Behavioural Change for Urban Mobility

6 September 2023 - // Opinions
Herald Ruijters
Director responsible for Investment, Innovative & Sustainable Transport, DG MOVE, European Commission

Cities as Catalysts for Behavioural Change: Engaging administrations, citizens and businesses in the Mobility Transition

Cities have for thousands of years played a vital role in driving behavioural change and shaping our evolving mobility needs and respective solutions. Urban areas were, and are today more than ever, the hubs in our transport networks. They are often the starting point or final destination for travel of people and goods. Much so in the European Union where more than 70% of the population live in cities and in many areas around the world where we had, or are expecting to have, similar developments.

Our cities are vibrant hubs of innovation and human interaction, making them ideal catalysts for trying out new solutions and implementing the good ones for changing our mobility for the better. Some solutions even appear without any long planning and preparation, they are suddenly there and provide new mobility solutions (and new challenges). Think for example of e-scooters.

The European Commission has for a long time been providing support to cities and citizens to test and embrace innovation. To try and implement new technologies and services and find better solutions to old and new problems. Please do check out our relevant programmes, instruments, and policies, including Horizon Europe, its mission on 100 Climate Neutral and Smart Cities by 2030, the Trans-European Transport Networks (TEN-T) and its 424 urban nodes and the EU Urban Mobility Framework and its very successful concept on Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMPs). These are amongst the themes to be discussed in the Urban Mobility Days, in Sevilla, 4 to 6 October 2023.

I am very much aware that it is not only in or between cities that people and goods travel. We have increasing numbers of commuters which work or educate themselves in the cities or visit cities for leisure (or temporarily leave the cities for business, leisure, and education). Nearly 30% of our population live in rural and remote areas. They need suitable mobility solutions and have our full attention to that regard. Transferability of solutions (and their acceptance) is important to be able to adapt good solutions for all.

As the world faces pressing challenges related to climate change, air pollution, and congestion, cities are increasingly recognized as key actors in transitioning to more sustainable and efficient transport modes.

I mentioned technologies and systems, instruments, and tools. But the most important factors are the users for which we design the mobility solutions.

It is not easy for humans to embrace change, not even change for the better. Our species and thus our brains have evolved by learning how to preserve energy as much as possible. Business as usual costs least energy (for the moment) and change (for a better long-term future) costs more energy.

So, if we want to jointly change our behaviour for embracing safer, more inclusive, clean, and smarter mobility solutions for the better of our society and our planet, we need to convince many human brains that the long-term benefits will be worth it.

Therefore, we collaborate and co-create this mobility transformation with many stakeholders, including industry players, policymakers, citizens, using initiatives such as the Cities Mission.

We aim at creating an enabling environment that encourages individuals to adopt sustainable and smart mobility options. Cities can, and do, involve citizens in innovative policies, organise awareness campaigns and can thereby influence citizens’ travel choices, promote active modes of transport, and reduce dependence on private vehicles. By prioritizing sustainable mobility, cities can significantly impact emissions reduction, air quality improvement, and overall liveability. This is being experimented throughout the world, in over 3000 cities, every year, in the Mobility Week.

The European Commission is there as a partner for Member States, cities and citizens to jointly progress on this long journey to a sustainable and prosperous future.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not (necessarily) reflect REVOLVE's editorial stance.
Herald Ruijters
Director responsible for Investment, Innovative & Sustainable Transport, DG MOVE, European Commission

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