Men and their cars — Spain’s free ride extends — View from across the pond – POLITICO

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Happy Thursday, city ​​lovers, and welcome to the final newsletter of the mobility chapter of our Living Cities project.

Over the last three months, we have watched as cities are transforming their mobility networks as part of larger efforts to become greener and more livable.

In places like Pontevedra, that has meant banishing cars from the city limits, while in Brussels local authorities have enacted an ambitious and controversial circulation plan to drastically reduce car traffic in the centre.

Other cities, such as Prague and Mechelen, have tackled traffic by using cargo bikes and autonomous buses to reduce the number of delivery vans criss-crossing the city.

We also explain how private vehicles contribute to lethal urban heat, and look at how Nuremberg and Utrecht have greened tram tracks and bus stops to reduce the heat emitted by heavy metal transport infrastructure.

We weigh the value of schemes like Germany’s experimental €9 monthly transport ticket, which we use to get from Aachen to Görlitz in one day.

And we highlight how cities like Paris, Pamplona and Charleroi are using novel solutions to tackle traffic-related noise, make steep streets more bike-friendly and breathe new life into a “failed” metro network.

Movement is an integral part of our relationship with our cities, and this chapter leaves us with a general picture of cities that use bus lines, tram networks, metro systems, bike lanes and sidewalks as the thread that binds our urban fabric together, uniting neighborhoods and people into one. other.

See you soon: We’ll be back in your inbox on October 20 for the third chapter in this series, Sustainable Cities. We plan to investigate how cities are adapting to climate change, tackling emissions and air pollution, and becoming energy efficient in the midst of an energy crisis. Stay tuned!

See you before: I’ll be in the Bloomberg City Laboratory Conference in Amsterdam next week; drop by and say hello if you’re there too.


MEN AND CARS: As cities look to reduce their carbon footprint and reach ambitious net-zero emissions targets, many are investing millions in green mobility infrastructure and implementing plans to ban cars from city centers. But those measures won’t work unless they can incorporate a key demographic: men.

The gender factor: Men and women move around cities differently: on average, men travel long distances and tend to prefer their cars, while women include more stops in their trips and are more likely to choose alternatives to cars when They’re available. A Swedish study from 2020 found that if men traveled like women, national emissions from passenger transport would drop by nearly 20 percent.

is emotional: With most cities designed to house cars, driving tends to be the easiest option. But experts say there are other reasons why men are reluctant to use other means of transportation: Owning a car has also long been a symbol of material wealth, social status and independence, and is closely tied to ideas of masculinity, said Ana Drăguțescu, coordinator of sustainable mobility and transportation at ICLEI Europea network of local authorities that promote sustainability.


Urban planners argue that to reduce traffic, cities must actively target male drivers | Martin Bureau/AFP via Getty Images

Breaking up is hard Urban planners now argue that to reduce emissions and traffic, cities must actively target male drivers. In the Swedish city of Umeå, local leaders set up a scheme with employers in an industrial neighborhood to encourage workers to leave their cars at home, offering benefits to those who changed their travel habits. Meanwhile, in the Brussels region, authorities have attacked men in advertising campaigns to increase the use of the bicycle.

Worker woman: Solving the problem will require addressing the gender disparity in the urban mobility sector, said Karen Vancluysen, general secretary of POLIS, a network of cities working to promote transport solutions. “This [not a] secret [that] the transportation industry has a diversity problem,” he said, saying the challenge extends “from the boardroom to the bus stop.” The transport sector, where women are part only 22 percent – will only get better when “everyone has a seat at the table, and a real seat, not just a stool in the back of the room,” he argued.

Read my colleague Gio’s full story here.


FREE RIDERS: Local and regional travel on Spain’s state railways will remain free until the end of 2023, the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez Announced this week as part of the government’s latest budget proposal. The measure expands the country’s current free rail transportation program, whose objective is to encourage sustainable displacement and alleviate the impact of the country’s cost of living crisis. The three-month scheme was initially scheduled to expire in December.

THE LARGEST LOW EMISSIONS AREA IN EUROPE: Milan strengthened its low emission zone this week to cover most of the city and effectively ban the most polluting cars. An estimate 24 percent of vehicles in the metropolitan area will be affected by the measure designed to reduce traffic and air pollution within the city.


Bergamo’s pilot cycle program runs until the end of 2022 | Bergamo City Hall

CYCLING IS WORTH: The Italian city of Bergamo has launched a new scheme that rewards residents for riding a bike. Participating travelers can earn €0.25 per kilometer traveled and up to €30 per month; payment is doled out in the form of coupons that are accepted at local businesses.

GREEN LIGHT FOR THE EXTENSION OF THE RING ROAD: The Cypriot government launched the bidding process for the Nicosia-Palechori highway this week as part of plans to reinforce the Cypriot capital’s ring road. Cyprus is one of the EU countries car dependent countries and Nicosia has a serious congestion problem. The 71.4 million euros The road project seeks to reduce pressure on the streets of the capital and create space for public transport.

ICYMI: Last month, my colleague Hanne investigated why electric cars haven’t taken off on the island yet.


EXTERNAL PERSPECTIVE: In this chapter, we have spoken to a large number of European politicians, planners and experts. For this latest newsletter, we thought we’d change the perspective and ask a local US leader what European mobility looks like from across the Atlantic.

Meet John Bauters, the mayor of Emeryville, California. An avid cyclist, Bauters traveled to Europe this week to check out sustainable mobility in Utrecht, Rotterdam, The Hague and Nijmegen in a visit sponsored by the Dutch government; afterwards, he cycled to Brussels, where we met for coffee. His main takeaway from the trip: “Compared to the places I visited, the United States is terribly behind when it comes to creating people-oriented spaces in cities.”

That includes Emeryville: Officially, the city has only 13,000 inhabitants. But its location at the base of the San Francisco Bay Bridge, directly across from the city in Oakland, means some 600,000 cars pass through every day. Some 40,000 people also work and shop in the city daily. Bauters is working for reduce automobile use and increasing sustainable mobility to improve the lives of Emeryville residents, but it’s an uphill battle, he said.


Bauters on a recent cycling adventure | Image courtesy of John Bauters

The transatlantic divide: Bauters said he was struck by the fact that cities are laid out very differently in the US than they are in Europe: Americans’ fixation with “owning a piece of land in the suburbs” means that the Most cities suffer from urban sprawl, which makes them more difficult to navigate. “It’s incredibly difficult to provide sustainable transportation services to something that’s so dispersed,” he said. But despite that challenge, Bauters, who also serves as chairman of the Alameda County transportation commission, which is home to about 1.7 million people, said American cities can copy strategies implemented in Europe, like the tactics of Rotterdam to reduce the traffic.

Spending time in cities where “cars have never been relevant, or where their use and role in urban space has diminished” was refreshing, he said. “The US may not have many cities as well built as those that date back to the 14th century, but there are many densely populated parts of cities like San Francisco and Oakland that can be reevaluated and made car free.”

It’s not about money: Bauters praised the cities he visited for “not obsessing over infrastructure fixes” and instead focusing on finding cost-effective ways to increase the use of sustainable transport by incentivizing behavioral changes and challenging people’s preconceptions. “We’ve been sold on a romanticized, hyper-masculine view of car ownership as a symbol of independence and freedom,” he said. “For me, it’s a financial prison: a social isolator that limits our ability to spend time in a common space with our community.”



What did you think of this chapter on Mobile Cities? And what would you like to read about in our next chapter on Sustainable Cities? Get in touch.



— I was delighted with the enthusiasm of the Brussels mobility operator STIB response to a plan written by hand sent by Benjamin, 8 years old, proposing 21 new routes through the capital. Urban planning is truly a passion that can be developed at any age.

Bloomberg City Laboratory has an interesting article on how bike share schemes can be a boon when natural disasters destroy public transport networks.

— Following a Danish initiative launched in April, the European Commission’s DG Move has launched its own version of the #BikesForUkraine Schemethat will send bikes to war-torn cities in Ukraine.

MANY THANKS TO: Giovanna Coi, my editors Esther King Y james randerson and producer Julia Poloni.

POLITICO’s Global Policy Lab is a collaborative journalism project that seeks solutions to the challenges facing modern societies in an era of rapid change. In the coming months we will host a conversation on how to make cities more liveable and sustainable.

More from … Aitor Hernández-Morales

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