The new traffic plan in the city’s centre has triggered a 19% drop in traffic while increasing cycling by an average of 18%.
Good Move is the Regional Mobility Plan for the Brussels-Capital Region. Approved in 2020 by the Brussels Government, it defines the main policy guidelines in the field of mobility. This plan aims to improve the living environment of the people of Brussels, while supporting the demographic and economic development of the Brussels-Capital Region. In the city centre ‘pentagon’, the plan aims to change traffic flow through road closure and new one-way designation, thus leading to a less attractive driving experience.
After six months, the first results of the scheme have been unveiled, though local authorities state that it is too early to draw broad and sweeping conclusions. Initial findings indicate that the central part of Brussels has a reduced traffic flow, with more walking space, pedestrians, cyclists, reduced noise and cleaner air when compared to measurement prior to the scheme. Total traffic has fallen by approximately 19%, while morning and evening rush-hour cycling has risen by an approximately 23% and 13% respectively.
Alderman Dhondt was quoted in a press statement saying: “Many people have simply made a different mobility choice and switched to cycling or public transport, for example. The circulation plan thus contributes to the ultimate goal: a more pleasant city for everyone.”
Sixteen designated parking spaces have been set aside in the centre of Amersfoort in a quest to resolve the annoyance of irresponsibly parked electric scooters, shared by the city community. Similarly built hubs are also due for development in nearby local areas.
Residents have begun to protest against the often-abandoned vehicles, which have become hazardous for dwellers. A recent evaluation of the shared mobility scheme found that between January and August of 2022, bad parking accounted for over half of complaints. It’s believed that introducing designated parking areas will not only make the area safer, but will also make it easier to find one of the shared vehicles.
300 shared bicycles and 300 shared scooters are currently available for use by Amersfoort’s 150,000 inhabitants, although these numbers have reduced from 12,000 in mid-2022, due to two of five providers withdrawing from the sustainable transport scheme. However, the evaluation report concluded that half of the users have left their car at home in favour of the scooters, with the largest demographic under the age of 29. The main motives for the popularity were saving time, not needing to own a scooter or bike, and to have fun. From the reports, scooters have proved more favourable than the shared bicycles.
The evaluation was based upon Amersfoort residents’ survey answers, data from the providers, reports to local government and results from a survey of MBO students.
A new study, published in Nature Energy, states that cities should expect to see trade-offs between micromobility restrictions designed to promote public safety, and increased emissions associated with heightened congestion.
Titled “Impacts of micromobility on car displacement with evidence from a natural experiment and geofencing policy“, the study was created using data from Atlanta, USA. The city made for an ideal research base due to its sudden ban on the usage of shared micromobility devices at night, restricting use between 19:00-04:00 from 9 August, 2019 onwards. This gave the opportunity to compare traffic scenarios before and after the change.
The study found that, on average, travel times for car trips in Atlanta during evening hours increased between 9.9-10.7% immediately following the ban on shared micromobility. For an average commuter in Atlanta, that translated to an extra 2-5 minutes per evening trip.
The authors also concluded that the impact on commute times would likely be higher in other cities across the country. According to the study, “based on the estimated US average commute time of 27.6 minutes in 2019, the results from our natural experiment imply a 17.4% increase in travel time nationally.”
The economic impact of increased commuting times in the city of Atlanta was calculated at US $4.9M per annum. When looking on a national scale, the study estimated this impact to fall in the range of US $408M to $573M per annum.
Interestingly, the study’s dataset was recorded prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, which of course. played a major role in promoting, and increasing uptake of, shared micromobility. A similar study undertaken in todays’ transport climate could find an even greater burden on congestion, travel times, and economic impact on cities.
The Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) releases figures obtained from the study of 749 continental cities, projecting potential health detriment.
ISGlobal recently shared its noise pollution findings via the Environment International Journal, highlighting that 60 million people across Europe are negatively impacted by noise pollution. View the full breakdown of observed cities here.
The main cause of environmental noise in urban areas is road traffic, with previous research linking high levels of sustained environmental noise to a range of health impacts. Such impacts include a sustained stress response, in which stress hormones increase heart rate, blood pressure, and vasoconstriction. With time, such reactions may lead to chronic illnesses including depression, anxiety, and cardiovascular diseases. Even with this in mind, it is still surprising to learn of a further conclusion in the study: if cities committed to complying with World Health Organisation (WHO) noise-level guidelines, 3,600 ischaemic heart disease deaths could be prevented annually.
Of the 123 million adults that partook in the study, 48% were exposed to levels of environmental noise that averaged above 53 decibels in any given 24 hour period, exceeding guidelines by the WHO. Furthermore, 11 million adults admitted to being highly annoyed by road traffic noise, heightening associated stress levels.
It should be noted that results are not fully comprehensive and standardized as varying methodologies and datasets were utilized in the study. However, there can be no doubt that this extensive noise pollution study provides insight into a worrying traffic trend.
The booklet presents methods that could transform urban areas in regard to safety, covering key areas including city street design, traffic engineering, speed management, and improved mobility options. The booklet reflects policy makers’ new focus on converting typically motor-vehicle focused areas into liveable and safe spaces for residents.
9 measures are presented, each having proven to reduce traffic related deaths or serious injury. Case studies within each measure explore both the cost and the effectiveness of each method, allowing consideration for their application in comparable roads and cities. The booklet offers a truly global perspective into city road safety, and acts as a valuable new resource for transportation policy makers in urban areas.
Transportation accounts for 25% of total global CO2 emissions, primarily through fuel combustion. In many large cities, such as Barcelona and Madrid, combustion engine vehicle density has escalated air pollution levels to exceedingly high values. In line with European health legislation, many such cities have been forced to implement action plans to alleviate this issue; this includes low emission zones and vehicle environmental impact assessments.
A current emerging trend is electrifying mobility, with electric vehicle ownership increasing by a factor of ten in the last 5 years. These vehicles are perceived to have a significantly lower environmental impact than their combustion engine counterparts. Carranza et al. now analyze this environmental disparity in the context of Barcelona and motorcycles – in Spain, there was an 8.7% growth of motorcycle registrations in 2021 compared to the previous year. Understanding the potential for developing battery-electric motorcycle technology to reduce the environmental impact of motorcycle use in Spain is therefore crucial for limiting the country’s emissions going forward.
When analyzing the environmental impact of any vehicle there are multiple stages to consider – manufacturing, maintenance, operation, and disposal; however, the operational stage is where the most impact takes place. In internal combustion engine vehicles, direct emissions from fuel during their lifecycle equate to a value 10 times higher than their electric counterparts (6670 kgCO2-eq global warming potential compared to 650 kgCO2-eq). The source of electricity for battery electric vehicles does of course impact their individual emissions, doubling if supplied by purely coal plants; however, even at their highest point, operational emissions are still far below those of internal combustion vehicles.
Electric vs combustion engine
Considering all aspects of lifecycle, the global warming potential of battery-electric motorcycles is approximately one-fifth of internal combustion engine motorcycles, showing them to be a promising alternative. Regarding air pollution, the results of photochemical oxidation formation were 30% lower for electric motorcycles.
Electromobility will play a fundamental role in the transformation of densely populated and pollution-troubled European cities such as Barcelona. To read the full open access study, offering additional analysis and findings, click here.
Six years after the European Commission called for a step-change, there is no clear indication that EU cities are fundamentally changing their approaches to moving people around cities and shifting urban traffic to more sustainable and environmentally friendly modes of transport, concludes a new report from the European Court of Auditors (ECA). In particular, there has been no significant reduction in private car usage, and air pollution in many cities still exceeds safety levels.
The European Union is investing a lot of money to help cities make it easier for people to move around in an environmentally friendlier way. For the 2014-2020 period, it provided some €16.5 billion for urban mobility, mainly for clean transport (metro and tramway), but also for cycle paths and intelligent transport systems.
“Substantial improvements in making mobility in our cities more sustainable may need more time, but are not possible without Member States’ commitment. All stakeholders at EU, national, regional and city level should work together to achieve this goal,” said Iliana Ivanova, the ECA Member responsible for the report. “The brand new European Green Deal highlights how important it is to make the overdue step-change in our cities.”
The auditors examined whether EU support had helped make mobility in urban areas more sustainable and whether cities had made progress since the European Commission’s 2013 Urban Mobility Package. They examined public transport, pollution and congestion in eight metropolitan centres in four Member States: Hamburg and Leipzig in Germany, Naples and Palermo in Italy, Łódź and Warsaw in Poland, and Barcelona and Madrid in Spain.
An efficient public transport network, integrating surrounding areas and involving different transport options, is crucial for encouraging citizens to shift from private cars to cleaner means of travel such as walking, cycling, and public transport, say the auditors.
Since 2013, the Commission has issued guidance on tackling urban mobility challenges and increased EU funding for projects. This has allowed cities across Europe to put in place a range of initiatives to improve the quality and quantity of public transport. The auditors, however, note that EU-funded projects were not always based on sound urban mobility strategies and were not as effective as intended. Cities face challenges in making effective and sustainable use of EU support for two main reasons: providing sufficient financing of their own to cover operational and maintenance costs, and developing coherent policies for parking, traffic-free zones and cycling. The auditors also found that projects were often delayed and projected passenger numbers were not reached.
Since 2019, the Commission has started to make specific recommendations to Member States on urban mobility as part of the European Semester process. The auditors underline that these recommendations need to be followed up in respect of the way that EU and national funding is used. They also call on the Commission to require Member States to provide better data on urban mobility in their main cities and to report regularly on progress. Furthermore, cities without a robust sustainable urban mobility plan should no longer receive EU funding.