With the growing awareness about how the built spaces have been affecting the world environment, the current state of architectural and urban development is moving more and more towards sustainability. Architects, designers, and urban planners are focusing more on reducing the carbon footprint of their designs and developing cities that are more sustainable and liveable. 

When we consider the carbon footprint of cities worldwide, there is a big difference between American, European and Asian cities. While people in most American cities contribute six times more to the carbon footprint than European cities, the primary reason behind it is the urban mobility model of the city. The cities are developed around their most used transport routes and build neighbourhoods accordingly. If you see the history of any city’s development, it will be around its primary transportation system. For example, the development of Mumbai was and is deeply impacted by the development of local train routes. In cities, transport routes represent 1/5th of the world’s energy demands and contribute to 1/4th of carbon emissions. This transport route makes the cities’ urban mobility model and affects the city’s sustainability on a larger scale. 

Traditionally, a city’s urban mobility is how people move from one location to another within the city. It is based on two principles – the access to housing for people and how people travel for social facilities, and responsibilities like education, recreation and work.

An urban mobility model is crucial for the functioning of any society. A good urban mobility plan reduces major city issues like traffic congestion and air and noise pollution. Also, it increases the city’s sustainability by reducing its carbon footprint generated through the transportation system. For sustainable urban development to happen, an efficient and sustainable mobility plan which is ever-evolving in line with the city is extremely important. 

The Urban Mobility of Sustainable European Cities - Sheet1
Urban Mobility Plan_©www.eltis.org

Two urban mobility plans that can tackle traffic congestion and reduce carbon footprint in major cities are DRT and micro-transit. Both of these systems are based on the removal of fixed routes of public transportation and are cost-effective and more environmentally friendly.  

Many European cities are now moving towards sustainability by positively changing urban mobility to make city spaces more liveable. Measures are proposed to the authorities to develop a more sustainable urban mobility plan which involves urban freight distribution, access regulations, use of intelligent transportation systems, road traffic safety, etc. This allows the authorities to develop a comprehensive plan that can later be used as the city’s de facto transport planning concept. Here are examples of a few such European cities – 


Besides being the world’s bicycle city, Copenhagen has set the target to be the first capital city to have carbon-neutral emissions by 2025. The main goal of its urban mobility plan is to restrict car trips inside the city only up to one-third. The rest of the trips will be made by bikes and public transport. 

Copenhagen’s new mobility plan emphasises a greener and more flexible transport model. At present, all metro and bus stations in Copenhagen already have bicycle parking. Parking cars in 18 town squares have been eliminated to develop more liveable spaces. These car-free spaces are now used for creating new urban culture, public spaces and new modes of mobilisation. 

According to the mobility plan, investments are made in bike infrastructure. Initiatives are also taken to maintain and improve bike lanes. The new mobility plan also works on developing green lanes in the city. These green lanes are exclusive for cyclists and create an ecological environment of green spaces for them. 

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Bike-friendly city of Copenhagen_©www.wonderfulcopenhagen.com

The main commuting routes inside the city are also being developed as green waves that maintain bicycle flow with all traffic regulations specific for bicycles. The plan also involves cargo and freight bicycles that will transport goods and children. The development of bike transit is also taken into consideration. As a part of the plan, the Foundation of the Danish Cycling Embassy is also established. The foundation works on urban planning for bicycles, creating links between bike lanes and public transport, infrastructure construction, etc. 

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Cargo and freight bicycles_©www.wonderfulcopenhagen.com

Another thing that is developed as a part of the new mobility plan is the electric transport system which will be exempt from vehicle registration tax. The local government is also promoting infrastructure development on these lines, such as the development of charging stations and free parking.


Milan, too, has recently developed a sustainable mobility and transport plan to enhance public transport, give value to urban spaces, and develop shared mobility services. The mobility plan combines urban development, innovation and sustainability to make the city more liveable, safe and accessible. At present, 37% of the city trips take place through private cars and 57% through public transport. The city’s public transportation includes more than 150 lines and is spread over 1286 km. 

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Milan metro_©www.viajaraitalia.com/

The new mobility plan consists of urban accessibility using public transport, developing urban spaces as a common good and passenger and freight mobility demand management. It also focuses on developing a multimodal transport model. The new urban mobility plan also involves the development of a cycling network that will cover 25% of urban road networks, 

There will also be a decrease in public transport trip average time by 8.3% by improving transport speed. The focus of the mobility plan is to reshape the overall mobility of the city in the next ten years through the innovation of low impact transport services. 

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Milan urban centre_©www.bajabikes.eu

Milan is also the first city to develop a bike-sharing system that combines traditional and electric bikes. Another part of the plan is the development of restricted traffic zones and improving the quality of the urban centre. 


Berlin was already ranked third globally for sustainability in 2017. The city has now developed an urban mobility act with a focus on making car traffic climate neutral by 2045. The plan is to make the city safer, more mobile and climate-friendly. The primary area of focus is on eco-mobility and public transport of the city as these forms of mobility are more efficient in their use of space. For this reason, the act focuses on improving the efficiency of the transport system as a whole. 

The critical road junctions are redesigned for better safety, and a comprehensive network of bike lanes is already in construction. The mobility plan of the city is future-oriented. The city already has the fewest cars per citizen in Germany and is more focused on public transportation. Along with these, ride-sharing options for bikes and scooters are also developed. 

On the infrastructural level, colour coded paths, improved signages and safe bicycle stands are being developed throughout the city. The main goal of the urban mobility act is to create a liveable city by using innovation and leisure for mobility. The city is also planning a rapid cycle connection for longer trips to implement this. E-scooters, e-bikes and e-mopeds are also promoted in the city. A network of battery charging stations is also developed. 

Public transport in Berlin_©www.intelligenttransport.com

Other than these, many other European cities are focusing on developing a sustainable mobility plan. Some of these are Oslo, Amsterdam and Vienna. Oslo has planned for car-free downtown spaces as a part of its mobility plan. Amsterdam is also looking at pedestrian and bike-friendly urban designs. Vienna has taken a step forward by including sustainable housing construction to reduce the city’s carbon footprint. All of these cities are working to make the urban spaces more liveable and bring sustainability on a larger scale. 


  1. https://www.liftango.com/resources/defining-urban-mobility
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sustainable_Urban_Mobility_Plan
  3. https://www.archdaily.com/976607/whats-the-matter-with-american-cities?ad_source=myarchdaily&ad_medium=bookmark-show&ad_content=current-user
  4. https://blogs.iadb.org/ciudades-sostenibles/en/sustainable-urban-transport-what-can-we-learn-from-copenhagen/
  5. https://medium.com/next-level-german-engineering/nextvisions-in-copenhagen-blueprint-for-sustainable-cities-afaff044477e
  6. https://www.eltis.org/discover/case-studies/milans-plan-sustainable-efficient-and-innovative-mobility-italy
  7. https://www.berlin.de/sen/uvk/en/traffic/transport-policy/berlin-mobility-act/
  8. https://reason-why.berlin/urban-mobility-berlin-how-to-get-around-sustainably/

Khyati Antrolia is an architect, writer, bibliophile, explorer and a history lover who is interested in architectural research and journalism. She hopes to inspire people and play a role in changing the world for the better. She believes in the power of words as much as the power of love.