Sharing knowledge on sustainable mobility in cities: research by students of the SMART and SHARED Cities Minor

More cycling paths, space for pedestrians, car-free areas and electric transport: just a few examples of sustainable mobility. Sustainable mobility is the focus of many cities around the world. 

Multidisciplinary approach

The joint expertise of Leiden University, TU Delft and Erasmus University is valuable when it comes to sustainable mobility. How do you organize cities better, how do you adapt regulations, what are interesting technical solutions? Various spatial, social, economic and organizational aspects are involved. Which sustainable mobility approach do cities choose? How does such an approach come about?

Furthermore, can specific projects and experiences from one city also be effective in other cities? There is plenty of experimentation going on through pilot projects and local innovations. However, what happens with this knowledge? Are lessons shared, and how can sharing and scaling up of knowledge be promoted?

What is the key to sustainable mobility?

From the SMART and SHARED Cities Minor of the LDE Centre for BOLD Cities, three students explored this, with Jurian Edelenbos, academic director of Vital Cities and Citizens and Robbert Nesselaar from CLOSER CITIES as commissioners. Michelle ter Laak, Fanny Toutoute-Fauconnier and Jillis Hulleman immersed themselves in three sustainable mobility projects in Hamburg, Barcelona and Bogotá during their research between November 2020 and January 2021. In addition to a methodologically strong foundation, the research yielded valuable insights. The study's main lesson is that the exchange of urban knowledge is an important key to developing sustainable and innovative car-free cities. When stakeholders are willing to unlock and share knowledge, sustainable energy projects can be implemented more effectively.

How do city officials contribute to the advancement of car-free city initiatives?   

The empirical studies of the above three cases have shown that the spread of car-free city initiatives depends on city officials' willingness to share their experiences with other stakeholders. The research shows that officials take note of projects on sustainable mobility from other cities. They make this knowledge appropriate for their specific local context of the city.

The in-depth research has shown that seemingly tailor-made solutions can be inspiring for others and can be adapted to a different local context; as Hamburg, Barcelona and Bogotá each have their own government, culture and infrastructure.

The role of local stakeholders in co-creating car-free cities

Also, the comparative analysis of the three cities showed that local stakeholders' direct involvement (citizens, civil society organizations, etc.) is essential to co-create car-free cities in the long run. Knowledge sharing and co-creation of knowledge are important to achieve the actual implementation of sustainable mobility. The study tantalizingly concludes that urban knowledge sharing may not be the sharing of technical knowledge related to sustainable mobility but rather the organization of the co-creation of knowledge through various forms and processes of participatory decision-making. For this reason, it is essential to include the local and administrative context in sustainable mobility policymaking. These findings are also highly relevant for the Greater Rotterdam The Hague area, to transition to sustainable mobility in a highly urbanized area. The research will be followed up later this year in a workshop or webinar format.

More information

CLOSER CITIES

CLOSER CITIES is a multi-year, multi-disciplinary project (2021-2030) focused on urban knowledge sharing research: how do cities share and co-create knowledge? What can cities learn from each other, and how do processes of learning and sharing take place? What hinders or stimulates the sharing of knowledge? An online research-driven platform plays a vital role in the research: the project builds bridges between urban practice and urban science by analysing examples worldwide and translating research results into practice. More information: www.closercities.org, or for questions: info@closercities.org.