Urban experts rethink traffic congestion

The Urban Development Network, which brings together representatives of over 500 cities/urban areas from all over the EU, held a meeting on 23 November on Brussels dedicated to smart, innovative, and sustainable urban mobility, including the challenges of tackling congestion and ensuring urban traffic order and safety. The network’s strategic objective is to devise and implement integrated actions based on the members’ sustainable urban development strategies for 2014-2020.

Henrik Hololei, director general of the European Commission’s DG MOVE, set the stage by recalling that traffic congestions are not only annoying but also come with a high cost – a staggering €100 billion per year in Europe alone. New and efficient solutions to this problem do exist, he emphasised, urging the network members to adopt and promote them in their respective cities and regions and beyond. By way of example, he cited his home town Tallinn, a partner in the CREATE project and the first capital in the EU to offer free public transport to its citizens.
Bahar Namaki Araghi, ITS project manager in Copenhagen, spoke about the need to move beyond the limitations of “fragmented solutions” at urban level. In her capacity as her city’s coordinator for the Horizon 2020 SPICE project, she insisted on the importance of adopting smart procurement strategies, and said that networks such as EUROCITIES have a key role to play in this field.
During the dialogue session entitled ‘Investing in active modes (walking and cycling) in urban areas: what works and what doesn't? Potential for innovation’, a representative from Gdansk cited positive examples of initiatives and investments to encourage their peers to take action even if their national framework is not receptive to radical changes yet. Other speakers highlighted cycling and walking as congestion-busting alternatives, and recommended their inclusion in all urban transport modelling and planning schemes.
Participants agreed that the quest for sustainable solutions should be freed from ideological paradigms and that it is always the effectiveness and efficiency of said solutions that can win over even the most resistant mindsets.
In another session on ‘Smooth connections between long-distance and urban transport: integrating urban nodes into TEN-T corridors’, Gregory Telepak of the city of Vienna presented real-life examples and said that the existence of a transport hub must be complemented by good governance, conflict-sensitive planning, and adequate funding.
Other speakers, among them Sir Albert Bore from Birmingham and former MEP Mathieu Grosch, insisted on the need to tackle traffic congestion for economic, environmental, and health reasons. Innovative solutions hold the key to the related challenges, they said, adding that the adoption of a sustainable urban mobility plan is no doubt a step in the right direction.

More information: Urban Development Network