March 11, 2016

Urban Future in Austria

Clearly, the urban future is a topic that draws a crowd. Some 1,500 participants traveled from more than 300 cities to attend the Urban Future event held in the Austrian city Graz at the beginning of March, where they discussed issues related to mobility, climate protection, resources, and communication in cities.

The main topic at the two-day conference was mobility. The question of how and, above all, by what means we will travel in and around cities in the future was discussed intensively on a number of panels – in part because the changes in this area are already underway. While urban spaces have until recently been dominated by individual modes of transportation, some cities, such as London, Copenhagen and Bremen, are increasingly adding more local public transportation options. E-mobility has now become so self-evident that it hardly needs to be discussed any longer. Instead, the big question is when self-driving vehicles will finally arrive. The biggest challenge at the moment is the legal hurdle; the infrastructure of cities will also have to be adapted.

Philipp Bouteiller of Berlin TXL views the entire situation with anticipation: “Self-driving vehicles will be here sooner than many people think, and they will change the face of our cities over the long term.” In his view, it is important to answer the question as to what the arrival of autonomous drivers means for urban planning – and to do so sooner rather than later. The same is true for bicycle traffic. In the future, bicycle friendliness will be a key feature when it comes to the quality of life and efficiency of cities. There is now a consensus in most European cities that expanding bicycle traffic is the most cost-efficient and smartest way to avoid the impending transportation disaster. As Mikael Colville-Andersen of Copenhagenize notes: “If you do not see bicycles as part of the solution, then you are part of the problem.”

However, the decisive factor for all of these technical innovations will be the extent to which it is possible to convince people of their usefulness and enable them to take advantage of the new opportunities. So Gerald Babel-Sutter, the program director at Urban Future, had a very clear focus in Graz: “Everyone is talking about smart cities, but they usually focus on technologies. In Graz, we are consciously focusing on the people who are already driving change in our cities.”

The key people as well as other exciting ideas about the Urban Future can be found at and on Twitter by using the hash tags #citychangers and #urbanfuturegraz

Official press release about the conference: download PDF


March 11, 2016

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