A large majority of European citizens live in an urban environment, with over 60% living in urban areas of over 10.000 inhabitants. They live their daily lives in the same space, and for their mobility share the same infrastructure. Urban mobility accounts for 40% of all CO2 emissions of road transport and up to 70% of other pollutants from transport.
European cities increasingly face problems caused by transport and traffic. The question of how to enhance mobility while at the same time reducing congestion, accidents and pollution is a common challenge to all major cities in Europe. Congestion in the EU is often located in and around urban areas and costs nearly 100 billion Euro, or 1% of the EU's GDP, annually. Cities themselves are usually in the best position to find the right responses to these challenges, taking into account their specific circumstances.
Efficient and effective urban transport can significantly contribute to achieving objectives in a wide range of policy domains for which the EU has an established competence. The success of policies and policy objectives that have been agreed at EU level, for example on the efficiency of the EU transport system, socio-economic objectives, energy dependency, or climate change, partly depends on actions taken by national, regional and local authorities. Mobility in urban areas is also an important facilitator for growth and employment and for sustainable development in the EU areas.
The European Commission's first policy proposals in the area of urban mobility, the "Citizens' Network", date back to 1995 and 1998. They resulted in the launch of a series of initiatives based upon a "best practice" approach.
Further to the mid-term review of the 2001 Transport White Paper 'European transport policy for 2010: time to decide', the European Commission adopted the Green Paper "Towards a new culture for urban mobility" on 25 September 2007. This consultation document opened a broad debate on the key issues of urban mobility: free-flowing and greener towns and cities, smarter urban mobility and urban transport which is accessible, safe and secure for all European citizens. Based upon the results of the consultation, the European Commission adopted the Action Plan on urban mobility on 30 September 2009.
As a follow-up to the 2011 Transport White Paper 'Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area', the European Commission intends to come up later in 2013 with an Urban Mobility Package that will address initiatives 31, 32 and 33 of the White Paper. Initiative 31 calls for establishing procedures and financial support mechanisms at the European level for preparing Urban Mobility Plans. Initiative 32 foresees the development of a package for urban road user charging and access restriction schemes; while initiative 33 covers the production of best practice guidelines to better monitor and manage urban freight flows.