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22 September 2020

Why cities must make more of their rivers


Paris is alive again after France’s national return to work week, la rentrée. Masks are obligatory but every else continues just as before the pandemic. Looking around you see busy streets and packed offices. The only empty part of the city is the river.

Most cities were originally built on rivers both as a water source - but also as a way to move people and goods around the expanding populated areas, for example, the Seine in Paris and the River Thames in London and a third of New York City’s surface area is water. What were once vibrant hubs for shipping, fishing, and play have been overwhelmed with toxic emissions and outputs from waste pipes - including sewage.

A new trend of converting waterways into play spaces may be about to change our view of rivers. The people of Copenhagen and Zurich can already enjoy a lunchtime dip in the river. In Los Angeles, there are plans to transform the LA river for parkland, cycle paths, and art projects.

Cities also need to reclaim the rivers as transport hubs. As post-COVID environmental concerns push cities to reclaim roads from cars and trucks they will need to shift traffic back to the river. This time using quiet and clean electric ferries, barges, and cargo ships.

This year has seen a record rise in digital shopping, with consultancy McKinsey saying: ‘US consumers report an intent to shop online even after the Covid-19 crisis.’ A new Thames barge could replace 44 large trucks and even without being electrically powered, uses less energy per ton. Delivery companies could then utilise electric cargo bikes for the last mile. Amsterdam has already implemented a similar scheme.

Original article first published 3 September 2020 by Simon Kuper

Further information:

08 September 2020

EUROPEAN MOBILITY WEEK 2020: promoting zero-emission mobility for all


Watch out for car-free streets, walking tours and interactive workshops as EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK comes to towns and cities across Europe from 16-22 September. From this Wednesday, the clean and sustainable transport campaign will see thousands of towns and cities from over 40 countries hosting their own events, shining a spotlight on the importance of zero-emission mobility for all. This is the 19th year of EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK and its well-known car-free day, when streets close for motorised traffic and open for pedestrians, cyclists, hoverboarders, e-scooter riders and more!

EU Transport Commissioner Adina Vălean said: “This year is a big challenge for our towns and cities. But the pandemic also showed us that people appreciate and expect our cities to become safer, cleaner and accessible to all. During this week and beyond, our partner cities from all around Europe will show how greener and more digital European towns and cities could look.”

In parallel, and in cooperation with EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK, the European network of road traffic police forces (ROADPOL) is organising a new campaign for road safety – the ROADPOL Safety Days (previously ‘Project EDWARD’). As part of the campaign, national police forces will record the number of road deaths on 17 September, aiming for zero deaths on that day. Public events will highlight the role that every road-user can play in avoiding fatalities, as well as the importance of traffic police in enforcing the rules and working towards the EU’s ‘Vision Zero’ – zero road deaths and serious injuries on European roads by 2050.
Initiatives across Europe

EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK provides an opportunity for local governments across Europe (and beyond) to enable residents to test out active mobility modes and discover the benefits of sustainable forms of transport.

This year, Essen (Germany) will launch the city’s first sidewalk extension (or parklet), and will organise workshops on road safety and sustainable mobility, examining for example how local businesses can become bicycle-friendly employers. In addition, the city will launch a new e-charging station, and will install smart lamp posts.

Lahti (Finland) will celebrate the week with guided walking tours, workshops and seminars on the importance of sustainable mobility. A clean-up day will be organised, where residents are encouraged to get together clear litter from public areas around the city.

Cesena (Italy) will use the week as an opportunity to seek feedback from local residents on their new sustainable urban mobility plan. In addition, the city will invite children to submit photographs and drawings, illustrating their experience of commuting in the city.

Girona (Spain) will hand out a free breakfast to reward those who cycle to work. In addition, the city will organise guided walking tours, workshops on bicycle safety and maintenance, an exhibition on electric and hybrid vehicles, and a film screening on sustainable mobility.

Gdańsk (Poland) is arranging bicycle trips to local monuments and attractions. During car-free day, residents owning a car will be able to access public transport for free.

This year, in light of the pandemic, towns and cities have maximum flexibility when participating. Local authorities can register their events and permanent infrastructure initiatives as usual, but also their online alternatives and their short-term measures to help people move around safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Measures may include the temporary reallocation of road space to create pop-up bike lanes, or the introduction of speed restrictions.

Besides towns and cities, participation is warmly encouraged by others, including businesses, institutions, NGOs, schools and higher education institutions. All may register their MOBILITYACTION all year round.

Local authorities can apply for several awards in the context of the EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK:

EU Urban Road Safety Award, rewarding local authorities for innovative measures to improve road safety. The call for applications is open from 29 September to 31 October 2020.
EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK Awards for local authorities that make significant efforts to promote sustainable urban mobility during the campaign. The application period is from 29 September to 31 October 2020.
SUMP Award presented to local and regional authorities that have achieved excellence in sustainable urban mobility planning (SUMP). The deadline for applications is 31 October 2020


Further information:

31 August 2020

Representatives of eight urban nodes in the Baltic Sea Region discussed challenges with the European Commission


During an online seminar, organised by the Joint Spatial Planning Department Berlin-Brandenburg on 10th June 2020, in the frame of the BSR Access project, first outcomes of a survey amongst urban nodes and their challenges have been discussed in the context of ongoing TEN-T revision.

Urban nodes in the BSR. Representatives of the blue ones participated in the online seminar. © INFRASTRUKTUR & UMWELT

After a tour-de-table presentation of participating urban nodes, Vera Kissler, Advisor to Ms Catherine Trautmann, coordinator of the North Sea - Baltic Core Network Corridor, presented the current status of TEN-T revision with special attention to urban nodes. She highlighted, that it is discussed to improve the TEN-T functionalities in urban nodes, recognizing their importance as intersection between TEN-T and urban transport as well as hotspots for developing and implementing smart and innovative mobility solutions, especially for first and last mile transport. For the future it is discussed to both, extend the list of urban nodes and to refine their definition.

Sven Friedrich, INFRASTRUKTUR & UMWELT Professor Böhm und Partner, briefly presented the outcomes of the survey carried out in BSR Access and conclusions, the consultants have drawn. According to him major challenges are related to integrated planning, financing and an urban node definition, that well distiguishes between the TEN-T dimension and urban transport dimension yet being flexible enough to react on market developments, especially in the logistics sector.

In the discussion it became evident, that a more comprehensive view on urban nodes and their inter-relations to the transeuropean transport network is needed. This mainly means to better reflect on TEN-T planning in urban transport planning and vice-versa. Funding mechanisms need to get better coordinated between different European and national funding schemes.

Documentation of the seminar can be found at


20 August 2020

Parliament adopts major reform of road transport sector


Improving drivers’ working conditions
Clear rules on posting of drivers
Better enforcement to fight illegal practices

The updated rules on road haulage will ensure fairer competition between operators ©Adobe Stock/thomaslerchphoto
The updated rules on road haulage will ensure fairer competition between operators ©Adobe Stock/thomaslerchphoto

Parliament backs revised rules to improve drivers’ working conditions and stop distortion of competition in road transport.

MEPs endorsed all three legal acts without any amendments, as adopted by EU ministers in April 2020. The political agreement with the Council was reached in December 2019.

The revised rules for posting of drivers, drivers’ driving times and rest periods and better enforcement of cabotage rules (i.e. transport of goods carried out by non-resident hauliers on a temporary basis in a host member state) aim to put an end to distortion of competition in the road transport sector and provide better rest conditions for drivers.

Better working conditions for drivers

The new rules will help to ensure better rest conditions and allow drivers to spend more time at home. Companies will have to organise their timetables so that drivers in international freight transport are able to return home at regular intervals (every three or four weeks depending on the work schedule). The mandatory regular weekly rest cannot be taken in the truck cab. If this rest period is taken away from home, the company must pay for accommodation costs.

Fairer competition and fighting illegal practices

Vehicle tachographs will be used to register border-crossings in order to tackle fraud. To prevent systematic cabotage, there will be a cooling-off period of four days before more cabotage operations can be carried out within the same country with the same vehicle.

To fight the use of letterbox companies, road haulage businesses would need to be able to demonstrate that they are substantially active in the member state in which they are registered. The new rules will also require trucks to return to the company’s operational centre every eight weeks. Using light commercial vehicles of over 2.5 tonnes will also be subject to EU rules for transport operators, including equipping the vans with a tachograph.

Clear rules on posting of drivers to ensure equal pay

The new rules will give a clear legal framework to prevent differing national approaches and ensure fair remuneration for drivers. Posting rules will apply to cabotage and international transport operations, excluding transit, bilateral operations and bilateral operations with two extra loading or unloading.


Next steps

The adopted rules will enter into force after they are published in the Official Journal of the EU in the coming weeks.

The rules on posting will apply 18 months after the entry into force of the legal act. The rules on rest times, including the return of drivers, will apply 20 days after publication of the act. Rules on return of trucks and other changes to market access rules will apply 18 months after the entry into force of the act on market access.


Further Information:


12 August 2020

Faster construction for a strong economy and climate-friendly mobility


The cabinet approved the draft for an investment acceleration law presented by Federal Minister Scheuer. It is based on a resolution of the coalition committee. The BMVI is thus strengthening its measures for faster planning and construction in Germany.

Federal Minister of Transport Andreas Scheuer:

We want to build faster - for a strong economy and climate-friendly mobility. On the railways, we want to make electrification and digitalization easier, make platforms barrier-free or erect noise protection walls. We are speeding up approvals, shortening court proceedings, ensuring faster building laws and streamlining procedures. This means we take a look at everything that has been stuck up to now.

Faster construction by rail

In future, certain construction measures on the railways will no longer require approval through a planning approval procedure. These include:


o the electrification of railroad lines,

o the equipment with digital signal and security technology,
o the barrier-free conversion, raising or extension of platforms,
o the erection of noise barriers for noise remediation.

Environmental tests in these cases are facilitated, for example by a preliminary test, which in some cases makes subsequent tests unnecessary.

Shorter administrative court proceedings

In the future, higher administrative courts or administrative courts of first instance will have jurisdiction, e.g. for state roads, port projects or wind turbines.
This saves one instance and shortens the time of the proceedings.
In order to counteract staff shortages at the courts, judges are to be deployed more flexibly and competences are to be bundled in courts.

Immediate enforcement of building law

For nationally important infrastructure projects - such as projects from the Federal Transport Infrastructure Plan or the expansion of mobile communications - immediate execution is ordered by law.
This means: after approval by the responsible authorities, construction can begin immediately. The suspensive effect of objections or actions for rescission does not apply in these cases. The path of interim legal protection in summary proceedings is retained.

Faster examination of the spatial compatibility

Infrastructure projects in Germany are generally approved in a two-stage process:
1. regional planning procedure: to assess the (supra)regional impact of a project.
2. planning approval procedure: for the granting of the building permit.
In order to avoid duplication of work, a regional planning procedure can be dispensed with in future if no corresponding conflicts are expected. In addition, the procedure will be more digitalized - e.g. through online publications.

In this legislative period, several new regulations to accelerate planning have already come into force. The Bundestag can now approve important environmentally friendly rail and waterway projects by law, which increases acceptance among citizens. Procedures for replacement new buildings have been streamlined - i.e. when bridges are replaced, for example, a new approval procedure is no longer required. In addition, local authorities have been relieved of the burden of removing level crossings so that they can be built more quickly.


Further information:

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