Changing Mobility Habits for a Healthier Life
Contributing to the 3d Sustainable Development Goal - Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages capital city of Lithuania, Vilnius is creating a sustainable urban mobility plan (SUMP) for its inhabitants. SUMP has to encompass various mobility modes and variations and one of the themes of the city strategy is to plan how to change people’s behavior in mobility and encourage them to take more sustainable ways of getting around in the city. Nevertheless, how to change people’s behavior in a sustainable way?
The situation in the city requires prompt actions in order to cease air and noise pollution, traffic jams and to solve other mobility related problems, that not only causes discomfort to everyday city’s life, but to human health in general. The ownership of an individual car is strongly embedded in the current Lithuanian mentality. And this mentality does not encourage to create sustainable cities and communities. Thus, just like other sustainability issue, mobility problems have to be perceived as culturally caused phenomenon rather than plain technological or infrastructural difficulties. For instance, more bike infrastructure alone would not necessarily increase trips done by bikes significantly, since the bike itself is perceived as a travel mode for lower income people or as a weekend leisure activity. While individual car is associated with status, wealth and well-being. It is requisite to break this association and promote other travel modes since people move within the city for various purposes and each purpose has different principles and goals. Thus, the question now becomes not a political, but rather a cultural one: why do people travel and what does it mean to get around the city?
People often state that the speed is the primary cause for choosing one or another travel mode. Therefore, they highly appraise the car for its speed. However, city data indicates the opposite: some bus trips are faster than the same route driven by an individual car; the city center could be traveled through way faster by bike than by car. The question here is more about control and comfort rather than speed. People rationalize their travel choices even though these choices are not supported by actual facts. Therefore, mobility modes must be detached from a social status. Trips done by cars have to be moved only to certain streets while other streets have to be left for other means of transportation that are less pollutant, hazardous and more active and engaging. There is also a need to enable areas where children could travel safely to schools and off-class activities.
The essential principle here is to find and create islands in the city for various prototypes, since the top-down approach city-wise might be perceived as a negative impact on the existing the state of the art change. Working with local communities and building a sense of ownership in them would guarantee a successful and sustainable behavioral change and lead to a healthier city. These satellites can be used to spread over the best practices and have an impact on other districts and communities through working examples and dialogue between equals.
Author: Zemartas Budrys (Homo Eminens)