North Sea Region Programme projects and cities highlighted at CIVITAS Forum
The North Sea Region Programme participated in this year’s CIVITAS Forum in Graz, Austria to promote ART-Forum, BITS, SEEV4-City, and SURFLOGH. A joint effort with Interact’s network on the theme ensured more exposure for Interreg at the event. A very exciting outcome of our participation was the opportunity to see the city of Antwerp win the Citizens and Stakeholders Award and the city of Bremen the Transformation Award at the gala dinner.
What are CIVITAS and CIVITAS Forum?
Transport continues to confound efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Europe. One way to address the problem is by working to reduce the use of fossil-fuel vehicles in cities. Not only would this help mitigate climate change caused by transport, it would also improve air quality and liveability in increasingly crowded urban spaces. CIVITAS, which stands for CIty VITAlity Sustainability, is an EU-funded programme that aims to do just that by ‘supporting cities to introduce ambitious transport measures and policies towards sustainable urban mobility [and…] to achieve a significant shift in the modal split towards sustainable transport (EU Commission, 2014).’
One of the CIVITAS initiatives is the CIVITAS Forum, which is a wide network of cities both in and outside the EU that are interested in promoting sustainability mobility. The Forum holds an annual event, and this year the event took place from 2-4 October in Graz, Austria – the site of the first Forum in 2003. The event attracted the largest group of participants in its history – 650 public officials, researchers, EU institution representatives, private sector players, and others gathered to learn about, discuss, and debate the issues surrounding sustainable urban mobility in Europe. Buzzwords that came up repeatedly across plenary sessions, workshops, and social media posts included Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMPs), congestion and car reduction, cycling, alternative fuels, and sharing of all kinds – bike, car, ride, and scooter, among others.
Interreg makes their mark
This year several Interreg programmes were jointly represented at the forum. Thanks to the efforts of Interact’s network that brings together Interreg programmes that fund and support projects on sustainable transport, several cross-border and transnational programmes contributed to a brochure showcasing 12 projects across Europe and manned a stand to explain to visitors Interreg’s efforts to promote sustainable urban mobility. (The network made a similar effort at TEN-T Days in Ljubljana in May 2018.)
BITS runs workshop on cycling and ITS
The BITS project not only exhibited their project at the event, they also ran a workshop on bicycles and ITS (Intelligent Transport Systems) on the final day, which I attended. The interactivity of the session (organized in ‘world café’ style) made it interesting, as did the varied topics introduced by the moderators: intelligent bicycle parking in Utrecht, a bike-sharing system called Nextbike, and a smart cycling app in Graz called Bikecitizens.
Antwerp and Bremen come away winners
One of the most exciting parts of the Forum was the CIVITAS Awards Ceremony on the second evening. Of four awards granted, two went to cities in the North Sea Region Programme area: Antwerp, which won the Citizens and Stakeholders Award, and Bremen, which won the Transformation Award. Both Antwerp and Bremen are represented in transport projects in our programme – the province of Antwerp in BITS and the city of Bremen in ART-Forum and SHARE-North. In fact, it was Michael Glotz-Richter, project manager of the latter two projects, who was invited to the stage to accept the award on behalf of the city of Bremen. While the award was bestowed on the city for all of their efforts to reduce congestion and pollution over many years, some of the progress made can certainly be attributed to SHARE-North’s (and the North Sea Region IVB project CARE-North’s) activities to promote mobile hubs.