The role of planning towards sustainable urban mobility

In Europe, 74% of the population live and work in cities with more than 50,000 inhabitants. This, together with an aging urban population, has the potential to strengthen problems related to mobility and transport systems. Cities are confronted with the pressing dilemma of how to increase the quality of life in face of these demographic changes. A new article collection published in European Transport Research Review highlights different areas of concern and proposes a number of solutions.

Today’s cities are intensively looking for solutions of how to further maintain, improve and possibly increase mobility of people and goods and at the same time alleviate the negative side-effects of transport like congestion, emissions, noise, the loss of public space to traffic, and road safety, amongst others. Choosing city-level or even institutional measures and policy tools pose a significant challenge for responsible (local) governments and public and private institutions.

The decision-making processes should be supported by appropriate research activities, good unequivocal evidence and high-quality evaluation of the already implemented measures, by the transfer of technologies and exchange of experiences. In the current situations with presence of multiple objectives (social, economic, environmental), multiple stakeholders, often limited data availability, and diverse intrinsic context of each city, an integrated, multidisciplinary approach is needed.

The potential of the research outputs to influence planning towards a more sustainable urban transport was discussed by nearly 30 researchers from different fields of social sciences at the 2016 NECTAR Cluster 2 and Cluster 3 Joint Conference in Brno, the Czech Republic. A new ETRR article collection on “The role of planning towards sustainable urban mobility”, guest edited in collaboration with Maria Attard and Sandra Melo, consists of seven papers presented at the conference.

Collection highlights and conclusions

Four of the papers presented in this special issue focus on urban logistics and the other three deal with personal transport in urban areas. Geographically, this collection covers examples from the EU, USA and Israel. The papers contribute to the actual planning practice and decision-making at the city and institutional level using different approaches. They demonstrate different means of achieving sustainability, addressing specific aspects of both people and freight movements in several case studies.

The research topics in this special issue cover an extensive range of problems. However, it can be inferred that future research seems to be pointing towards a better understanding of the variety of user groups in urban areas and their needs for mobility.

Some papers argue that it is necessary to identify various groups of stakeholders within the city population and to provide tailor made measures for each group. Other papers analyse non-motorized transport modes and alternative fuels and engines, especially e-mobility, and its potential in cities and city logistics. Lastly, from the special issue it is possible to conclude that city planners need to broaden their perspectives towards planning and evaluation tools for the development and financing of urban transport.

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