The younger and female face of the CIVITAS Forum 2021

Woman standing with her bike

Image by Unsplash, KBO Bike

The CIVITAS Community is varied and diverse. Researchers, designers, advocates and activists, private companies, politicians, and a curious general public – regardless of their discipline or area of interest, these passionate individuals are valuable contributors to the development of sustainable cities.

When these sustainable mobility experts and enthusiasts gather at the CIVITAS Forum, the flagship CIVITAS event that is held every other year, they have the opportunity to celebrate progress and debate current and upcoming challenges.

Historically, many of the attendees of the Forum have been established professionals with the means to travel to a multi-day event. This year, the Forum was hosted via a digital format, meaning that most attendees joined from the comfort of home. The transition to hybrid had the added benefit of making the Forum more accessible than ever. Those without the time or means to travel, like students or persons not working exclusively in mobility, suddenly had a chance to join the conversation – which was the tagline for the 2021 edition.

Hosting the event online also allowed us to gather information on who was most actively engaging with the platform and the CIVITAS Community throughout the Forum. The CIVITAS Initiative had the opportunity to connect with the three participants who engaged with the online platform the most, and ask them a few questions about their mobility interests and visions for the future.

Gender and mobility

Some similarities quickly emerged. All three of these engaged participants are young professionals and are female. There is a long history of integrating a gender perspective in mobility planning. A SUMP Topic Guide supports local planners in addressing gender equity in their SUMPs, and we have examples from across Europe of diverse cities like Madrid (Spain), Malmö (Sweden) and Vienna (Austria) of gender-sensitive planning in action. Similarly, youth and young leaders have long had a vital role in mobility planning.

The CIVITAS Forum 2021 continued the tradition of young and female leadership in pushing for more sustainable mobility.

Meeting members of the CIVITAS Community

Ulviya Abasova, a Youth Ambassador from Youth for Public Transport (Y4PT), attended the CIVITAS Forum for the first time in 2021. She was also a speaker at the Forum pre-event, the Mobility Powered by the Youth conference, where she spoke about public transportation in the smart cities session. Ulviya is involved in the organisation of hackathons and challenges for youth at Y4PT, which focus on mobility and climate change. She is originally from Baku, Azerbaijan.

Maria Natalia Paulino Araujo Alcantara, a Masters student from the Politecnico di Milano and urban mobility consultant, first attended the Forum in 2019. Her attendance at the Forum was primarily inspired by her research, and a commitment to staying up-to-date on evolving mobility topics. Maria also joined the CIVITAS Winter course in Klaipeda, Lithuania, which focused on active mobility, coastal city mobility and innovation. She is originally from Anápolis, Brazil.

Arianna Americo, Project coordinator at Eurocities, is no stranger to the CIVITAS Forum. As the dissemination manager for a CIVITAS project, ULaaDs, and the previous ELIPTIC project, she attended the Forum in 2021 with the purpose of promoting ULaaDs via a session and exhibition booth. As manager of the upcoming Eurocities Mobility Forum, she is focused on topics such as zero-emission mobility, accessibility, and participatory practices in urban planning. Arianna is originally from Rome, Italy.

The future of mobility

This year, in 2022, the CIVITAS Initiative is celebrating its twentieth anniversary! We asked Maria, Ulviya and Arianna what they hoped to see for sustainable mobility in twenty years’ time – in 2042.

In their responses, some common threads of hope appeared. Each mentioned a reality in which cars are far less visible in urban centres, and where car-sharing schemes are prevalent. Also, economic accessibility was highlighted as quite important, so that all forms of urban transportation are feasible options for everyone. Maria described this as an important kind of “freedom”.

Ulviya highlighted the potential of using artificial intelligence to achieve increased interoperability across transportation systems.

Arianna imagined “a future where streets can be used and enjoyed by anybody, children and elderly, cyclists and people with reduced mobility, parents with strollers and women at night”. Particularly in reference to the latter, she emphasised that nobody should have “to send a message to inform anybody that they got home safe”.

Not only will CIVITAS be celebrating a birthday in 2022, it will also be celebrating the European Year of Youth. It therefore is both timely and informative to hear from these young mobility professionals.

Authors: Laura Schubert, Adrienne Kotler

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