Air pollution is the most significant environmental health risk in Europe, according to European Environment Agency (EEA). It is linked to illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and lung cancer, all leading to premature death. The impact of pollution is particularly strong in cities where 75% of EU residents live. Local governments are, therefore, best placed to tackle pollution and drastically reduce harmful emissions, ensuring a better living environment.
With transport accounting for a quarter of Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions, Valencia is undergoing a green and sustainable transport overhaul.
A friendlier city
“Our approach is to make mobility more sustainable and more focused on people, on the fight against climate change and on making the city more friendly”, says Joan Ribó, Mayor of Valencia. Over the past decade, the city turned car lanes into pedestrian and cycling paths, strengthened the role of public transport and increased green infrastructure.
“People have always been at the centre of our policies, allowing us to transform the city and turn it in a benchmark in sustainable mobility”, remarks Giuseppe Grezzi, Valencia’s City Councillor for Sustainable Mobility and Public Spaces.
Our approach is to make mobility more sustainable and more focused on people, on the fight against climate change and on making the city more friendly
Valencia has been implementing several strategies in recent years to achieve both innovation and sustainability. The local government is fostering behavioural change by focusing on green mobility. In 2013, the city council approved a Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP) that encourages walking, cycling and public transport. Since then, new services have been added to help residents and visitors plan their journeys and move around more efficiently and sustainably.
In 2020, the city also launched the Valencia 2030 Climate Mission, intending to turn València into a climate-neutral city, as part of the EU Mission: 100 Climate-neutral and smart cities by 2030.
A new mindset among citizens
Shifting to smarter modes of transport is a multifaceted transition requiring a new vision, political will and a change of mindset at the local level. Many people rely on private cars and may be reluctant to embrace mobility alternatives such as walking, cycling, or public transport. “We know that behavioural change is not easy,” acknowledges Ribó, “but we also know that in the end, people realise that change is positive and end up adopting it.”
For Grezzi, “initial reluctance is perfectly normal. The most important thing is that, at this stage, all the measures we have taken are very well supported by the citizens”, he adds. The proof is that it is increasingly common to see people cycling around the city.
Behavioural change is not easy but, in the end, people realise that change is positive
The public transport revolution
Public transport is the backbone of the journey towards sustainable mobility. It keeps cities moving, it is essential for reducing congestion and air pollution, and the cleaner air resulting from increased public transport benefits society, not just those who use it.
People have always been at the centre of our policies
Public transport also provides equal opportunities for all inhabitants, regardless of gender or social status; it ensures access to the city’s most essential services, and improves the use of public space. In addition, using public transport costs residents one-sixteenth of owning a private car.
The EU project Unleashing the Potential of Public Transport (UPPER), of which Valencia is a partner, aims to strengthen the role of public transport as a flagship for sustainability and mobility innovation in cities.
Nine other cities are participating in UPPER, alongside Valencia, leading the transformation of public transport: Rome, Ile de France, Oslo and Mannheim and in their twinning sites of Lisbon, Leuven, Hannover, Budapest and Thessaloniki. The project will place public transport at the heart of the mobility ecosystem and will implement a combination of 84 push and pull, acting on five axes that condition citizens’ choice of public transport versus individual motorised vehicles: mindset and culture, urban mobility planning, mobility services ecosystem, road network management and democratic governance.