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SUWON , SOUTH KOREA — Giving public spaces back to citizens and providing them with green, active and integrated ecomobile transport options are the main message drawn at the EcoMobility 2013 Suwon Congress.
Set in Suwon, South Korea, the congress opened the month-long EcoMobility World Festival – a unique real-time social experiment where citizens move away from cars and realize the possibility of living and travelling green in their neighborhoods. The event was jointly organized by ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, the city of Suwon and UN-Habitat.
“Suwon aims to become the world’s top eco-city. As the Mayor of a big and continuously growing Asian city, I wish the EcoMobility World Festival will serve as a wonderful example, so that cities around the world will be inspired to realize this ecomobile lifestyle,” said Suwon Mayor Yeom Tae-Young.
According to a report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released in May 2013, Korea has the highest pedestrian fatality rate among 29 OECD countries last year. Worldwide, more than 20,000 pedestrians die annually.
People-friendly public spaces
“Building more roads to solve transport is like setting a fire and putting oil on gasoline,“ said Gil Peñalosa, Executive Director of 8-80 Cities. “17,086 people are killed in traffic accidents around the world during these 5 days of the Festival. We should put pedestrians as our priority and question the role of the street. People need to walk, and walking must be best friends with cycling and public transport.”
“High quality public space and sidewalks are more important than any other city transportation infrastructure. After all, all trips begin with walking, especially in Asia where the majority of trips are done by foot,” said Bram van Oojen from the Institute for Transport and Development Policy.
Local EcoMobility innovations
Expanding pedestrian spaces, promoting cycling and bike sharing, among others, are the most mentioned solutions during the four-day congress. Car-free days similar to that of Suwon’s, is another cost-effective solutions, said Lloyd Wright, Senior Transport Specialist at the Asia Development Bank. “It is is an intervention that delivers ecomobility without needing much money, time and technical assistance. One little seed in one place can often spread quickly and lead to more permanent changes.”
In Lagos de Moreno, for instance, thematic car-free days are held on weekdays in downtown areas to encourage citizens to slowly adopt walking as the main mode of transport. Featuring pets and coffee shops, the city also successfully overcame businesses’ opposition while engaging local communities. Kyoto is another city that has recently expanded its downtown pedestrian area. By reducing road lanes from two to one, walking space has doubled.
Healthy and active lifestyle
Health benefits of ecomobility – and lifestyle diseases resulting from inactivity were also highlighted in the congress. Overweight and obesity caused by physical inactivity, according to the World Health Organization, kills at least 2.6 million people each year around the world. In the USA, medical expenses attributed to both overweight and obesity has reached to as high as US$78.5 billion.
“Cycling and other ecomobility means have impacts on health, energy, ecology, economy, time and space and the social dimension of life,” said Manfred Neun, President of the Netherlands-based European Cyclists’ Foundation. “We need to open up public space for all people and give them space to play, explore the environment, especially for the children. This is a basic human right.”
Integrating transport modes
Remarking on urban planning on mobility, experts said cities need to integrate all modes of transport. “Integration of transport modes is not rocket science, it is about connecting the simple things together,” said Santhosh Kodukula, ICLEI EcoMobility Program Manager.
“We need to design transportation system that provide options to people and allow them to choose,” said Carlosfelipe Pardo from the German Soceity for International Cooperation.
Describing cities as the theatre for future mobility and an emerging phenomenon, Florian Lennert, Director of the Berlin-based InnoZ said cities need innovations to overcome urban mobility challenges rather than solutions of the past. “Sustainable mobility needs to be combined with smart infrastructure, we need to get rid of large infrastructures that take up so much space and create barrier to urban mobility.”
Source : ICLEI