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Paving the way towards sustainable urban mobility

Cities across Europe are grappling with the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat the climate crisis. As the transportation sector emerges as a significant contributor to CO₂ emissions, transforming urban mobility has become a critical challenge. Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMPs) offer a promising framework for cities to tackle this complex issue and pave the way towards a greener future.

Road transport, referring to the movement of passengers and goods, is the second-largest contributor to CO₂ emissions in the European Union. As global emissions need to be reduced to tackle the climate crisis, the local level can significantly impact whether climate goals are reached or not. In other words, decreasing emissions through transport is crucial for cities to achieve their goals for climate neutrality.

Transportation, particularly in urban areas, is one of the primary sources of greenhouse gas emissions and the most significant source of air pollution. Numerous cities are currently, and sadly, surpassing the European air quality standards. The consequences of air pollution are severe, leading to over 200,000 premature deaths annually in the European Union. This being said, the promotion of active modes of mobility like walking or biking and public transport not only contributes to public health and improves the quality of life but also augments safety.

While transforming transport to a more sustainable direction is crucial in European cities, many cities have encountered challenges in transforming their mobility systems. For example, information only sometimes moves between different departments in cities, which causes issues in reaching sustainability goals. To create a holistic and concrete sustainability plan, information needs to flow between different departments. Effective communication and infrastructure planning, zero-emission logistics, and EU regulations are the keys to tackling challenges toward more safe, accessible, and smart urban cities.

Understanding the key terms: Urban Mobility and Sustainable Urban Mobility Planning

According to the European Commission, around 75% of EU citizens live in urban areas (cities, towns, and suburbs). As urban populations are constantly rising, cities are actively exploring innovative solutions to tackle problems like traffic congestion, air pollution, and the overall habitability of cities.

Urban mobility refers to the transit of individuals in a city but also considers other counterparties. Urban mobility as a concept is multidisciplinary, and its key components include transportation modes, infrastructure, traffic management, accessibility, sustainability, smart mobility systems, and policy making.

On the other hand, Sustainable Urban Mobility Planning describes a planning process for tackling urban mobility issues. It focuses on people, and the primary objective is to improve accessibility and the quality of life. Sustainable urban mobility planning combines the infrastructure, market, regulations, information, and promotion, and the process takes into consideration the interdisciplinary teams and stakeholders to integrate the information from different parties.

An efficient way to manage sustainable urban mobility are Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMP), which we will discuss in the chapter below.

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What are Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans?

Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMPs) serve as a tool and framework for cities to plan, implement, monitor and communicate mobility actions. SUMPs aim to satisfy the mobility needs of people and businesses, and their surroundings for a better quality of life. SUMPs incorporate existing planning methods while carefully considering integration, participation, and evaluation principles through providing a framework for promoting new mobility options. (European Platform on Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans, 2020).

The primary goal of SUMPs is to reduce emissions and enhance the overall quality of life by creating a safe, affordable, and inclusive city.

The European Commission strongly encourages towns and cities, regardless of size, to develop and implement SUMPs, but they are (still) optional. Although SUMPs are not mandatory, they offer a helpful framework for developing a vision, setting goals, deciding on measures, and monitoring and evaluating the actions. SUMPs can also be required for cities to receive specific EU funding.

Involving citizens and stakeholders: Prioritizing People-Centric Mobility

SUMPs have proven effective in addressing key aspects while ensuring the overall well-being of citizens and serving as a strategic tool and guideline. As mentioned in this article, the core principle behind SUMPs is not only to decrease emissions but to place people at the center of urban planning. It involves an integrated approach that considers various strategies, including climate strategies, and seamlessly integrates them into the city's processes.

Kausal's tools can support cities to implement, monitor and communicate SUMPs. Our next blog post will look at SUMPs from a more practical point of view - we will explore examples featuring Kausal's solutions.

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