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By AITOR HERNÁNDEZ-MORALES
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Happy Thursdaycity lovers, and welcome back to POLITICO’s Living Cities project.
Before we get into this week’s newsletter, let’s do a little experiment. Think of a typical city street, maybe even the street where you live. Once you have the image in your mind, look at the cars, not just the ones driving down the street, but also the ones parked along it. Now delete the ones from the image.
Remarkable amount of space that is released, right? There is room to walk, ride a bike, let the kids play. Across Europe, local leaders are looking for ways to make that mental exercise a reality. More on that after the jump.
EUROPE’S CAR-FREE PIONEER: A stopping point in Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route Situated between the Galician port city of Vigo and the regional capital of Santiago, the streets of the Spanish city of Pontevedra have always been bustling with activity. The constant flow of traffic was manageable before the advent of the automobile, but then it flooded the city: in the late 1990s, an average of 80,000 cars circulated daily through the city of 85,000 people. It also registered an average of 140 road accidents with serious injuries each year.
“This city was basically a giant car warehouse, full of private vehicles that filled our public space, generated noise and emissions, and prevented our citizens, especially children and the elderly, from having true autonomy in the place where they lived.” The mayor of Pontevedra, Miguel Anxo Fernández Lores, elected to the position in 1999 in a campaign that promised to recover the streets, told me in an interview.
The Praza de Curro Enríquez in Pontevedra has gone from being choked to being without cars | City of Pontevedra
Cars outside, people inside: The scheme that championed transformed Pontevedra. From the city cars prohibited in most of the city center in 1999, pollution was reduced by more than 60 percent, and the city has not seen a fatal highway-related accident in more than a decade. The quality of life has also “improved dramatically,” according to Fernández Lores, who noted that some 15,000 people have moved to the city since it became a car-free country.
Trapping: As cities across Europe seek to meet ambitious climate targets, many are considering or already implementing measures to expel cars to reduce emissions and reduce pollution. But in places where cars are deeply embedded in city life, such as Brussels, local leaders are also wary of public backlash, particularly from the business community, which expresses concern that limited car access will discourage customers and hurt your bottom line.
The city of Brussels is implementing measures to reduce car traffic as part of the region’s Good Move plan | Brussels city
open ears: Bart Dhondt, the official who oversees a ambitious mobility plan for the city of Brussels, he said his team has doubled down on its communication with companies: “We will continue to listen because we have to be pragmatic and honest enough to address any side effects that may arise,” he said.
Read my story here.
CHAMPIONS OF URBAN SUSTAINABILITY: Valencia, Spain, and Cagliari, Italy, have been named the two finalists for the European Green Capital Award 2024, which recognizes leading cities with a consistent track record of achievement high environmental standards. The Danish city of Elsinore, the Slovenian city of Velenje and the Romanian city of Bistrița were named finalists for the European Green Leaf Award, the award for cities with fewer than 99,999 inhabitants. The winners will be announced on October 27 at Grenoble, France, which holds the title of Green Capital 2022. There is €600,000 up for grabs for the winner of the European Green Capital Award; The first prize of the European Green Leaf Award is €200,000.
BUTTs ARE NOT ALLOWED: If you’re thinking of lighting up a cigarette while lounging on a Barcelona beach this summer, think again. the city this week prohibited cigarettes and nicotine products of its coastline. According to the city council, the ban is motivated by both environmental and health concerns; Cigarette butts can take up to 10 years or more to break down. People who break the new laws face a fine of €30.
People cool off by the Trafalgar Square fountains in central London | Calros Jasso/AFP via Getty Images
KEEP THE LIGHTS ON: High temperatures across Europe last week caused electricity demand to soar in many European cities. In London, the surge outstripped supply and left parts of the city. dangerously close to a blackout. The British authorities were able to keep the lights on, but only by exporting power from Belgium at a record price. electricity was for £9,724.54 (about €11,550) per megawatt hour, more than 5,000 percent more than the usual price of imported energy. UK households are likely to see that transaction reflected in energy bills at the end of the summer.
EASY AND SUCTION CUP BRUSSELS: The Belgian capital may be known for its bad weather, but Ostend-based wind power company EDSG is Looking to taking advantage of the strong winds that hit the coastal city by installing small turbines on tall buildings. The idea is not unreasonable: EDSG already has small-scale turbines installed in social housing buildings in Hasselt, and a 2014 study commissioned by Brussels Environment, the environment and energy agency of the Belgian capital, concluded that there is enough wind to make these projects economically profitable in the city.
CLOSE THE DOOR: Paris has announced that penalty fee air-conditioned businesses up to €150 if they leave doors or windows open, wasting valuable energy. Formidable.
DRIVER, FOLLOW THAT BIRD! Flying taxis may seem like the ultimate pipe dream of the space age, but exhibitors at last week’s Farnborough airshow in Hampshire insisted electric short-haul planes will soon be flying through our cities. Mobility manufacturers such as Embraer and Hyundai predict that within three to five years so-called electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft could be ready for use, including for ferrying passengers to and from airports. Virgin Atlantic and Vertical Aerospace, a UK eVTOL startup, recently Announced they would be testing air taxi travel from London Heathrow and Bristol airports from 2024.
urban sprawl: Cities are at the center of the strategies of future flying taxi operators. Mike Whitaker, chief commercial officer of Supernal, Hyundai’s US-based electric aerial vehicle unit, told my colleague Mari Eccles that the technology could allow people to more easily commute between jobs in high-traffic metropolitan areas. price like San Francisco and more affordable residential areas. Whitaker said he was too early to estimate how much these flights might cost, but he compared it to Uber premium black service. “When you think about how much you save on your mortgage, you can [afford to] spend a good amount on the commute to the city to your well-paying job,” he said.
Vertical Airspace is one of the companies developing these vehicles | Vertical
Who is in charge? European cities have been explicit in their desire to have a say in how urban air mobility policy is developed. In 2020, Amsterdam, Porto, Stockholm and Ljubljana were among the signatories of a manifest in which they asked that “the role of cities…as one of the competent authorities in the governance of urban airspace… [be] explicitly recognized. Whitaker agreed that municipalities should have information about where so-called vertiports are built and should be allowed to express local noise expectations and rules. “But there can be tension if the city thinks it can design the airspace… We don’t want [different] airspace rules in different cities,” he said.
Who is at the wheel? Whitaker told Mari that ultimately the plan is for the vehicles to be autonomous, but he acknowledged that the public will need time to get used to the idea. He predicted that pilotless aircraft could arrive in the mid-2030s as long as the “regulatory structure [is] in place and people [are] accepting.” Security concerns are likely to be front and center in the debate, with reminders of recent helicopter taxi accident fresh in people’s minds.
I have been delighted to receive more messages about public transport infrastructure with interesting names.
Berlin city center subway station | creative commons
This week Philip Lott in Berlin wrote about Berlin center U-Bahn station, noting that it is “quite stereotypical German to simply name a station ‘city center'”, but also misleading: “Berlin historically is really a city of many ‘centers'”.
This week I’m curious to hear your thoughts on the aforementioned flying taxis: Would you ever use one? Let me know here.
– I couldn’t help but laugh at this. Forbes column hilariously out of touch warning of the dangers of importing Europe’s “war on cars” into American cities. In terms of lack of insight, it lives up to comments made by Carla Sands, the former US ambassador to Denmark, who last month said that the Danes’ love of cycling was due to their inability to pay for cars.
— This illustrated article in The country does a good job of showing how cars and urban infrastructure contribute to the deadly “heat island” effect in cities (which I explored in depth last week).
— A net-zero office building, a combined social housing project for a primary school and a timber-framed library are shortlisted for the 2022 Royal Institute of British Architects Stirling Prize, the UK’s highest architectural award: Look at them.
THANKS TO: Giovanna Coi, eccles of the sea my editors Esther King Y james randersonand my 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.
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