How the energy crisis shaped European Mobility Week

28 September 2022

European Mobility Week enjoyed an exceptional celebrity endorsement this year: in a Twitter message, the Red Devils – Belgium’s national soccer team – encouraged fans to cycle or carpool to the Belgium-Wales match in Brussels on 22 September, the last day of the European Commission’s flagship sustainable mobility campaign.

The exhortation came in the true spirit of European Mobility Week: to make sustainable and active mobility fun and easily accessible for everyone. 

From 16 to 22 September, some 3,000 municipalities big and small from Europe and across the world outdid themselves to offer a full calendar of events promoting walking, cycling, public transport and other forms of green mobility: from bike trips in Sofia, to river boat tours in France’s Anglet, from trekking across Bologna‘s parks, to the free rental of city bikes in Poznan.

In Austria, 532 cities participated in the event, with similar record numbers in Turkey (530 municipalities) and Spain (488), just to name a few.  

People at car-free day in Brussels, 18 September 2022.
Car-Free Day in Brussels. Photo: D. Berretta

On 22 September, the campaign culminated with the annual Car-Free Day in which cars are banned from city streets. It was an open invitation to people to occupy the freed-up space by moving around sustainably.

This year, European Mobility Week even laid out ten golden rules for organising Car-Free Day in line with the RepowerEU energy-saving plan. 

Oh, the possibilities… 

“What if the city always looked like this: safe, pollution-free, quiet.” These thoughts were inescapable as people of all ages flooded the empty roads of 1,165 cities marking CarFree Day. 

This and other European Mobility Week actions highlighted how there can be more to urban life than cars and noise, more colour and more opportunities to meet and relax with one another; just like in this video featuring Poznan on Park (ing) Day, an event in which parking areas are transformed into spaces full of people instead of cars.   

“I can’t think of anything better than European Mobility Week to show how life-changing sustainable mobility can be,” said Eurocities’ Juan Caballero, European Mobility Week’s Campaign Manager. “Only by looking at the human aspect of urban mobility will we be able to achieve our climate ambitions. The market may offer countless options to move around, but decision-makers need to prioritise people over technology,” Caballero added.  

Moving sustainably to save fuel 

Ultimately, authorities’ decisions will remain just ink on paper if people aren’t convinced about embracing sustainable change. This was a hotly discussed topic of the 2022  ‘Urban Mobility Days’, a three-day conference coinciding with European Mobility Week. 

Hosted in Brno, the biannual event offered experts, NGO’s, European Commission and local officials the opportunity to debate today’s most pressing sustainable mobility challenges and solutions. 

Presenting the #bikesforukraine campaign at the 2022 Urban Mobility Days
Presenting the #bikesforukraine campaign at Urban Mobility Days

Against the background of Russia’s war on Ukraine and the ensuing energy crisis, experts exchanged views on how zero-emission transport can provide an answer to fuel dependency by reducing car use and hence, oil demand. 

“This crisis, beyond its tragic human dimension, is an opportunity for cities to speed up the transition toward climate-neutral mobility solutions,” said Thomas Mourey, Eurocities’ Project Coordinator for European Mobility Week 

The conflict on Europe’s eastern flank was never too far from Brno: in a moving address, Lesya Loyko, European Mobility Week National Coordinator for Ukraine, told the audience how the war is damaging crucial infrastructure and causing serious transport disruptions.

Blasted building in Ukraine
A building ravaged by the war in Ukraine

Bicycles in today’s Ukraine offer an alternative and a vital resource to move people and goods. “Sustainable modes such as bicycles can be lifesaving in this context,” said Mourey.  

In response to this need, the #bikesforukraine international campaign supports the purchase of new and used bikes to deliver humanitarian aid to those who need it the most. 

To succeed, put it all together 

Additionally, Urban Mobility Days provided cities with the opportunity to exchange ideas on the new Urban Mobility Package of the European Commission. The scheme outlines a roadmap and new rules for municipalities to curb traffic congestion, make urban mobility more sustainable and foster peer-to-peer learning.   

Cyclists on Car-Free Day in Brussels
Cyclists on Car-Free Day in Brussels

“Urban Mobility Days participants made it clear that rules for cities should be kept simple while providing a common direction to follow in urban mobility,” said Thomas Lymes, Policy Advisor for Mobility at Eurocities. “At Eurocities, we’re working to offer municipalities a new discussion platform to help them navigate through the new Commission rules,” he announced.  

One thing is certain: the transition towards climate-neutral cities will require an integrated approach. To reach the EU’s ambitious climate goals, local officials will need to devise plans that combine energy, transport and sustainable mobility, sectors that are traditionally separated from each other.  

A pedestrian area in Rotterdam

In a session on integrated urban planning, officials from Parma, Cluj-Napoca and Prague showed how they managed to successfully merge Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plans (SECAP) with Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMP).  

“This led to better interdepartmental cooperation and a stronger impact on the ground”, said Peter Staelens, Eurocities’ Senior Project Coordinator for Mobility, who was a panelist in that session.  

“Being closely connected with the Climate-Neutral Cities Mission, the Covenant of Mayors and the CIVITAS community, Eurocities will have an instrumental role in bringing all relevant European initiatives, institutions and stakeholders together,” Staelens added. 


Daniela Berretta Eurocities Writer