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European Commission

Janez Potočnik

European Commissioner for Environment

Moving in the right direction

Official launch of Mobility Week 2012

Brussels, 18 September 2012

Mr President, Honourable Members of Parliament, Ladies and gentlemen,

Allow me to start by thanking our hosts the European Two-wheel Retailers' Association (ETRA) and Forum Europe for organising this event, and by welcoming all of you to our annual appointment with European Mobility Week. We are happy to have ETRA on board this year, showing us how 2 wheels can help shape our cities and create a healthier environment for city dwellers.

European Mobility Week encourages European local authorities to develop and promote sustainable urban mobility and transport. But also to implement practical measures such as the permanent reallocation of road space for walking or cycling by making wider pavements, installing cycle paths or bus lanes, and by lowering the speed limit in city centres or introducing traffic calming schemes.

We aim to raise citizens' awareness on the impact of their individual travel choices on the environment and on their quality of life, and to promote the use of alternative modes of transport - walking, cycling, using public transport, car-sharing – or even simply responsible car use.

It is always a pleasure to see how citizens welcome many of the initiatives proposed by Mobility Week. Car Free Day has, for example, been a huge success here in Brussels, as in many cities around Europe – and indeed around the world ( Japan, Canada, Ecuador and Brazil).

To ensure coherence and efficiency in the overall impact of our initiatives, we organize Mobility Week each year around a different theme. This year the theme is "Moving in the Right Direction", which refers to sustainable urban mobility planning.

Sustainable urban development is crucial in tackling congestion and other traffic-related problems, which can ultimately have serious effects on our health and well-being. We encourage cities to be innovative and forward-looking. And I am pleased to see that many already recognise the need to develop a vision for an urban transport system that meets mobility demands, protects the environment and makes the city a better and safer place to live. I am convinced that with some determination, it is possible to make this vision a reality.

Next year we will go a step further. European Mobility Week will focus on the quality of air. Air pollution and our quality of life are very closely linked, and urban planning and transport play a critical role in urban air quality. This is where European Mobility week can make an important contribution.

We have solid legislation in place at EU level. But this is not sufficient. The EU ambient air legislation has delivered significant results in reducing certain pollutants. Over the past ten years, the emissions of sulphur dioxide in the EU have declined by 54% and those of carbon monoxide by 33%. As a result, exceedances of the limit values for these pollutants are more and more infrequent.

But for other air pollutants, it is clear that we need to do more. For instance, the current concentration levels of particulate matter, ozone and nitrogen dioxide still represent a threat to human health. 21% of the EU urban population is still regularly exposed to concentration levels of particulate matter which exceed the limit values set out in EU legislation. In addition, 81% of the urban population in Europe is exposed to levels that exceed the limits fixed by the World Health Organisation.

Why is this happening? Did we miss something? While pollution from stationary sources is easier to control and the rules are easier to enforce, mobile sources of pollution such as cars and lorries represent a major challenge. Although the emission standards for mobile sources, such as cars, have been tightened by EU legislation, the number of cars on the road keeps increasing. In addition to emissions from more cars, growing traffic creates more congestion and that seriously affects urban air quality.

What we need is a twofold approach. First and foremost, and this is the objective of this year's Mobility Week, we need to encourage innovative traffic management solutions in urban areas, and to promote all forms of sustainable mobility – including two wheels. Secondly, and this will be the focus of next year's Mobility Week, we need to discourage the use of the most polluting vehicles. In certain areas, 20% of the vehicles on the road generate 80% of the emissions. We need to accelerate the switch to less polluting vehicles.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you know, there are many alternatives to the car. Multi-modal - for example using bicycles in combination with public transport – is the way forward! Our hosts, ETRA, have (around us here) a wide variety of 2 Wheel solutions to help make urban transport more sustainable. This ETRA initiative is a real and welcome contribution to the improvement of air quality and potentially to the quality of life in our towns and cities. In my view, the advantages of combining the use of 2 Wheels and public transport are clear: every kilometre cycled or walked and every car trip avoided is an active contribution to cleaner air.

Allow me then to wish the "Sustainable 2 wheels" Exhibition the success it deserves.

Thank you for your attention.


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