Suwon and Vancouver: EcoMobility on the move
By Shermaine Ho, ICLEI World Secretariat
The petroleum-free bicycle used to be a staple of everyday life throughout Asian countries, but they have now turned into a rare sight as people in developing countries continue to grow in wealth while automobiles have become much more affordable compared to decades ago.
However, with the number of cars and urban population shooting up at skyrocketing speed, cities – especially those in emerging economy countries, are suffering from the downsides of short-lived comfort and convenience: traffic congestion, air pollution, noise, crowdedness, stress, obesity – just to name a few.
Suwon hosts first EcoMobility World Festival
Located 30km from South Korea’s capital of Seoul – the country’s financial and communication hub and the region’s key engine of development – Suwon is one of those fast-growing cities battling with mounting urban challenges associated with climate change, including road nightmares.
But the story has started to twist to a brighter end as the city re-considers low-carbon vehicles and transport means such as walking and taking public transport as priorities rather than mere options – the same formula that Vancouver had adopted many years ago to make itself one of the most sustainable and livable cities in the world.
In September this year, Suwon is bringing ecomobility to a revolutionary level by holding the first EcoMobility World Festival. During this month-long event, Hwaseomun Street inside the Festival area will be transformed into a car-free zone, while one of the city’s most congested streets Jeongjo-ro, will see ecomobile vehicles running on designated lanes. Instead of getting stuck in bottleneck traffic, citizens and Festival participants will be able to enjoy the space and fresh air that comes with the newly planted trees and expanded footpaths. They will also have the chance to experience cultural activities, concerts, street art, bike and film shows and other exciting events that usually do not happen on the streets.
At the same time, the Festival will also serve as the largest real-life and dynamic demonstration of the world’s latest innovation on sustainable transport, which cities of varying sizes and needs can consider adopting to make their transportation systems more sustainable and energy-efficient.
Vancouver pioneers in ecomobility
Crowned by WWF as the capital of Earth Hour City Challenge 2013, the city of Vancouver is a pioneer in sustainable development, but also in ecomobility. Fifty years ago, Vancouver citizens rejected the plan for a city freeway as they believed there were smarter and greener ways to solve their traffic problems. Today, the city has gradually transformed itself into an ecomobile community where almost half of the downtown trips are made by walking, cycling and public transport – travel options that are low-carbon, economical, healthy and sustainable.
In the city’s Transportation 2040 Plan, Vancouver even goes as far as to setting the goal to achieve two-thirds of all trips by sustainable modes by 2040 – now standing at 42%. Including both high-level policies and specific measures, the Plan provides a guide for making transportation, land use and investment decisions in the years ahead, and sets the stage for the city to envision its goal to providing a smart, efficient, increasingly affordable, and safe transportation system that supports a thriving economy and enhances its environment.
If cities are still wondering whether EcoMobility would work for them, they should look at leading metropolitan cities like Vancouver and fast-growing cities like Suwon. For them, EcoMobility is already a reality – and a priority that enables them to move towards more inclusive and sustainable growth.