Interweaving the green mobility web

9 June 2023

EU legislation provides a blueprint to reach common policy goals across the continent; it lays the foundations of a project under construction. In the next step, national and local authorities translate theory into practice, implementing EU laws on the ground and adapting them to the specificities of each territory.

When it comes to sustainable transport, the needs and challenges of a large city in southern Europe may be very different from those of a Finnish or Baltic municipality. This is why exchange and knowledge are critical, as proved by the 31 May – 2 June Eurocities Mobility Forum in Porto.

At the annual event, mobility experts traded takeaways and tips on their own sustainable mobility actions during a series of workshops on the Forum’s day two.

Sharing best practices on public transport, electric charging, public spaces, the digitalisation of transport systems and urban logistics helped city experts navigate the maze of EU requirements and the many facets of local implementation.

A lake with an urban area in the ackground
Photo by: Maurice DT

Enhancing rural-city connections

Fifty per cent of the rural population in the EU lives close to a city, often as part of a wider metropolitan area.

Cities, their suburbs and nearby rural areas are interdependent, with often overlapping interests. For example, urban dwellers need food from the countryside, while rural inhabitants rely on the city for health, education and other services.

This vision is backed by EU legislators who – in their efforts to shore up the Green Deal – are asking to strengthen links between urban and peri-urban areas to promote territorially balanced development.

Frequent and efficient public transport links are the linchpins of this strategy as is close cooperation among municipalities, regions and national governments. But how can local, regional and national actions align to ensure the smooth rollout of mobility policies?

Participants of the Eurocities Mobility Forum during a study visit in Antwerp
A bike parking in Antwerp. Photo: Silke Lamoen

At the Porto Forum, Antwerp provided an inspirational example that was showcased at a multi-level transport governance workshop. The project is based on a bike-sharing scheme developed by the Belgian city in tandem with local authorities of nearby areas.

Mobility hubs set up in Antwerp and neighbouring town are at the core of this idea. At any of these hubs,  cyclists can rent a bike to commute to and from various locations, moving sustainably between the city and its surrounding areas.

During the same workshop, Madrid unveiled its own efforts for rural-urban transport integration.The Spanish capital relies on a green infrastructure interweaving public and active mobility to best serve the interests of both urban and rural commuters.

A view of Madrid

‘Park and ride’ facilities currently under construction, for example, will be connected to urban trains, allowing travellers to reach the station with their own vehicles and proceed to their destination via railway.

Parking will be free for up to 16 hours, an added incentive to convince people to drop their cars and opt for green modes of transport. Madrid’s wide-ranging model additionally includes metro links, parking, e-charging stations, among others.

Like those in Madrid, many mobility hubs are conceived explicitly for electric vehicles. At a dedicated workshop, city officials from Florence were offered ideas and tips for electrifying their new ‘park and ride’ infrastructure. Urban experts highlighted the need to support private and off-street charging because the public charging network in cities often isn’t enough to meet all e-vehicle drivers’ needs.

The Eurocities Mobility Forum in Porto
The Eurocities Mobility Forum in Porto

From the digital transition to greener public spaces

Commuters’ ability to plan their routes and buy their tickets via digital means is one of the pillars of new EU transport legislation and the Green Deal. While the digitalisation of public transport systems is still in its infancy, some municipalities are blazing the trail.

During the Mobility Forum’s digital workshop, Porto introduced its Explore Porto online platform. The website offers comprehensive and reliable information for tourists and locals alike,  including a journey planner and a map with city landmarks. Explore Porto is available in both Portuguese and English.

The decarbonisation of transport systems is also tied to the idea of rethinking public spaces, a theme that took centre stage at a dedicated Mobility forum workshop.

The back of a woman walking in a parkl
Photo de Charley Litchfield sur Unsplash

An overhaul of public spaces is currently underway in municipalities from all corners of Europe: local governments are barring car access in different area to make way for green and pedestrian spaces where urban dwellers can meet, relax, play and breathe cleaner air.

“It’s not only about decarbonisation or dedicated pedestrian areas; it’s about improving our streets and offering a better quality of life for all,” said Juan Caballero, European Mobility Week Campaign Manager at Eurocities.

The TEN-T corridors

Some of the most intense Mobility Forum discussions concentrated on how the expected revision of the EU’s Trans-European Transport Network policy will be implemented in cities. Also known as TEN-T, the regulation refers to the transport connections (‘corridors’) that run across the European continent, spreading in all directions like arteries through a body.

A map of the Trans-European Transport networks
A map of the Trans-European Transport networks

Cities defined as ‘urban nodes’ – municipalities located along the TEN-T corridors that boast infrastructure such as railways, ports, airports and other transport options – will need to adapt their policies to new EU requirements.

At a workshop attended by a European Commission mobility official, cities offered their input in meeting TEN-T requirements and shared solutions for improving the process. Workshop discussions were divided by the different areas in which cities’ work must focus, including governance, investments and funding needs, multimodality and sustainable mobility indicators.



Daniela Berretta Eurocities Writer