EcoMobility: Actions Speak Louder than Words

On Saturday, 5 December, six visionary city leaders came together in the Cities & Regions Pavilion to display their actions to advance ecomobility in their cities. The session was organized by the City of Johannesburg and ICLEI.

The EcoMobility World Festival 2015 in October in Johannesburg constituted a landmark in the history of South African transport development. The project, which closed one lane of traffic for a month in Sandton, the Central Business District of Johannesburg, gave the citizens of Johannesburg other options for commuting to work and other activities in Sandton. The provision of accessible public transport, safe bicycle lanes and wider footpaths resulted in five times more pedestrian traffic and an almost 10% increase in public transport usage. The Johannesburg Declaration, an outcome of the EcoMobility World Festival 2015, was endorsed by city leaders and brought to the COP21 by Cllr Christine Walters, who is also the member of the mayoral committee of transport.

The city of Johannesburg has proven to the world that behaviour can be changed and that people can be convinced to leave their cars behind and take up sustainable transport.

Bold and visionary leadership are essential for transformation of mobility in cities – Cllr Walters

Also speaking at the session was the city of Kaohsiung’s Deputy Mayor Wu. The city of Kaohsiung has accepted the challenge of the EcoMobility World Festival, committing to closing one of its neighborhoods for a month to personal automobile and to promoting ecomobility.

Following Johannesburg’s presentation, city leaders from Oslo, Sydney, New York, Milan, Bogotá and Kaohsiung displayed their efforts to move away from personal automobiles and to encourage walking and cycling.

The city of Oslo aims to create a car-free city center by 2019 as a means not only of combatting climate change but also creating a city that is for the people. The city also has taken up the challenge of reducing its CO2 emissions by 50% by 2020 compared to its 1990 levels.

25% of Oslo’s citizens shall bicycle daily by 2025 – Deputy Mayor Lan Marie, City of Oslo

Defeating congestion is the aim for the city of Sydney, which loses AU$5 bn annually from congestion-related costs. The city is pursuing transformative projects such as accelerating light rail implementation in the city center, increasing bike lanes and access and fostering shared mobility. Despite strong opposition, the city recently completed 110 kilometers of their target 200 kilometers of bike lanes and has a well-developed walking and cycling strategy in place to promote a safer, comfortable and enjoyable walking and cycling experience.

We know that good transport, pedestrian and cycling connections are imperative. Without them, economic growth and liveability are constrained and threatened by congestion. – Clover Moore, Lord Mayor, City of Sydney

Following Sydney, the experience of New York City was shared with the audience. The transformation of Times Square is a well-known project in the transport community. In addition to transforming streets, the city of New York has adopted a Vision Zero policy to reduce the number of road fatalities to zero. The city will also transform major arteries through their initiative “Vision Zero Great Streets”. The city is also investing and working with partner agencies to advance the vital expansion of public transport capacity, as transit ridership hits post-WWII records.

By 2050, we must reduce nine million metric tons from power production, seven million metric tons from personal and commercial vehicles – Michael Replogle, Deputy Commissioner Policy, New York City

Congestion pricing is a proven measure to deter automobile traffic in city centers. The city of Milan has one of the most well-implemented congestion charging systems in Europe. The scheme was implemented in 2011 through a referendum, where 79.1% of the voters favored a plan of action to enhance public transport and alternative mobility. The revenues generated from the Area C system are re-invested into public transport, walking and cycling infrastructure in Milan. Since the implementation of Area C, public transport ridership has increased almost 15% (among all modes and durations of the day). The need for parking reduced by 10% and the road accidents fell by 26%. The air quality in the area also increased thanks to the removal of over 49% of polluting vehicles.

The reduction of the cars circulating in the city centre enabled the reuse of the public spaced once reserved to the parking. – Dy Mayor Pierfrancesco Maran, City of Milan.

The city of Bogotá highlighted their efforts in promoting a safe, clean and accessible public transport system through the Transmilenio BRT system. The city also described plans to electrify the bus fleets and shift to cleaner buses as a part of their strategy to improve air quality.

The experiences of the cities were complemented by comments and input from national and multi-lateral entities. The Secretary of State for the German Federal Ministry for International Cooperation, Thomas Silberhorn, applauded the efforts of the cities and underlined that the future of mobility in cities lies in promoting efficient and effective public transport and active transport (walking and cycling).

The power to transform cities lies in the hands of great leadership and in overcoming the conventional approach to mobility – Thomas Silberhorn, Secretary of State, Federal Ministry for International Cooperation, Germany

Concluding remarks were delivered by Ibrahim Thiaw from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Thiaw highlighted the fact that seven million premature deaths occur annually because of poor outdoor air quality in cities. Ameliorating the situation, Thiaw said, plays a crucial role in addressing the social and environmental dimension of mobility.

City leaders not only have an immense power to transform the face of mobility but also a heavy responsibility to bear – Mr Ibrahim Thiaw, Deputy Executive Director, UNEP

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