What does the European Union do for citizen-based and sustainable mobility ?


There are so many EU policies that contribute to shape the context of, and the place given to its citizens. Here we present a first – partial – sample of existing European policies, and the current situation for each of them.

Accessibility and handicaps

The "Lifts Directive" (95/16/EC) pushes Member States to take action for better accessibility of existing and future buildings, particularly for people in wheelchairs.
The Technical Specifications for Interoperability/Persons with Reduced Mobility (TSI PRM) is a specific set of conditions, which aim to harmonize access to trains for persons with reduced mobility.

Comment : Most public transport infrastructures still have accessibility challenges – from metro stations to stepping into vehicles. These regulations are progressively making adaptations compulsory.

Accidents and injuries

Road accidents killed around 30.000 Europeans and harmed 1,8 millions in 2012, according to the European Commission.

  • The EU, and its Commission's body for Transport, proposes various measures on this issue, included some which are specialized: a Road Safety Observatory, campaigns on safe behaviors, various expressions on safety factors : the struggle with alcohol and drug consumption, professional driving regulation, vehicles certification, road regulation.
  • The Parliament has worked on the issue, with a resolution on Road Safety listing a series of 103 measures, answering to the Commission's requests.

Comment : Of course, a safe context on the roads allows for better mobility, for both motorists and pedestrians. However, the general context of road safety does not seem fully addressed by the EU : for example, modal shift from road to rail is indeed a major source of road safety, as which measures that may restrict car circulation but improve citizens safety, such as 30km/h in cities centers. In this field, it rather aims that car industries are better heard by the legislator.

800px-Les trois prsidents 2011-11-30

Air Quality

Air Quality Directive: Directive 2008/50/EC , with quality objectives for PM2,5 particles

Clean Air Policy Package, 18-12-2013 , with proposals of targets and ceilings, particularly for particles from vehicles

Comment : This has an impact on vehicles, and particularly both fleets of public transport vehicles (incentivize the use of public transport, modernisation of the fleet), and management of private transport, with an impact on limiting circulation in cities, thus proposing valid alternatives on private cars.


The main symbol of direct European citizen participation is of course the European Parliament election.
Comment: the European Parliament is still a weak power compared to the Council and the Commission, hence the outcome of the elections has a lower impact on EU policies.

The European Initiative is the new tool (since 2012) that gives to citizens direct capacity to take action at the EU level, by allowing petitions with 1 million signatures to request the European Commission to make a legislative proposal. A first European initiative on mobility has been the 30kmh.eu.
Commen: we are still waiting to see the legislative result of the first successful initiatives.

The general funding model of European programs are accessible to smaller organisations. Several programs directly target the single citizen, the main one is "Europe for Citizens". Unfortunately its size has been reduced in the current financial framework (2014-2020).
Comment: While these programs are still improvable, particularly due to the low budget accorded by the EU, many countries do not provide such funding programs at national level at all, or at least not with funding programs organized with the same impartiality.

The Open Data approach has a positive impact on citizenship, by allowing citizens direct control on the activity effectively produced by institutions... where the data is available.
Comment: In general, EU administration looks more accessible to the single citizen than the administrations of many national states. However this is normal for a young organization, whose political project aims are still subject to debate, and that has therefore more purpose in citizen's support than nation states. A secondary aspect is that the open model of lobbing may look more transparent that national situations where lobbies do exist, but their presence and action are not as much transparent.

Climate Change and Energy

The Second European Climate Change Programme (ECCP II) consists of working groups (amongst them groups on Aviation, CO2 and Cars, Shipping), communication on vehicle taxation, groups working on proposals for directives on biofuels and emissions trading.
Comment: This also has an impact on vehicles, with a focus on climate change, a main result of pollution.


The Fuel Quality Directive, last revision Directive 2009/30/EC, specifies on fuels and their impact on environment and health. See the Fuel page of the Commission.
Comment: This also has an impact on vehicles, as before, acting on a main source of pollution.


The European Union – particularly through Commission DG Health – has an Environment and Health Plan, which focus on air quality, with a general push for action on air quality improvement to the various stakeholders (mainly Member States). It also calls for cross-thematic policies, for example with transport.
Comment: the economic impact of poor health prevention does not seem adequately considered here.


The Environmental Noise Directive (2002/49/EC) identifies the sources of noise pollutions and pushes Member States to take action against it.
Comment: A direct link to mobility is the noise coming from traffic, and how traffic is thus regulated, particularly speed and flux of vehicles.

Open Data

A main tool is the Directive on Open Data 2003/98/EC, revised by Directive 2013/37/EU, on the re-use of Public Sector Information (PSI). It states that this information should be made public. It is completed by other measures, such as working groups or an Open Data portal. All this is part of a Digital Agenda.
Comment : Open Data is essential to give back power to the citizens, so they can access both operational data on mobility (e.g. delay statistics), but also primary documents with strategic decisions that organize mobility : tender documents, evaluations, contracts...
The certainty that all these documents will be made transparent – and effectively controlled by someone – is a high incentive to improve the quality of the work. Not all data is – yet – available, and some data on mobility is considered covered by commercial secrets legislation : what a pity !

Passengers' rights

There are currently regulations for the main 4 transport modes : Air, Rail, Road, Maritime.

Comment : these regulations define very precisely passengers' rights (delay duration, % of refund, etc.), and this is a good start for a passenger based regulatory framework.

Privacy and Data protection

With the integration of IT into public transport, personal data protection has become an issue for mobility : who has access to the exact list of all the journeys you have made or will be doing, by bus, train or airplane ? How is it possible to ensure this tracking is separated from other surveillance and communication systems, such as CCTVs and personalized advertising ?
The current European regulation is the 1995/46 Data protection Directive, that establishes basic principles in the treatment of personal data, such as transparency of control to citizens, legitimate purpose of this control, and a reasonable proportionality between means of control and their goal. A revision of this directive is still under negotiation since 2012, and it introduces, amongst others, the principles of "privacy by default" and "privacy by design" into processing systems.
For air travel, privacy is strongly limited by Passenger Name Record and Computer Reservation Systems, aimed to ease international travel booking and allow safety protection or police controls.
Comment : we are in a time of booming use of social media and its integration into all aspects of daily life. Aside from the positive effects, this also has many potential negative consequences, from undesired commercial solicitation to deeper democratic concerns, as revealed by the PRISM affair. Big Data already knows how we ride from a place to another, and this potentially impacts our very capacity to move. We absolutely need stronger data protection laws.

Urban Mobility

While the EU has little direct action on a local level, due to the principle of subsidiarity, it has developed a policy on urban mobility despite this, arguing that over 60% of the EU population lives in cities. However, they are soft, facultative and informational measures only :

  • the Urban Mobility Package (17-12-2013), that provides a definition of what is sustainable mobility, and how Member States should implement it,
  • The Action Plan on Urban Mobility (2009) "encourages" the local governments to improve mobility, and lists 20 measures for better urban mobility.
  • The vision of the Commission for urban mobility has been developed in the Green Paper "Towards a new culture for urban mobility" (2007). It details a wider landscape of what could be improved, in urban mobility : making it more sustainable, safe, accessible, and better managed.
  • The Commission promotes Sustainable Mobility Week each year, an EU-wide promotional event, organized locally by each interested protagonist.

Comment : the European Union has little direct power on urban mobility management, as this is under control of regional and local councils, and it lacks the political support to implement the best measures, by directive or regulation. Hence, these are only soft measures, moral support to the local actors involved, like the diffusion of booklets and posters : better than nothing, but little more.

Sources : European Commission, European Disability Forum, European Environment Bureau, Fnaut, Transport & Environment