This year’s theme for the World Habitat Day is Urban Mobility. The United Nations have made this choice because mobility and access to goods and services are essential to the efficient functioning of cities and towns as they expand.
The Executive Director of UN-Habitat Dr. Joan Clos has called for improved accessibility and mobility in urban areas and for more efficient cities and towns. “Mobility is an important part of city design as it contributes, not only to the liveability of a city in terms of reduced congestion and pollution, but also to the economic potential, allowing the efficient movement of people and goods. Mobility is at the core of equitable access to basic goods, services and activities – such as work, education, medical care, shopping, socializing – and to enable people to participate in civic life,’ Dr. Clos said.
Accessible cities promote sustainable modes of transportation, public transport (trains, buses) and soft mobility (bikes and walking).
On the contrary, the collective costs of ‘automobility’ include urban sprawl, air and noise pollution, climate change, road traffic accidents, and the physical separation of people by class and race.
Mobility is a broader concept that just choosing a transportation mode but should be integrated into urban planning and design so as to focus on how to bring people and places together, by promoting accessibility over infrastructure improvements.
Optimizing urban densities and minimizing land zoning will improve the well-being of citizens while being less demanding. Proximity of goods and services exploits the urban advantage and encourages investment and opportunity.
Compact, well-designed cities can be cleaner and more environmentally friendly than more spread out areas.
“In an environment characterized by scarcity, this is not only preferable to our standard of living but vital if we are to grow our urban space in a sustainable and desirable way. We need to ensure the cities of the future are well-planned, sustainable and accessible to all,” Dr. Clos concluded.