost feels like the Oscars ceremony,” said Georges Gilkinet, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Mobility of Belgium. “It’s important to take the opportunity to promote greener mobility, active modes of transport, and all other forms of transport that emit less CO₂. In the context of a climate emergency, we need to double up the efforts to develop active mobility, to deliver and follow up a clear path based on the Paris Agreement. Tonight we are here to celebrate municipalities and companies that endorse this greener change.”

Magda Kopczynska, Director-General for Mobility and Transport at the European Commission, was also “optimistic and positive that so many people all over the European Union and beyond share the passion and the commitment to do things together to push urban mobility.” She also insisted on wanting to “celebrate the achievements of every single person and entity who participated in the European Mobility Week last year,” and not just the winners.

European Commissioner for Transport, Adina Vălean, also congratulates the award winners and finalists.“I applaud this year’s winners and finalists for their truly innovative thinking in saving energy through mobility, redesigning the public space in creative ways, as well as the online space. Cities are our best laboratories for the mobility of tomorrow.” She also specifically saluted “the eight Ukrainian towns and cities that participated in the 2023 European Mobility Week. My thoughts are with all the other Ukrainian towns and cities that have taken part in previous European Mobility Weeks. I hope they will soon be able to join again.”

Actions for the win

An openly enthusiastic Kata Tüttő, Deputy-Mayor of Budapest, responsible for utility management, including waste, water, streetlights, and public transport, received the trophy on stage. “2023 was a tough year. Like many other cities, we faced skyrocketing energy prices and public services in need of a lot of energy. And we needed to make a decision. Who is carrying the burden of all these crises?” For Budapest, the answer was clear: not locals. It was the city that made sacrifices, cutting down on other investments and taking the burden of the extra cost of guaranteeing transport and public services.

we needed to make a decision. Who is carrying the burden of all these crises?
— Kata Tüttő, Deputy-Mayor of Budapest

Budapest’s ambitious car-free weekend counted 10,000 participants, and the Car-Free Day on 22 September allowed the Mayor of Budapest to unveil comprehensive plans for the construction of a new pedestrian-friendly car-free zone along the Danube embankment.

The city also showed how cooperation helped further encourage its transport plans. With the City of Vienna, Budapest hosted a public event to promote best practices in walking and cycling policies, in addition to organising discussions on how to ‘Save Energy’ in transport with the BKK – Centre for Budapest Transport Balázs Mór Klub.

A week is not enough: Budapest’s permanent measures

Numbers from 2021 show how Budapest locals make good use of public transport, which counts for 47% of the modal split, but need encouragement when it comes to cycling, locked at 2%, and walking at 16%.

European Mobility Week, a European Commission campaign coordinated by Eurocities, was a moment for the city to propose several activities and raise awareness among its people, from children to the elderly. From walking to cycling tours and conferences to transport-themed markets and activities for children, Budapest put its best foot forward. And it’s not planning to stop there. It has also launched several long-term measures that will impact the lives of its locals for years to come.

One of these permanent measures is the creation of a preferred, but not exclusive, bicycle lane on a popular everyday commuting route. This is combined with the introduction of a 40km/h and 20km/h speed limit on different sections of the same road to have safer cohabitation between cyclists and cars.

In the context of a climate emergency, we need to double up the efforts to develop active mobility
— Georges Gilkinet, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Mobility of Belgium

Budapest also created the first bollard-protected bike lane, which provided a vital connection between the city centre and outer areas in the rapidly developing 9th and 13th districts. Interestingly, the administration took advantage of the traffic disruptions during the renovation of the M3 metro and transformed the temporary replacement bus lanes into protected bicycle lanes instead of reintroducing car traffic and parking.

The same districts have also seen the opening of the 200th station of Budapest’s shared bike system. “By enlarging the catchment area of the Bubi bike share scheme, local residents and employees of local business hubs in this rapidly developing district will choose sustainable transport more easily,” reads Budapest’s application for the European Mobility Week Awards.

The city also realised that the outskirts of Budapest lacked a coherent cycling network, resulting in lower numbers of daily commuters and leisure cyclists. With a tight budget due to the financial crises, the municipality concentrated on placing clear road markings to design cycle paths connecting the Eastern suburbs and outskirts to the city centre. The paths focused on exploiting recently renovated and quiet roads to offer cyclists a safe and pleasant option.

A road passing through a forest with car traffic and bike lanes on each side. A bike is riding on the left and an e-scooter on the right.

Multiple actions, one vision

Budapest’s mobility strategy over the past five years shows its effort to minimise reliance on private vehicles, favouring instead more eco-friendly transport options like public transport, biking, and walking. The city’s approach has been holistic, considering the environmental, societal, and economic ramifications of mobility choices. The strategy has also focused on the needs of its residents, encouraging active participation from the community and civic organisations in both the development and execution of mobility initiatives.

The city’s governance demonstrates a solid commitment to sustainability and innovation, evidenced by backing a range of mobility enhancements and participation in European projects like the European Mobility Week and Upper. Budapest also implemented low-emission zones, upgraded the quality and accessibility of public transport services and infrastructure, and advocated for the use of electric vehicles. The administration leads by example, with its staff testing the new measures first-hand.

Cities are our best laboratories for the mobility of tomorrow.
— Adina Vălean, European Commissioner for Transport

Becoming the next winner of the European Mobility Week Awards

The European Mobility Week runs from 16 – 22 September every year, providing towns and cities with an opportunity to host a car-free day accompanied by activities and innovative planning measures in order to promote new infrastructure and raise awareness on sustainable mobility options, such as public transport, walking and cycling.

In 2023, a record-breaking number of 3,351 towns and cities from 45 countries registered their participation. 875 Mobility Actions were registered by businesses, civil society organisations, institutions, and local administrations. Nudgd (Helsingborg, Sweden) won the Mobility Action Award, and the other finalists of both awards were Amadora (Portugal), Innsbruck (Austria), GSK Belgium, and NVBW (Germany).

Follow the European Mobility Week to know when your city can register to participate in this year’s European Mobility Week under the theme of ‘Shared space’ and get a chance to win.


Wilma Dragonetti Eurocities Writer