2017 – A new year and a new perspective on sustainable mobility

Prof. Maria Attard

This past year has been full of good (and not so good) ideas of how we can reduce congestion. This seems to be the biggest concern when one looks at the discourse used by the media, the politicians and the public in general. There are however bigger concerns that come from habitual car use which have a significant impact on our quality of life and well being. Sustainable mobility is not only about reducing congestion (for economic gain) but about a holistic approach to the way we design our urban areas so that people can enjoy themselves safely, the manner in which we are able to reach our activities and the level of environmental quality which does not compromise our health. As we stand we have poor urban environments which are designed to cater for cars not people, we have activities located away from residences so that only those who have access to a car have the possibilities of participating and our air quality is compromised in many areas. 

 Waiting for the next big infrastructure or project will not solve the problem. It is clear that small efforts at individual or community level will have significant impacts on reducing car use, congestion and improving air quality. Individuals can start thinking about their activities and plan their travel accordingly. The car is only used for long trips whilst shorter trips can be done on foot. Try the bus or share a ride are all small but hugely significant efforts when done by many. Pressure local politicians for better walking infrastructure and why not, ask to include facilities for bicycles! This has been a successful strategy in many places which have seen a gradual and sustained change to a better environment and better quality of life.

So here is to the new year. Forget the resolutions, just think that each time you don’t use your car or engage with local politicians to re-introduce infrastructure for walking and cycling, back in our roads you are contributing to the necessary change. Also, forget complacency, forget thinking that someone else should be looking at solving the problem. This has been the story for too long, and it hasn’t worked! This new perspective on sustainable mobility is what I am proposing for 2017.