Smart cities and sustainable city development – insights and inspiration. Sustainable urban mobility and districts are two of the main priorities in the EIP-SCC, short for European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities. In this summary, mobility experts from Sweco briefly explain a number of such solutions and insights that may be included in a holistic approach to urban development. Discover additional solutions and details in the referenced Sweco Urban Insight reports.
OFFSETTING URBAN SPRAWL AND ENCOURAGING SUSTAINABLE MOBILITY
Almost three out of four EU citizens and more than half of the global population spend their everyday lives in urban environments. To improve resource-efficiency and help our cities scale, while also addressing challenges such as urban sprawl, it is vital to encourage and enable sustainable mobility. This is also important not only for reducing harmful emissions, but also for creating more liveable and mobile communities.
Good connections enhance the opportunities of choosing sustainable transports, support social cohesion and facilitate human interaction. By eliminating travel through sparsely lit, less pleasant areas, it is also possible to make commuting safer and more vibrant. Additionally, places with good connections between activities and careful placement of facilities benefit from reduced travel times and less environmental impact.
Full report: URBAN SPACE FOR PEOPLE ON THE MOVE – THE LIVING CITY
This Urban Insight report argues that urban spaces designed with great care and from a human perspective both improve people’s well-being and make it easier to choose sustainable means of transport.
- The car-dependent city: Over the last century, planning cities for cars has contributed to urban sprawl, which has further increased car dependency. While car transport provides flexibility, it also makes urban life less effective by causing traffic congestion, inefficient use of space, increased distances between services, air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and loss of time.
ICT-driven Smart City development may not be the entire solution, as the introduction of e.g. electric autonomous vehicles is more likely to increase, rather than decrease, traffic congestion in our cities.
Several studies have shown that people who choose an active way to commute evaluate their lives as more satisfactory than those who choose to travel by car.
- Urban spaces that promote sustainable mobility: Creating a well-functioning urban area that promotes great mobility requires simultaneous work on many scales – from city structure to detailed design of the spaces that people experience in their daily lives. Some of these spaces are more important than others, e.g., urban nodes with heavy travel flows, and need special attention in order to make it easy for people to make a sustainable choice.
There is a large untapped potential in strengthening the use of linkages and nodes and their urban quality to further strengthen sustainable urban mobility. Doing so is cost efficient, has a high impact and creates many positive synergies for the urban citizen.
- The placemaking concept: The term “placemaking” is often used to describe the collaborative and evolutionary process by which urban environments can be shaped to maximise shared value. To be successful, placemaking should be an intrinsically collaborative process between citizens, urban planners and engineers that shapes the city and results in better urban design.
With specific reference to the role of sustainable mobility, transportation infrastructures have been built through communities, rather than creating communities through transportation.
- The SymbioCity concept: The SymbioCity Approach is a conceptual framework developed to address current challenges of the urban environment and builds upon a people-centred, inclusive approach and practical experiences and best practices from Swedish local governments.
THINKING DIFFERENTLY ABOUT URBAN SPACES
Cities are constantly changing and developing, and some structures and spaces become less useful or relevant over time. As cities become denser and urban spaces increasingly scarce, the solutions we develop must be sustainable from a social, economic and environmental perspective.
We need a new understanding of how to optimally use city areas. Tunnels and bridges should no longer only be structures that facilitate transport – their areas should offer an added value to the city and its citizens.
This report presents cases in which bridges and tunnels have solved urban challenges and become flexible, multifunctional structures in cities of different scales. All have provided added value to the city and its inhabitants.
Example case studies:
- Green Way, Mexico: The Via Verde initiative in Mexico City transforms more than 1,000 flyover and elevated road columns into vertical gardens running along 27 kilometres of roadway. Vertical gardens, which add 40,000 square metres of plants to the city, are expected to produce enough oxygen for 25,000+ citizens, filter over 27,000 tonnes of harmful gases, capture more than 5,000 kg of suspended dust particles and process over 10,000 kg of heavy metals from the air on an annual basis.
- High Line, Manhattan, NY: 25 years after decommissioning the High Line Railroad in Manhattan, work began on repurposing the old viaducts, transforming them into an elevated green park. While the park was originally expected to have 300,000 annual visitors, that figure topped 5 million as of September 2014. The green walkway is home to a profusion of plant species.
- London Underline: Beneath London’s busy streets run dozens of kilometres of decommissioned tube tunnels that offer solutions for future pedestrian infrastructure and urban sustainability. In the London Underline conceptual project, architecture firm Gensler envisions developing these tunnels into a massive network of bicycle and pedestrian highways. By utilising the abandoned tunnels, Gensler hopes to create a carbon-neutral community that is also self-sustaining.
- Bicycle Snake, Copenhagen: Copenhagen’s internal harbour area has been transformed from commercial maritime to residential and retail use. The area is bracketed by canals, roads and unrelated buildings, and earlier had no bicycle or pedestrian network. The Bicycle Snake – a 230-metre winding sky bridge that cuts through the area and connects two city districts – was inaugurated in the summer of 2014. The bridge is more than just a transit route – it is a cycling experience used by 12,500 cyclists each day.
- Luchtsingel, Rotterdam: The Hofplein area was a neglected part of Rotterdam, detached from its surroundings and a blind spot in the city centre. The area, dominated by vacant high-rise buildings, urgently needed redevelopment. Local residents took the initiative and started a crowdfunding project to revitalise the area. The Luchtsingel connects Rotterdam North to the city centre and reconnects the Central Station with the North and the North with the Binnenrotte. By improving connectivity, the bridge is a catalyst for economic growth.
Other related Sweco Urban Insight reports
- Urban mobility on a human scale – promoting and facilitating active travel in cities
- Running to stand still – the role of travel time in transport planning
- Wholesome air, serene cities – reduced noise and air pollution in urban areas
- From threat to opportunity – revaluating storm water management in urban areas
- Signed, sealed, delivered – analysing the impact of e-commerce on urban areas