European Mobility Week: 80 Italian cities and hundreds of “zero emissions” initiatives

 In NEWS & INTERVIEWS, Sustainable Mobility, Technical innovation

The 2020 edition dedicated to carbon neutrality was held over the last few days. The event also focused on the lessons learned from the lockdown in order to improve travel and life in urban settings

Eighty cities in Italy took part 16-22 September in the European Mobility Week. The initiative has sought since 2002 to promote clean mobility and sustainable urban transport to improve public health and quality of life. The central topic of the 2020 edition was “Zero emissions: Mobility for everyone”. This refers to the European Union’s objective of achieving zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, as stated by Ursula von der Leyen, President of the Commission, when presenting the Green Deal. All the more, this year’s edition also tackled the challenge posed by the coronavirus in an effort to make the most of this experience for the future. The resources of the 2020 campaign included “Ten lessons learned from the lockdown for better urban mobility”, drawn up by the organizers whose members include the Commission, coordinated networks of European cities and coordinated representatives of national ministries and agencies.

These “lessons” were most probably the distinctive aspect of this year’s edition and the first is that “public space is precious”. It is consequently important to manage cities with people rather than cars in mind. The second lesson is the recognition of the value of essential workers, including public transport employees and everyone who contributes to our mobility. “The invisible has become visible” is the third lesson: that is, noise and air pollution dropped to unprecedented levels and we have perceived cleaner air and quieter urban spaces – a situation that, at least in part, could well be maintained. The next two lessons are closely related to the previous one: the fourth is that “our world was running too fast”; we can slow things down by imposing speed limits in urban areas of 30 km/hour. The fifth emphasises that “respiratory health and an active lifestyle are now more important than ever”.

The list continues with three aspects focusing on work, school and technology. “Working from home has become normal and possible”. However, this does not hold true for all occupations and solutions are needed to ensure a safe recovery. More sustainable alternatives as regards accompanying children to school are also needed. Digital tools are essential for efficient use of transport systems but they must be accessible to everyone. The last two lessons concern online shopping and their positive yet also negative aspects, and the vulnerability of certain groups of people, with the exhortation to build cities without barriers.

Online events could hardly not have been organised in the year of the pandemic. However, effective initiatives in local areas played a central role: as usual, the event provided cities taking part with opportunity to present alternative approaches to mobility and people the chance to explore the streets in a different way, as well as to experience and evaluate practical solutions in response to urban challenges such as traffic and air pollution.

The European Mobility Week was also the occasion to organise specific activities or even to implement permanent measures or car-free days. Some local councils worked in all three directions. Inasmuch, this saw the inauguration, for example, of transport services, bicycle paths, charging stations, pedestrian areas and areas free of architectural barriers. Plans, strategies and projects were also outlined. Some councils proposed free test drives involving electric scooters, as well as hybrid and electric cars; others focused on specific programmes for children. Walks, bicycle tours, round tables, conferences, book presentations and exhibitions were also organised.