Greening mobility

(#5 of our Together-Ensemble series)

The current crisis has revealed that with much less mobility, clean air, silence and birds can quickly return to cities. 

But to illustrate the why for this session, let me share with you a personal reflection. A few years ago, I adopted a bicycle to go to work. And to my surprise, I started to enjoy the ride a lot.

It was so convenient and fast, I could drive between cars, I had fun, I was free. And I quickly became a warrior.

Blaming drivers for their poor choice, for their impact on traffic, pollution and noise. They were wrong while I was right.

Kind of like when I finally got the dream car I wanted, I almost felt like a superior human being. The beautiful car reflected my acquired status and it did me good.

You might think I’m a terrible person now that you hear me say that especially in the current context. But let me say that both behaviours are very natural and very common. Because we are made by default to think I over We. To love war over peace and competition over collaboration.

It’s only when we make a conscious effort that we can move towards a more appreciation of others’ personal choices, from wherever they sit or stand, depending on the situation.

And from there, instead of blaming what we think is wrong, we can do three simple things: join communities of like-minded people, such as the excellent EU bicycle group, engage more those who are perhaps less conscious of the emergency, or finally encourage actions from everywhere that go in the right direction. That was the purpose for this session which took place on 18 and 19 June 2020.

In this episode, we welcomed the complementary perspectives of internal and external experts on the greening of mobility. This allowed us to think not only in terms of attitudes but also in terms of concrete collaborative decisions to reduce our carbon footprint and stimulate greener habits, with the framing we initiated in the session #4 to think people over profit.

Opening conversation

Wouter Metzlar from Berenschot, where he advises governmental organizations and companies in the mobility and transport sectors on policy and strategy.

David Batchelor is Chief Strategy & External Affairs at the SESAR Joint Undertaking, Europe’s research partnership to modernise air traffic management.  Previously he has worked in DG MOVE on aviation and environment, and was the European Union Observer to the ICAO Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection.

Matthew Baldwin is the former Deputy Director-General of European Commission’s DG MOVE.

You can watch the webinar part here. Please note that this is internal “raw” material, not originally intended for external publication, but knowing the difficult context and associated challenges, we have decided to make it available to all. It is offered by the European Commission with a view to encourage everyone to take similar initiatives to encourage a benevolent direction. (video is pending approval, I will update this article as soon as I get it)

Main recommendations from the workshop

Over 120 colleagues had registered for this session; of whom 80 attended the webinar live and 30 took part in the workshop on 19 June 2020.

  • Discourage old commuting patterns, by using disincentives and key factors which are cost, time, feasibility/convenience)
  • Liberalise transport modes, using the Single European Sky model.
  • Tackle this issue with a global approach
  • Find the right balance, not pushing greening too far without considering the human side – Find the right balance between environment and human activities
  • Invest in existing good infrastructure
  • Take care of safety and security issues
  • Target less urban noise, improve quality of life
  • Be bold, lead by example and listen
  • Make urban traffic safer for cyclists, by separating infrastructure for cyclists
  • Better availability of public (green) transport – and especially important to regain confidence in public transport post-Covid
  • Review whether freight train timetables could be adapted to allow room for night trains. Better train connections
  • Be inspired by initiatives outside Europe, such as free public transport (Luxembourg) or Hyperloop (India).
  • Education & Communication. Raise awareness for instance about how fast the climate change is and the urgency of the actions. CO2 consumption subject in school programmes
  • Try a car-free day during European Mobility Week, to test new pedestrian areas and to test air quality.
  • Enforce green energy sources for electro-mobility and communicate it properly to society, i.e. fighting fake news; encouraging long term thinking “What are you leaving for your children?”
  • Importance of small changes which can make a huge difference for road safety and air quality. Show the public the impact of their travel behaviours with air quality measurements. App informing people of their CO2 consumption = make it fun, appealing and simple.
  • Reduce business travels = Do we need to commute and travel if we can do without it now? The norm should be online business meetings and the exception should be physical meetings
  • Fiscal measures & legislation. Make use of fiscal measures ( Incentives versus taxes), create the necessary infrastructure
  • Resist pressure from industry and both tighten emission norms and tax unfavourable behaviour for example by taxing aviation fuel use or entry into urban centres. Financial incentives are what shapes peoples behaviour, but Commission tends to live in fear of e.g. car industry or airlines. Congestion charging should be implemented throughout the EU. Modulate green taxes so that the polluters pay more without overwhelming the citizens Incentivise ethical behaviour by major polluters, empowering related legislation. Urban vehicle access regulation schemes. Trade changes/ more protectionist measures so that there is less international transport of goods
  • Multimodality. Better cooperation between different transport companies to ensure a real intermodal offer and encourage multimodality — walking, cycling, public transport, shared options (car/bike/train and bike schemes) and car when needed. Mobility As A Service platforms on local, national and international level. Towns, cities, regions should set up a sustainable urban mobility plan according to EC guidelines.  Freight deliveries — use night deliveries with quiet, electric lorries; use bicycles or cargo bikes for the last mile; use freight consolidation centres; look at good practice examples on and Civitas website. Multimodal travel information and single ticketing options to be made available.

Related links

A “Greening Mobility” framework towards sustainability – ScienceDirect

Commission kicks off consultations on the greening and digitalisation of the mobility, transport and automotive ecosystem (

I hope you are more and more inspired by our recommendations! And very soon, your best troubadour (of course!) will share everything about “Could the EU be the next global leader?”.

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