The importance of space and data: sustainable urban mobility planning in Platanias and Alba Iulia

8 Feb 2022

The importance of space and data: sustainable urban mobility planning in Platanias and Alba Iulia

Image: Platanias' planned cycling routes /Space Syntax

The spatial layout of a city influences how we live: when and how we travel, how healthy we are, crime patterns, our carbon emissions and much more. It is therefore useful to incorporate the analysis of a city’s spatial layout into its urban planning.  As such, the SUMP PLUS project is introducing advanced spatial analytics, based on Space Syntax theories and methods, into the work of the city-led innovation labs. Through SUMP PLUS, project partner Space Syntax, has been working with Platanias, a small city of 21,000 residents in the north-western part of the island of Crete (Greece), which is a major tourist destination, serving a number of mobility users up to 10 times its population during the 6-month tourism season, and Alba Iulia, an emerging tourist destination with around 75,000 inhabitants in central Romania.

In Platanias, the team applied spatial analytics to help analyse the spatial structure of the city’s movement network and to test mobility scenarios and design options, while avoiding extensive data gathering, research and high external costs. The local team (Municipality of Platanias and the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Systems Lab of the Technical University of Crete) brought local knowledge to the process, by identifying, assessing and validating existing sets of open-source data, and by collecting missing data in the field and initiating the development of an urban mobility baseline. The Platanias team used the first results of the modelling work to evaluate alternative approaches to its SUMP development and to address mobility challenges stemming from the intense seasonal tourism, including the proposed city centre bypass road and its possible junctions, traffic calming measures, locations of crossings and cycling routes, and the accessibility of landmarks, nearby attraction sites and accommodation for tourists. Through a collaborative co-creation process with local stakeholders, the team was able to create a common understanding of the current functioning of the existing city, define priorities, plan, test and ultimately, design feasible solutions for the most urgent urban mobility problems. In Alba Iulia, the team used spatial analytics to identify the current ease of access to schools, tourist attractions, and cycling infrastructure to help inform future development scenarios.

This experience has enabled the SUMP PLUS team to better understanding the needs and abilities of smaller cities with limited resources, which draw extensively on open-source data when using simplified analytical tools. Based on this experience, the team is now in the process of creating a simplified analytical tool (and accompanying guidance) to support smaller cities in developing their sustainable urban mobility plans (SUMPs). The aim of this tool is to support cities to replicate a number of processes, which have proven to be very useful for the partner cities in the innovation labs. These include modelling network accessibility for vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians and measuring the ease of accessing amenities within the network, such as social, educational, health, tourism and transport infrastructure.

As Mayor of Platanias, Ioannis Malandrakis, highlighted, the city has committed to a low carbon development plan, including designing for inclusive, safe and sustainable commuting:

“Working together in SUMP PLUS to tailor the spatial analysis to the local context, we gained a simple to understand visualization of our city’s mobility network, allowing us to quickly capture the weaknesses and opportunities. The modelling process has proven particularly useful during the consultations with local stakeholders. We aspire to use the applicable tool of Space Syntax that will be able to give direct results in the development of our first SUMP, aiming to address the long-standing mobility challenges stemming mainly from the intense seasonal tourism.”

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