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Sustainable Mobility

In the transportation sector the term mobility is hot, in particular in combination with the term sustainable. But what does sustainable mobility or sustainable transport actually mean?

According to a Wiki-article there is no formal definition of sustainable transport. An attempt is made by stating that ‘Sustainable transportation is about meeting or helping meet the mobility needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs’. By the way, that article does get you somewhere – it is quite exhaustive.

In Google (and other search engines) one can search definitions of terms by using the search tool ”define”. Type define:mobility and you get a number of definitions, one of which is delightfully short and to the point: the quality of moving freely. Another definition is nice as well: Ease of moving about. It is all about getting from A to B as fast as possible and in a convenient way.

The Dutch Ministry of Transport maintains a site called ‘from A to B’. It shows current roadworks in the Netherlands based on which a traveler can decide how to plan his journey and get from door to door the easiest.

On a European level one of course has to consult the site of the Directorate-General for Transport, which opens with the slogan ‘Keep Europe Moving’. Not surprisingly, the site contains a huge amount of information. You could get lost, but if you decide in advance which information you are looking for it appears to be well-organized. One of the many interesting information items is the annual publicationEnergy and Transport in Figures.

There are many modes of transport, but we appear not always to make use of the simple ones: by foot or bicycle. The UK-based sustainable transport charity Sustrans states that ‘essentially for transport to be sustainable it must exist within the means of the planet to both create the resources needed to create and fuel all modes of transport, and absorb the waste from their creation and use’. Simply said: the Sustrans people want us to take a walk or a bike or make more use of public transportation.
A Sustran Director (Peter Lipman) explains all about sustainable transport in a seven part, very casual and relaxed, video lecture that was held in Bristol, November 25, 2007. Lipman is the Director Liveable Neighbourhoods & Low Carbon Travel at Sustrans.

Sustainable transport is of course also an issue outside Europe. The US-based Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (ITDP) focuses on the promotion of environmentally sustainable and socially equitable transportation worldwide. The European section of the ITDP is based in Germany and supports sustainable transportation policies in developing and transition countries.

An important future development might be the introduction of intelligent systems of transportation. Again, a Wiki article on that subject is a good start. Practically every country in Europe appears to have an organization concerned with ITS (Intelligent Transportation System) that offers information on national ITS-activities. They all are members of the Network of National ITS Associations.