The survey of 3,000 people found that on a weekday 34% of citizens walk and 32% use public transport; only 22% people travel by car, down from 27% in 2010.

Helsinkians overall average three trips per day, but females between the ages of 7-17 travel the most often, with an average of four trips a day. Over 65s were found to make more than two trips.

More middle-aged women prefer to use public transport compared to men, who are twice as likely to use a car to travel into the city.

Helsinki is known as one of the ‘greenest’ of cities, with its efforts, along with 14 other cities, giving rise to the creation of the annual European Green Capital Award, which rewards environmentally friendly urban living.

Helsinki’s aim is to increase sustainable mobility, but it faces a challenge in the suburbs where passenger cars are used for travel much more than in the city centre. Last year it announced ambitious plans to eliminate the need for cars by 2025, making it an ideal site to explore the range of possibilities for the future of sustainable urban mobility.

The data was collected in September and October using telephone interviews by Helsinki City Planning Department. The margin of error of up to ± 1.8 percentage points. It is the fourth such study.

Helsinki has been supported by EMBARQ, together with IDEO, who are working also with Mexico City. In both cases their strategy is to convene a group of transport experts, philanthropists, venture capitalists, bankers, technology gurus, telecommunications providers, marketers, and automakers to explore ‘what’s next’ for urban mobility. They then hope to build out, replicate, and scale the most transformative ideas that emerge.

Last year the European Commission earmarked more than EUR 500 000 over three years for practical support to active campaigners promoting sustainable urban mobility in European cities, under its Sustainable Urban Mobility campaign. The European Commission’s Sustainable Urban Mobility campaign is linked to the European Mobility Week, which runs from 16 to 22 September every year and culminates in the ’In Town Without My Car!’ day.

Last year over 2000 cities and towns across Europe participated in the 13th such week, the theme being ‘our streets, our choice’, which called on people to re-evaluate the way they view the urban space they inhabit, and encouraged them to reclaim it for the use of people, instead of cars.

The website DoTheRightMix records measures taken on sustainable mobility in European cities under the European Commission’s Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP) Award. Currently they number over 2100. The award concept is in line with the Eltis SUMP guidelines which define a Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan as a ‘strategic plan designed to satisfy the mobility needs of people and businesses in cities and their surroundings for a better quality of life’.

Sustainainable mobility has many advantages. Image:  Forum for the Future

Sustainable mobility has many advantages. Image:  Forum for the Future

This article is published in collaboration with Sustainable Cities Collective. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

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Author: David Thorpe is Special Consultant of Sustainable Cities Collective.

Image: A retired woman uses a cane as she takes a walk in Enghien-les-Bains, north of Paris, August 26, 2013. REUTERS.