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EX-TRA, Living labs for a car-free city

This article was originally published by Verkeerskunde on 13 December. To read the original article (in Dutch) please visit https://www.verkeerskunde.nl/artikel/ex-tra-proeftuinen-voor-een-autoluwe-stad


How do we achieve sustainable cities in which the car has been strongly reduced? And how do we deal with resistance to this kind of change? The European research project EX-TRA, led by Professor Luca Bertolini at the UvA, offers insights and tools. 


Central to this approach are experiments with temporary redesign of city streets. These streets will be partially or completely closed to cars and transformed into pleasant places to stay in collaboration with residents. The pilot projects will take place in Amsterdam, Bologna, Milan, Ghent, Munich and London. The project will thus generate insights for the design of and regulations for diverse, inclusive streets, about the preconditions for improved walking and cycling accessibility and additional options for shared mobility, micromobility and freight transport. In addition, the researchers are looking for strategies that can accelerate the transition to a 'post car' city. In other words, ways in which local, temporary street experiments and city-wide long-term policy can reinforce each other. 


Not homo economicus


The EX-TRA project has now been running for a year and a half, says Luca Bertolini. “But we have already found evidence of its potential value. In the scientific field, you can think of insights that improve traffic modelling, so that future mobility scenarios become more realistic. For example, many models still assume that people behave as 'homo economicus'. As if people mainly make rational considerations when it comes to their mobility, while attitudes and emotions are very important. Not only can they have a major impact, they can also be the subject of targeted interventions. We therefore include those attitudes and emotions as variables in agent-based traffic models.” 

Measuring walking and cycling accessibility 


The project is also already providing usable knowledge and solutions for municipal policy. Bertolini: “It provides input for the set of instruments we develop for policymakers. For example, we are working on an index with which you can quantitatively measure the accessibility by foot, bicycle and wheelchair of important urban destinations and basic facilities. This provides insight into which areas are in a disadvantaged situation and which could benefit from street experiments. The index can also be used to simulate potential effects on the local accessibility of a street, prior to an experiment and to measure the actual effects afterwards. Our index could be integrated into existing digital tools, such as GOAT (Geo Open Accessibility Tool). This allows you to make accessibility analyzes for pedestrian and bicycle traffic, as well as for city and neighborhood planning. Urban planners can thus stimulate urban transformations aimed at strengthening justice and sustainability. Innovative and important here is that we also accommodate the wide variety of needs and capabilities of different types of users. Based on this, we ask questions about the inclusiveness of both the existing situation and proposed measures.” Innovative and important here is that we also accommodate the wide variety of needs and capabilities of different types of users. Based on this, we ask questions about the inclusiveness of both the existing situation and proposed measures.” Innovative and important here is that we also accommodate the wide variety of needs and capabilities of different types of users. Based on this, we ask questions about the inclusiveness of both the existing situation and proposed measures.”

   

Active citizen involvement 


The researchers work closely with local residents at the living labs. Bertolini: “In fact, we also work with children. In Bologna we did a street experiment that created conditions for walking to school and also made more space for playing possible. This was done together with students and has led to a completely new kind of traffic-free and interactive schoolyard for the city. This is where the potential wider impact of street experimentation is most clearly seen at the moment. The Municipality of Bologna has recently decided to make this temporary intervention permanent and use it as a model for other schoolyards in the city. In this way, as a municipality you go 'beyond the experiment'; a crucial mechanism that unfortunately is still underused.” 

Under the flag of the VerDuS knowledge initiative (Connecting Sustainable Cities of NWO, including Regie-ord SIA, the government and Platform31), consortia of researchers and parties from the field work together on issues such as the sustainable accessibility of urban regions. The EXperimenting with city streets to TRAnsform urban mobility (EX-TRA) project is being carried out by a broad international consortium consisting of the University of Amsterdam, Goudappel, Technical University of Munich, Green City EXPERIENCE GmbH, Ghent University, Politecnico di Milano, University of Westminster, Transport for London, European Partnership for Transport in London (LEPT), Fondazione Innovazione Urbana Bologna, and the municipalities of Amsterdam, Munich, Ghent and Milan. EX-TRA is funded within the call 'ERA-NET Cofund Urban Accessibility and Connectivity' (JPI Urban Europe). More information on https://www.ex-tra-project.eu/ . Read this and previous Science Notes at: Verkeerskunde.nl/ Wetenschapsnotities   


This article comes from Verkeerskunde 5/2022, including the file 'replacement', the most recent Science notes and Travel through the World from Walk21 in Dublin.

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