High-level input at ‘NICHES’ seminar
The NICHES policy seminar held at the Committee of the Regions in Brussels on 12 December 2006 featured major discussions of new concepts in the field of urban transport and mobility. Important topics included accelerating the uptake of innovation to the benefit of citizens and meeting local policy goals. Successful examples were provided by high representatives of key European cities.
© Peter Gutierrez
A two-year ‘Coordination Action’ launched under the EU’s Sixth Research Framework Programme, NICHES’ main goal is to stimulate a wider debate on the question of urban transport and mobility.
Bernard Soulage, Vice-President of the Regional Council of Rhône-Alpes and Vice-Chair of the COTER Commission of the Committee of the Regions, opened the seminar, stressing the link between research and policy, especially in view of the future Green Paper on Urban Transport, to be released in autumn 2007.
“Our aim is to promote promising new concepts, initiatives and projects,” said Leire Iriarte of NICHES coordinator Polis. “This process must include the research community, the experience of our cities and the expertise of specialised consultants.”
Key issues on the agenda
Iriarte and the NICHES consortium outlined a number of key concepts already identified by the project, including:
- Seamless mobility services
- Innovative approaches to city logistics
- New non-polluting and energy efficient vehicles
- Innovative demand management strategies
Barriers to real progress include lack of coordination of urban transport initiatives in different cities, lack of integration of mainstream transport policy and R&D, lack of concrete strategies for achieving the transition from R&D to common practice, and ignorance among stakeholders, both within and without the transport sector, of needs and interests across transport modes.
The NICHES seminar featured roundtable discussions on the theme of ‘Innovative solutions meeting local challenges’. Speakers included Luisa Prista, Head of European Commission Surface Transport Research, Mota Borges of AGE Europe, Marcos Ortiz of the Valencia region, Tiago Farias of the University of Lisbon, Ali Clabburn from Liftshare UK, Jean-Luc Moudenc, Mayor of Toulouse, Ferran Julián, Councillor of Mobility, City of Barcelona, and Erik van Merrienboer, Alderman of the City of Eindhoven.
Presentations detailed new and successful initiatives, including public bikes in Lyon, optimising space for urban freight delivery in Barcelona and the role of public authorities in the introduction of clean vehicles and fuels in the city of Eindhoven.
Patrick Mercier-Handisyde, EU Project Officer for urban transport research, presented perspectives of the European Commission. “Urban transport will become one of the key priorities for transport research under the Commission’s Seventh Research Framework Programme, FP7,” he said. “The message is clear and it is positive. The work of initiatives like NICHES is very important; the exchange of best practices on innovative transport concepts is essential to further progress in urban mobility and we will continue to support it.”