27 Nov 2019

With transport representing almost a quarter of EU’s greenhouse gas emissions, a true urban mobility revolution is needed to make cities more connected, liveable, and greener and to fulfil the EU’s pledge of becoming carbon-neutral by 2050.

From a city perspective, 2030 is tomorrow. A clear and rapid plan of action is necessary at EU, national and local level to tackle climate change.

EU policy

It is clear that there cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach to urban mobility, given the diverse geographic, social, economic and cultural factors. Equally, though, finding the right strategic policy fit will involve learning lessons from other markets as different regional governments try different solutions. The high taxes in Belgium, for instance, result in employers giving extra-legal benefits in the form of company cars, adding to the pollution and congestion problem.

Congestion, air and noise pollution, accidents, inaccessibility, energy consumption, and CO2 emissions are the most common transport-related problems shared by European cities. To assist European cities in tackling these challenges, the European Commission developed a concept for Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMPs) in 2013, with a set of guidelines on road safety, urban logistics and intelligent transport.

Future vehicles, current challenges

Whilst the challenge of urban mobility is a complex one, the good news is that technological advancements are already transforming not only the way we travel but also the way we live. Clean and energy-efficient vehicles are key to achieving the EU objectives of reduced energy consumption and emissions.

Current options range from battery electric to hydrogen and clean diesel vehicles. However, new technologies come with challenges related to the development of charging infrastructure, grid capacity, and time constraints in relation to charging. The solution will need to be adapted to location and user, such as fast charging (closer to highways, commercial vehicles/buses) and slower charging (at home and workplace, private users).

Simultaneously, the development of connected and automated vehicles could facilitate the transition to safer, cleaner, more efficient and more user-friendly mobility – but here as well, there are hurdles around safety, 5G, infrastructure, liability and ethics.

On your e-bike (or e-scooter)

One fundamental issue in the move to transform urban transport is that our current systems have been designed for an average user who, in fact, does not exist.

A revolutionised urban mobility model should be mindful of both the various needs of its users – be they based on age, accessibility, travel purpose or duration – and their preferences – such as their demands for comfort or privacy. In this spirit, a new range of flexible mobility options based on shared and on-demand access are appearing, demonstrated by the many car- and ride-sharing initiatives already established or in test phases.

Many regions have also seen a significant increase in the use of bikes (both private and shared), whilst e-scooters became an overnight sensation, demonstrating European citizens’ preference for flexible and active transport modes. In an increasingly crowded arena of consumer choice, these new developments create challenges of their own, such as the space usage (road, bike lane, pavement) and related safety issues. Many of these are far from insurmountable; complaints from some commuters about irresponsible parking of bikes and e-scooters, for example, could easily be addressed by defining concrete parking areas.

Learning to share

Given the expected increase in urban population and the need to tackle congestion, shared mobility is essential. Multiple sharing services are already successfully implemented in cities all over Europe. This option is especially suitable for dense urban areas with many potential users, where there is a higher chance of two or more people traveling on the same trajectory at the same time.

Sharing should be complemented by a redistribution of public space: more road space devoted to public transport, active and shared modes, and less space for personal cars (both lanes and parking). To increase travel efficiency, mobility as a service (MaaS) combines end-to-end trip planning, booking, ticketing, and payment services across all modes of transportation (public or private). While MaaS is at an early stage, it holds the promise of being a viable alternative to car ownership.

One size won’t fit all

It is crucial that businesses tailor their approaches to the diverse urban mobility landscape across Europe. In the face of these differences, a holistic and bespoke approach to mobility is necessary to integrate clean and safe car sharing effectively with public transport and active mobility modes. This will help ensure liveable cities where European citizens thrive.

To find out more about mobility in Europe, please contact Barbara Cooreman from our Brussels team: bcooreman@Hanovercomms.com.