Brussels Blogger

This week the European Union has its annual Mobility Week. Brussels, like many other cities in Europe will have a car-free day on Sunday. But there are some points that I think could be improved. Thanks to a French car-free-day initiative in 1998 we have since 2002 a European Mobility Week. One week in September each year is dedicated to local initiatives which support sustainable means of transport. Many cities include a car-free day in the mobility week, which in Brussels is on Sunday, 21st September.

I really find it a great idea to make people think about their mobility and car use. However, some thoughts of what could be improved:

  • First of all it should be a priority to include all capital cities of EU member states in the car-free day. And it should really mean no cars in most of the city, like in Brussels. Many current car-free initiatives are questionable in regard to their scope.
  • Generally more municipalities should be convinced to participate in the mobility week: in 2008 there are apparently only 1000 municipalities in Europe participating.
  • There should be rankings published by the European Commission that show which member states have the best “sustainable transport cities”, most initiatives etc.
  • Car sharing systems should be in place in all European cities above 100.000 inhabitants. In the mid-term it should be possible that in larger cities you have access to a “shared” car in every district or even all main streets. The existing EU funding programmes for car sharing need to be reviewed and extended.
  • The website of the mobility week should show clear figures and trends. It should also showcase the best and most-advanced initiatives in the EU instead of just linking to national websites. Further would it be good to show on a special section the EU initiatives and programmes that support sustainable transport modes.
  • Finally, why not starting to have a car-free Sunday every month in selected cities?

Given the increase in oil prices and the dramatic increase in fuel costs for citizens it is high time to bolster the sustainable transport funding schemes on a European, national and regional level. It is also a real citizen-related topic. I hope that there will soon be real progress in that area instead of arguing over years whether cars should be allowed to pollute the air with 120 or 130 grams of CO2 per km.

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  1. A car-free Sunday every month in Brussels? Count me in. The current annual car-free Sunday is generally huge fun. But it should be phased in, without jumping straight to a monthly day, as that’d be far too disruptive.

    So does it have to be imposed top-down, I asked myself, as I searched the Commission site for the Brussels national coordinator, IEB? Surely this is a good idea for a grassroots campaign, using the EC mobility week as a structure?

    Sigh. The IEB site, like most Belgian government websites, is dead: “Erreur de la base de données de WordPress : [MySQL server has gone away]”.

  2. I agree that top-down will not work. But some European-level organisation is needed.

    Maybe one could start with a group of cities that want to discuss more radical ways to support sustainable transport. I am sure that if there is some initial European money and enough media spotlight that some cities are eager to join and participate in such initiatives.

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