Sustainable Urban Mobility: What’s Next?


Sustainable urban mobility is one of the critical components for creating healthy liveable cities. In the past few years, some of the world’s most liveable cities have identified sustainable urban mobility as a key priority for investment.

Rapid urbanisation has created many problems in the way we travel inside our dense cities, thus sustainable urban mobility has become a key challenge for most cities infrastructures. Congestion, safety, air pollution, noise emissions and high levels of CO2 are some of the key challenges that our growing cities are struggling to cope with. Whilst some cities stagnate in urban mobility, others have taken bold measures to upgrade their infrastructures to promote a higher quality of life for their habitants.

Urban mobility modal split

Percentage of people who travel to work by car vs walking, cycling and public transport:

Model split

In Europe most people ride bicycles, walk or use public transport to get to work. Amsterdam & Copenhagen are two examples of cities that are leading the way in sustainable urban mobility.

63% of people in Amsterdam use their bikes on a daily basis. That’s about 800,000 people riding a bicycle in a dense city every day! The city defended its title as the world’s most bicycle-friendly city in the 2013 Copenhagenize Index. In 2011, Copenhagen’s Municipality adopted a new cycling strategy, which aims to make Copenhagen the world’s best city for cycling. The goal was to have 50% of people cycling to their place of work or education by 2015. This initiative will help the city in reaching its ambitious goal of becoming CO2 Neutral by 2025. [Source: European Commission]

Walkable and bicycle cities understand the many benefits green mobility brings to their cities.  Walking and cycling, otherwise called “Active transport”, are more than just a healthy mode of transport. Researchers have shown the many positive social, environmental and economic benefits that active transport brings to cities.

amount of space car vs bike vs bus

Image credit: Press Office City of Munster, Germany, August 2001.

Sustainable urban mobility also provides great space savings in dense cities, which means our streets, can be transformed into vibrant and healthy places, with additional landscape and active areas. Water Boulevards & Urban Forest are two innovative examples of how we can transform our streets into healthy places.

Water Boulevards [more info]

Liveable cities green space

Urban Forest [more info]

Baharash Architecture Urban Forest

Whilst cities race to upgrade their infrastructure towards more sustainable modes of transport, an opportunity is also appearing for new solutions to integrate cycling with public transport.

There is currently a huge gap in the connections between cycling and public transport. The more we integrate the two, the easier it becomes for people to combine cycling and public transport on their daily commutes. Safety is also a critical issue.

The World Health Organisation [WHO] estimates that 1.24 million people around the world die each year from road traffic accidents. 27% of these deaths are amongst pedestrians and cyclists. The majority of these fatalities occur in urban areas.

There is a great opportunity to foster an entrepreneurial spirit in urban mobility, all aimed at creating safe and integrated solutions. The history of the bike sharing programme is a good example of this type of test bed.

Fostering entrepreneurial spirit in Urban Mobility

The earliest bicycle program known to have been started was in 1965 by Luud Schimmelpennink, a Dutch Social Inventor. His White Bicycle Plan in Amsterdam was put to the test by collecting several hundred bikes, painting them white, and distributing them around the city for people to use freely. Although most of the bikes had been stolen or found in nearby canals, the advancements in Technology & Design since 1965, have allowed bike sharing programmes to become more secure, reliable & accessible.

Today Paris has the largest bike sharing programme in Europe called the “Vélib’”, with over 18,000 bicycles and 1,230 stations. That’s about twice the size of London’s bike sharing programme. Nobody could have predicted that 50 years after Luud Schimmedpennink’s experiment, 600 cities worldwide would go onto provide a bike-sharing programme.

The key lesson here is that cities need to foster a bottom-up entrepreneurial spirit, investing in people, businesses and organizations that are passionate about improving their own city. This inward investment will create more green jobs & will most likely result in a new way of thinking about urban mobility.

Final thoughts

Ultimately, a city is just like a business; innovation is not about how much money you have to spend, it’s about the people you have and how they are led; the equivalent of the apple phenomenon.


About the author

Baharash Bagherian

Baharash Bagherian is a Designer working holistically at all scales, designing for a higher quality of life whilst also protecting the environment. He believes that great Architecture is more than buildings: “It’s about creating resilient destinations that make people feel healthy to live in, inspired to work in and want to visit.”

In his work, each project is driven by a process of investigation and experimentation. The outcomes of these studies form the basis of the design. He strives to develop innovative and creative solutions that make a positive contribution to our current and future generations.

His award-winning design studio, Baharash Architecture, have worked on projects in various scales, from urban scale; such as master plans, landscape design and buildings, to smaller scale; such as interiors, furniture and products. Recent projects include the Oasis Eco Resort in Liwa and phase 2 of Dubai Sustainable City.

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