Toolkit and e-learning will support cities’ sustainable mobility transitions

By Dr. M. Teresa de la Cruz, ZLC Project Manager.

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Regular readers may recall that ZLC has been the lead co-ordinator in the SPROUT project. Funded from the EU’s Horizon 2020 budget, Sustainable Policy RespOnse to Urban mobility Transition has been a three year and a half programme to explore legislative and governmental issues affecting the new business models that are emerging in the area of urban transport and mobility, both passenger and freight.

We outlined the ambitions for the programme towards the end of 2019 (see / ) and after a pandemic and forty-two months, SPROUT has achieved its objectives.

Over the past ten years or so, diverse approaches to urban mobility have been proposed and in many cases trialled (and ZLC has been involved in some of those initiatives through various research programmes). But it is apparent that often these innovations are not easily compatible with the complex web of regulations and policies in different cities. Some of these rules may be hold-overs from the horse-drawn age; but equally some are recent regulations intended to improve sustainability, but which may not allow for novel approaches. Examples currently in the news are the regulatory responses to Uber and its competitors, resulting in legal actions or outright bans in some jurisdictions; and widespread problems in regulating the use of increasingly popular e-scooters. There will be others: the rules around autonomous or self-driving vehicles, drones, and other potential solutions will need to be resolved.

These are world-wide issues, but at the same time every conurbation has different characteristics: what may be acceptable or even desirable in one city may not work in the same way in another. But if policies unduly hinder innovation, both economic development and the achievement of sustainability goals will be hindered.

So SPROUT has had two main goals. Firstly, to provide a city-lead policy response that can harness new mobility solutions making them more attractive and sustainable; and second, to produce evidence-based knowledge and tools, that will help municipalities navigate their urban mobility policies through periods of transition. SPROUT needed first to understand the transitions that are occurring; identify the drivers of change and foresee their likely impacts; formulate city-led policy responses; and create the tools that will improve local policy-making and enable them to develop and navigate future policies as novel mobility solutions continue to emerge.

SPROUT has brought together some 40 municipalities, at various levels of involvement. In a ‘first tier’ SPROUT has been supporting five cities in developing innovative policy responses to, in all, 9 potential mobility solutions. These included ‘smart’ parking for urban deliveries (Kalisz); the interface between bicycle users, and parcel receivers, and a metro system (Valencia); the integration of self-driving combined passenger and freight ‘pods’ (Padova); using advanced data collection and analytics to manage traffic and mobility (Tel Aviv); and the creation of ‘micro-mobility‘ points alongside the reallocation of traffic and urban spaces (Budapest). (It will be noted that a solution such as a revision of street closures does not have to be at the cutting edge of technology to make a valid contribution, although other technologies such as data analytics may be key to successful design and implementation).

A wider set of cities has been ‘validating’ the findings of these pilots in terms of their transferability, and enriching them from their own, perhaps somewhat different experiences, and a third tier has been considering problems specific to their cities in the light of SPROUT’s work.

Bringing all this together through various tools, SPROUT has developed two indices suggesting on the one hand how sustainable (or ‘liveable’) a city is, and on the other axis, how ready a city is for innovation and mobility development. Perhaps inevitably, this gives the traditional 2×2 matrix, defining four ‘city types’, which we have called ‘Transition Starter’, ‘Sustainable’, ‘Innovation Ready’, and, in the desirable top-right corner, ‘Mobility Pioneer’. The tools that position cities on this matrix also identify strengths and weaknesses, and enable benchmarking with other cities that have begun their mobility transition journey. All of these outputs will be generally available very shortly in a web-based toolbox.

But these findings are not much use if policy makers and their advisors don’t know about or understand them. So SPROUT has also created three e-learning courses. One is on early policy alerts and action tracking, and a second is about policy design, creating coalitions, and developing competent governance. The third course (which we have written about previously, see ) introduces data-driven approaches to Sustainable Urban Mobility/Logistics Planning (SUMP/SULP).

The SPROUT approach to urban mobility policy-making should assist any sizeable urban area to harness innovative solutions to improve both urban mobility and sustainability while taking into account their city’s unique characteristics.


For more information please contact Dr. Teresa de la Cruz at [email protected].