Freight in the mix for sustainable urban mobility

By Susana Val, ZLC Director

ZLC is leading investigations for the SUNRISE (Sustainable Urban Neighbourhoods Research and Implementation in Europe) project, with a particular remit to ensure that the problems and needs of freight and distribution traffic are fully integrated with those of passengers and residents.

SUNRISE, funded from the EU Horizon2020 programme, started work in May 2017 and is a four-year project to examine mobility problems and solutions at the neighbourhood level (with the possibility of findings being replicated in other areas in the city). Even in prosperous cities with well-developed transport networks there are often distinct areas which are disadvantaged in terms of communication, both internally and in their connections to other parts of the city. These may be ‘deprived’ areas with other social problems, but that is not necessarily so – such areas may be central or suburban, lower income or upper middle class, historic or recently developed, and with youthful or elderly populations.

The project is working intensively with neighbourhoods in six cities – Bremen, Budapest, Jerusalem, Malmo, Southend-on-Sea and Thessaloniki. Besides these ‘Neighbourhood Mobility Labs’,  neighbourhoods in seven other cities (Madrid, Lisbon, Brasov, Limerick, Gdynia, Vilnius and Fiestberaad Vlaanderen) are following the work as observers.

Each of the neighbourhoods involved has its own particular mix of challenges, but typically these include congestion and air and noise pollution; safety and security issues; low levels of public transport provision (with consequently high rates of car usage and ownership, and pressure on parking space); and built environment problems such as a lack of public spaces in which to rest or sit, and isolation caused by busy roads acting as physical barriers. Already we are finding that in Hulsberg neighbourhood (Bremen), which is currently undergoing gentrification, parked cars take away much of the street space, creating problems for other road users.

Lindängen in Malmo sees one particular priority as education – not just the journey to school, but teaching children how to ride a bicycle, or use public transport, and also issues of social exclusion (because of poor transport links). Safety perceptions are also important. Southend likewise is looking to increase the attractiveness of the city center, taking into account a significant ageing population.

In this mix, freight and urban logistics create both problems and solutions. Problems because freight creates pollution and congestion, degrades often lightly built or inappropriate infrastructure, and make alternatives such as walking and cycling unattractive or even dangerous. Solutions, because efficient urban logistics help sustain retailers, services and amenities, and employment opportunities at the neighbourhood level, which helps address social issues and can reduce the demand for longer distance travel.

SUNRISE is a multi-phase project. We have started by involving the stakeholders in each neighbourhood and from all levels of society in identifying the mobility problems they face. The project is bringing together local authorities and businesses, NGOs and academics with local citizens who can convey the concerns of, for example, schools and pupils, the elderly and infirm, the disadvantaged or unemployed, recent migrants, women.

In parallel, we are fostering and collecting evidence of innovative practices and initiatives across the cities with the aim of creating a matrix of ‘best practices’, which we can share and discuss with all the stakeholders. On the freight/distribution side these might include looking at new business models for route planning and delivery timing, ways of promoting the use of new, less noisy or polluting, equipment, and of lessening impacts through driver and operator training. SUNRISE will collect, analyse and evaluate results, and share these widely through, for example, webinars.

The emphasis throughout is on collaborative processes generated, implemented and ‘owned’ by the neighbourhood itself.

Besides empowering each neighbourhood to take devise and implement a set of actions likely to improve mobility issues, the project will create products, notably the Neighbourhood Mobility Pathfinder. This will form the basis of a powerful exchange process to inspire and inform change, not just in our Mobility Lab and observer neighbourhoods but, working in conjunction with CIVITAS, in neighbourhoods and city networks across Europe.

To follow the progress of SUNRISE please visit Civitas Sunrise or contact the Principal Investigator at ZLC, Prof Dr Susana Val, at [email protected]