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Interview: Spanish National Coordination

Txema Baez, Novadays, and Soledad Perlado, Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Affairs

4 November 2016

1. Spain consistently ranks among the nations with the most cities participating in EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK. What has driven this success?

As far as we are concerned, the success in participation lays in the coordination and awareness-raising work that has been carried-out since 2000 by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment. Since 2001, it has been mandatory in Spain for municipalities to install permanent measures to register their participation in EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK, thereby making the initiative more long lasting and ensuring that municipalities continue to benefit year after year. Over 2000 permanent measures were developed in Spain each year over the last 10 years.

Permanent measures involve political and budgetary oversight so the municipal plenary meetings are the ones to control EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK participation, which gives greater visibility among all political groups and to the citizens themselves.

It is fair to add the work of the Spanish Coordination to the reasons for success, which conducts annual reports recording all measures and activities conducted in the municipalities.

2. Why do you think EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK is so popular in the country?

A part of its popularity comes from the fact that it is a topic that has entered public debate, not only in municipalities, but in society in general. The Spanish Coordination has enhanced the participation of organisations, institutions, companies and other sections of society to perform actions on sustainable mobility, taking their share of responsibility in choosing their mode of mobility.

Being a European initiative promoted by the European Commission and coordinated by the Ministry, municipalities feel part of a wider European celebration, gaining visibility within a common project, and learning about mobility actions in other European cities.

It is also to be pointed out that Spain is a country where most of its cities and towns have old quarters, and recovering them through actions such as pedestrianising streets, traffic restrictions, speed restrictions, and so on, represent a great advantage. These advantages are appreciated by the public immediately since they contribute to the improvement of quality of life.

San Sebastián, Santiago de Compostela, Valladolid, Gijón, León, and Vitoria, for example, have all been participants in EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK from the beginning and have strategically embraced sustainable mobility. It has also spread to other cities - a good example is Murcia, the city that won the 2015 Spanish and EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK awards.

3. What are the main challenges that you face in encouraging cities to take part in EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK in Spain?

The main challenge is to involve more cities in a progressive way, but also and fundamentally, civil society and the media. The aim is to make citizens responsible for their behaviour when it comes to choosing a means of transport. That is the reason why in the Spanish Awards, presented by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment, there are additional categories for the media and for companies and social organisations that encourage the use of sustainable mobility in their field.

Awareness-raising remains the main challenge since it involves the promotion of changing patterns of mobility that depend on the individual decisions of each citizen, which demands a pedagogical and sensitive approach.

4. What is the future of sustainable mobility in Spain?

Sustainable mobility is a cross-cutting element in each municipality’s politics that touches upon different areas, such as urban development, traffic, environment, health, and so on. The trend should be to develop integrated and horizontal policies that improve quality of life in the city, especially through education, awareness, innovation and urban planning, with the preparation of mobility studies related to new urban developments.

It will also be necessary to expand the level of participation and involve new actors that visualise and replicate sustainable mobility policies. We believe that the future will require the increased exchange of experiences between Spanish and European cities. This could be facilitated through a database managed by the European Commission.