At the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development Ban Ki-moon noted that “sustainable mobility is not just an option, it is a necessity if we are to leave a livable planet for future generations.”
The former Secretary General was not wrong. According to the World Bank, more than 56% of the population lives in urban areas and it is estimated that by 2050, more than 70% of the world’s population will do so. In the current context of global warming and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, sustainable urban mobility or sustainable mobility is one of the main challenges facing today’s urban areas.
In this article we will review the types of sustainable mobility that exist and analyze the city of Barcelona as an example of its application.
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1. What types of sustainable mobility are there?
Sustainable mobility is divided into two main groups: non-motorized vehicles and motorized vehicles. Within non-motorized sustainable mobility are:
- Walking: is a sustainable form of mobility, since it does not emit polluting gases and does not require fossil fuels. Promoting walking as a form of mobility can improve people’s health and reduce the carbon footprint.
- Bicycles and cycling: they are a type of sustainable mobility, as they do not emit polluting gases and do not require fossil fuels. In addition, bicycle lanes and bikeway infrastructure can reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality.
Among the types of motorized sustainable mobility are:
- Public transportation: this means allows people to move efficiently and economically without the need to use a private vehicle. Public transportation systems may include buses, streetcars, subways and trains. Importantly, there is a big push to electrify public transport and reduce its emissions.
- Electric vehicles: this is the most sustainable alternative to internal combustion engine vehicles, as they do not emit exhaust gases, are more energy efficient and there is evidence that they are more profitable for companies.
- Vehicle sharing: whether through carpooling, carsharing or ride-hailing, it is a way to reduce the number of vehicles on the road, which reduces congestion and pollutant gas emissions.
These are some examples of sustainable mobility, but there are other alternatives and measures that can be implemented to improve the sustainability of transportation and reduce environmental impact.
2. Barcelona: an example of sustainable mobility
Barcelona is a city that has long been taking important steps towards sustainable mobility and has a local administration that develops specific and comprehensive strategic plans with the aim of achieving an efficient sustainable mobility model.
An extensive network of bicycle lanes of more than 200 kilometers extends throughout the city. In addition, the city has created green corridors, which are dedicated bicycle and pedestrian spaces that extend from the city center to the suburbs.
In terms of public transportation, the city has an extensive network of subways, buses and streetcars, which transport millions of passengers each year.
On the other hand, the city council has implemented measures to encourage the use of electric vehicles and reduce the use of internal combustion engine vehicles. In 2017, Barcelona established a low-emission zone in the city center, where only vehicles with low emission levels are allowed. In addition, the number of electric charging stations throughout the city has increased.
With the increase in the circulation of delivery vehicles, Barcelona has launched a Municipal Strategy for Urban Goods Distribution (DUM) 2030 with ten objectives to make the delivery of urban orders and goods more efficient and sustainable. The objectives set include reducing emissions from delivery vehicles by 50% by 2030 and promoting research and the creation of technological solutions and innovation related to the urban distribution of goods.
Barcelona aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 40% by 2030 and become a carbon neutral city by 2050. To achieve this goal, the city has implemented measures, beyond the DUM, such as the promotion of sustainable mobility, the promotion of energy efficiency in buildings and the promotion of renewable energies. In fact, in 2019, was named the European Capital of Innovation for its commitment to sustainable mobility and technological innovation.
Promoting sustainable mobility improves the quality of life in urban areas and reduces emissions and pollution. In addition, sustainable mobility, including the replacement of fossil fuel vehicles with electric motors, can generate significant long-term economic benefits.