Europe gears up for clever commuting
In a week when British drivers are defending their 'right' to cheap fuel, authorities from all over Europe will be trying to persuade the people that public transport is a better bet than the private car.Friday, September 16 sees the launch of European Mobility Week and millions of people in almost 1,000 towns and cities from the EU and further afield are expected to take part in a host of events promoting sustainable transport.
This year's theme is Clever Commuting and planned initiatives include the introduction of new or improved public transport services, city-centre pedestrian zones, bike rental facilities and extra bike lanes to make the most of pedal power, zones with a 30 km/h speed limit, new park and ride bus schemes and car-sharing clubs.
The week will culminate in a car-free day and to show their solidarity cities in Brazil, Venezuela, Canada, Colombia, Japan and Taiwan will also be doing their best to encourage drivers to keep off the streets.
The centrepiece of the celebration of sustainable transport will be a high-profile conference at London's City Hall, attended by both European Commission Vice-President and Commissioner for Transport Jacques Barrot and Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas as well as London mayor Ken Livingstone, Chinese Minister of Construction Wang Guangtao and the mayors of Budapest and Stockholm.
As well as speeches and seminars on a range of transport issues, the conference will see the launch of European Mobility Week Pledge, which will encourage organisations to promote sustainable travel within their ranks, and awards for towns and cities which have already made an exemplary effort in this area.
Commissioner Dimas said: "European Mobility Week shows how there are alternatives to the car and how we can all contribute to cleaner air.
"Even if EU legislation has improved air quality, hundreds of thousands of Europeans still suffer every year from the consequences of air pollution.
"The responsibility to take action lies with all of us, at EU, national and local level. We can make a difference."
By Sam Bond