Green Urban Mobility
It is a well-established fact that being able to move is an instrumental daily activity to any age group. Being mobile can be regarded as an integral part of a sense of self and feeling whole. Therefore, it is understandable that even a small decline in such a core ability may have considerable negative impacts on the quality of life. In fact, losing either the opportunity for autonomous, independent living or the ability to participate in various activities may lead to adverse effects such as passiveness, general loss of abilities, decreased mental, social and physical health as well as social exclusion and isolation among the elderly. The end result may be a vicious circle: diminished out-of-home mobility may increase exclusion and isolation and lead to even more immobility, which in turn may cause various unfavourable health impacts.
The aim of any urban mobility system should be, therefore, to provide people of all ages with the opportunity to travel conveniently and safely. In addition, by linking age-friendliness and sustainable travel modes, such as public transport, walking and cycling, we can create urban mobility systems, which tackle two of the major challenges of our time: ageing populations and climate change. There is a need for developing green travelling alternatives in order to enable older people to be mobile and to be less dependent on individual cars. Besides mobility, green mobility alternatives facilitate participation in different activities. Furthermore, cycling and walking increase in health benefits.
Increasing the age-friendliness of green urban mobility systems benefits all age groups: even those with no challenges in their ability to move may find it more comfortable and easier to travel in a city which considers the most vulnerable groups. Older people depend strongly on the mobility services provided by cities; however, the mere existence of a mobility service does not yet guarantee that older people will utilize it. There are many reasons why older people may not use green transport modes, such as public transport. Any negative occurrence during a journey affects the general experience; sometimes one bad or discouraging experience is enough.
Age-friendly mobility systems have some core attributes, which need to be somehow addressed for older people to utilize various mobility services. If an urban mobility system does not fulfil these requirements at least partly, it may be difficult to get older people, or other users, on-board. Taking the characteristics of age-friendly urban mobility into account help urban planners to find tools that can encourage older people’s utilization of public transport services, as well as increase the quality of life among seniors. The main characteristics of age-friendly mobility systems include availability, acceptability, accessibility and affordability.
Understanding the entire journey chain is essential; all of its parts should work and provide an equally positive experience to the end-user. Each transport mode, from walking, cycling, bus, train, tram or metro to flexible transport solutions, is one part of the chain. All the transport modes should be integrated with each other in order for the entire journey chain to be successful.
The journey chain:
Older people’s travel purposes are simpler compared to younger people’s; however, their journey chains are as complex as anyone else’s. Furthermore, people who live outside urban areas should be considered. For instance: service lines, demand-responsive transport or voluntary transport services should be available when public transportation is limited or does not exist. For instance, demand-responsive transport can take a person to a stop from where urban transportation is reached.
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