Everything you need to know about the ReVeAL Final Conference

On 7 and 8 November 2022, our project convened for the ReVeAL Final Conference in London (and online), bringing together urban mobility representatives from across Europe.

It was a unique opportunity to hear first-hand how UVARs (Urban Vehicle Access Regulations) have been transforming urban mobility in six cities, the lessons learnt and strategies for others to follow suit.

UVAR power

Through innovative spatial interventions such as Low Emissions Zones (LEZs), Congestion Charges, Limited Traffic Zones (LTZs) and superblocks, cities can use UVARs to create greener, safer more inclusive streets. Cities across Europe are increasingly looking to UVARs as urban management strategies, reallocating space to prioritise active travel and public transport, while minimising polluting vehicles.

Undoubtedly, this is easier said than done; nevertheless, through the ReVeAL project, six cities have proved it is not just possible, but successful! Across three years, Helmond (NL), Jerusalem (IL), City of London (UK), Padua (IT), Vitoria-Gasteiz (ES) and the project leader Bielefeld (DE) have piloted pioneering ways to prompt comprehensive modal shifts.

“The pandemic demonstrated we need our public spaces, they cannot be given over solely to cars, they are crucial to life! Our pilot cities have shown while it may take some time, such shifts in mobility management are possible and they have gathered here to share their insights.”

Bonnie Fenton, ReVeAL’s Coordinator.

Each city faced unique challenges along the way, implementing solutions which worked for their specific geographic, social and political context. The ReVeAL Final Conference was an opportunity to explore spatial interventions, pricing aspects, regulatory measures, governance and stakeholder engagement, exploring the different approaches taken by each city.

“Cities across the world are all asking the same questions; how can I keep my city healthy, active and have nice places to live? This is the issue we have addressed across this project, with the aim of ensuring cities know the processes involved, encouraging, inspiring and supporting them to take the same steps our pilot cities here today have done.”

Sidharta Gautama from the University of Ghent.

Watch their session below:

What’s in our Toolbox

Translating experiences into practical guidance was at the core of the event. On day two, attending delegates had the chance to take a deep dive into the projects cross-cutting themes and the project’s decision support Tool ‘AccessRegulationsForYourCity’. The latter helps cities that are considering putting UVARs in place to find out which strategies may work for them, how they can be adapted to their context; as well as creating effective communications and public outreach procedures.

As cities (and regions) from Brussels to Bristol, and from Paris to Pisa strive to implement and expand UVARs to meet modal switch and decarbonisation targets – such guidance is key.

You can find more on our Toolbox here.

Toolkit diagram

A tale of six cities: lessons learnt and recommendations in ReVeAL

Over the last three years, ReVeAL’s pilot cities have been busy developing, implementing and reworking a range of UVAR measures, from superblocks to LEZs, Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA) technologies to cycle infrastructure.

The approaches taken by each city were shaped by their individual needs and challenges, building on existing transport infrastructure, and integrating into the city’s wider mobility strategies. Indeed, from the medium sized city of Helmond in The Netherlands to the major metropolis of Jerusalem, each pilot city is a thoroughly distinctive place.

It was a process of testing, measuring, implementing, assessing, redeveloping and scaling up – a process which is still ongoing. Across several sessions, each city presented their actions, outputs and lessons, before joining for panel debates to compare and contrast experiences.

Two panels with the six city representatives. From left to right: Bonnie Fenton (RC), Samantha Tharme (City of London), Nimrod Levy (Municipality of Jerusalem), Matthieu Graindorge (City of Helmond), and Niels Kneppers (V-tron)

From left to right: Bonnie Fenton (RC), Juan Carlos Escudero-Achiaga (CEA – Environmental Studies Centre at Vitoria-Gasteiz), Raffaelle Michelon (Municipality of Padova), and Olaf Lewald (City of Bielefeld)

Panel debates

Following the above mentioned presentations, Project Coordinator, Bonnie Fenton chaired a panel debate with the city representatives, quizzing them on their actions, what they learned, and how they might adapt their approach if they were to start the project again.

It was an opportunity for honest and open exchange, with delegates in the room- and online- posing questions to the panellists on everything from the political coalitions created to the finer details of street redesign.

Given the incredibly diverse experiences of each city, it was also a chance to look into detail how the building blocks were implemented, where, and why they had been deployed, and the different results they had in distinct contexts.

Panel discussion on ReVeAL’s framework : Bonnie Fenton (RC), Lucy Sadler (Sadler Consultants) and Sidharta Gautama (University of Ghent).

What did we learn from the debates?

  • You can’t solve what you don’t see! The first step is ensuring citizens and transport users understand the problems they are facing and the need to solve them.
  • Communicate, communicate… communicate! Whether it is with residents, business owners, or national and local politicians, clear communication needs to be established and maintained.
  • Choose the weapons you have; UVARs need to work with the tools you have, legal frameworks, geography, infrastructure and more.
  • Ensuring compliance is key. This means making sure users are aware of the scheme AND keep to the rules within it. Enforcement can only work when people know how to comply.
  • Break those silos! Departments MUST work together to address the multiple components which will arise.
  • UVAR is not a fit and forget! These measures require continued monitoring, revision and development.
  • Designing for all needs; UVAR measures need to take into account the variety of mobility needs and cannot penalise those with reduced or different transport requirements.

Watch the cities panels below!

A deep dive into the tools for UVAR success

Having examined how each pilot city had approached their UVAR design and implementation, the challenges encountered, and solutions found, day two returned for an exploration of how other cities can utilise these findings and the tools developed across the project.

The EU approach

The EU’s approach has tremendously changed over the last decade, going from planning for road vehicle movement (road building, parking, etc) to focusing on planning for city life with active mobility, traffic restraint, removal of cars in urban cities, and linking mobility to other objectives including sustainability, health and the economy. UVARs are one of the tools the EU has turned towards.

ReVeAL is one of a few other EU-funded projects which have examined UVARs, supporting cities to develop new mobility management strategies, as well as pricing mechanisms and regulatory measures.

Ivo Cre, POLIS Network’s Director of Projects walked attendees through the existing and upcoming actions taking place at the EU level and what this means for cities. These include spatial interventions, pricing measures (Eurovignette, European electronic tolling system, internalisation of external costs of transport) and regulatory measures (Fitfor55, strengthened AQ norms, clean vehicle direction, etc). In addition, SUMPs as a framework for UVARs and complementary measures (e.g. urban nodes) and ensuring compliance (e.g. European Electronic Tolling System and Cross border enforcement directive).

Regions too are exploring the development access regulations, with another EU project, Dynaxibility4CE project releasing a UVAR SUMP Topic guide which guides decision makers how to implement UVARs considering the city and its wider zone, the so-called Functional Urban Area (FUA).

“We are no longer discussing if we need access regulations or not. The EU is now trying to develop the technology pathways, the ‘bigger picture’ legislation including climate neutrality and green transitions, and establishing an expert group to encourage national level support too.”

Ivo Cré, POLIS Network’s Director of Projects and Policy.

ReVeAL sister projects: UVAR Box & UVAR Exchange

ReVeAL is part of a range of projects which have been helping roll out UVARs and develop the necessary technological, governance frameworks, and regulatory measures.

One such project, UVAR Box has been facilitating the private, public and commercial use of UVARs through a user-friendly tool. The project is facilitating UVAR compliance, which is especially an issue for those travelling in foreign countries and across borders. Digitisation Software providers may use the open-source UVAR Box Tool software to include UVARs.

“Why should we digitalise UVARs? It supports with great awareness, greater compliance and greater impact.”

Lucy Sadler, Sadler Consultants

In a nutshell, the project enables the creation of user-friendly tools to help put UVAR regulations in Machine to Machine-readable data. It makes it easier for cities and regions to create awareness, compliance and impact for their UVARs. In addition, more and more navigation service providers are asking cities for data; this tool enables cities to give the data once in a single format, rather than several times in different formats.

UVAR Exchange is another EU-funded project which aims to identify EU-wide vehicle enforcement, produce recommendations for clearer UVAR signage and demonstrate cooperative ITS/ geofencing for car navigation systems. It created guidelines on signage for different types of UVARs including LTZs and pedestrian zones.

The cross-cutting themes: the things every good UVAR needs to make it a success

Each pilot city has individual – and often very different – mobility ecosystems. Nonetheless, several cross-cutting themes can shape the successes and challenges encountered. The ReVeAL project has demonstrated the importance of observing these themes to deliver successful UVAR strategies.

Find out more about these themes here.

Watch their session below:

ReVeAL’s Decision Support Tool

Bonnie Fenton (RC) and Sofia Pechin (TRT) presenting the ReVeAL Tool

UVAR strategies must be implemented according to the goals, ambitions and capacity of each city and local government. To support decision-makers in this process, ReVeAL developed an open-source online UVAR tool made for local governments and decision-makers: AccessRegulationsForYourCity.

The tool consists of 14 questions that can be answered in 5-10 minutes by a city representative who knows the local mobility context and goals well. Through their responses, the tool filters the 33 UVAR building blocks identified in the ReVeAL project to suggest the ones that are likely to suit the local context. Each building block is linked to a factsheet, case examples, and to the ReVeAL guidance.

The final conference was used as an opportunity to launch the tool and a chance for other cities attending to find out more.

A demonstration of the tool

Bonnie Fenton then demonstrated the tool and what a city can gain from using it.

“Spatial interventions, permits to travel and pricing mechanisms are all aspects for consideration, and the tool matches the building blocks within these which may go well together,” said Fenton.

Delegates were walked through a live demonstration, showing how the tool accommodates for existing measures, main activities, mobility services available, as well as the socio-economic makeup of the area.

The tool then looks to the objectives of the area- be it noise reduction, inducing active travel, decongestion- and the available finances.

The tool provides possible measures for the city and appropriate guidance.

Watch the presentation of the tool now!

Wrapping up!

To finish the event, all pilot cities joined for a panel discussion to share the challenges they faced, the solutions they found and their recommendations for others.

The consensus was clear, public acceptance was the bedrock of any UVAR scheme, a process which starts at the ideation phase, and goes on throughout the implementation.  Each city approached this slightly differently, with Jerusalem launching a large city-wide campaign, with Vitoria-Gasteiz taking to the streets to focus on the specific district where work was being undertaken.

The cities also noted ReVeAL had been a chance to consolidate, enhance and expand complimentary measures such as bike lanes, while highlighting the importance of such alternative modes to citizens.

The importance of collaboration with the political and administrative levels was also shown. The panellists described how these decision-makers could be brought on board, and maintained on-side as situations or administrations shift.

Equity was also of vital importance. The cities needed to launch comprehensive assessments of planned action on all user groups. If you implement barriers, who may be affected? If you reduce car space, are there any vulnerable users who may lose out? If implementing new active travel infrastructure, how can you ensure these are accessible to all?

The cities noted the importance of ensuring engagement processes reached a variety of groups, making material available to all different groups, varying outreach platforms… and starting early!

Embedding UVARs within the city’s wider sustainable mobility strategy was indispensable; climate neutrality goals, modal switch, emissions reduction, and clean fleets. UVARs are not about completing switching a city’s transport approach, but complementing, supporting and propelling the journey they are on already.

Careful consideration of exemptions and their communication were also key. “As few as possible, but as many as necessary,” said Matthieu Graindorge, from Helmond.

Finally, did the cities have advice for cities starting out with UVARs now?

“Choose the people you work with well, if you define your needs, budget and focus, you will find the right people, who will be able to support you,” said Nimrod Levy from Jerusalem.

“Each city that wants to start with a UVAR should join a consortium like this! The exchange of knowledge and support was crucial for us,” asserted Olaf Lewald, Bielefeld.

“At the same time, I cannot stress enough the need for stakeholder discussion, an honest one about the pros and cons, and their role in the decision-making process, that the final decision is in the hands of the elected politicians.”

The ReVeAL Consortium in London, November 2022