February 28, 2022 | Monday

Kosovar cities need to focus on sustainable urban mobility plans

Writes: Zana Sokoli – Spatial/Urban Planning Advisor at UN-Habitat Kosovo (co-author of South Mitrovica’s mobility plan, nominated for the Urban Mobility Planning SUMP award by European Mobility Week

If we build cities for cars we will have more cars, if we build cities for people we will have more people, says architect and urban planner Jan Gehl.  Kosovo is repeating what America and then Europe did in the 1950s by cutting through cities with highways or wide roads (designed for cars). The rapid and uncoordinated growth of Kosovo cities has undoubtedly affected the existing transport network, thus creating major problems with congestion, air pollution, safety, etc. Cities and urban areas in Kosovo are characterized by ever-increasing heavy traffic, air pollution, lack of functional public transport, lack of parking management system, lack of walking and cycling paths, lack of public spaces and green areas.

Investments in road infrastructure have been plentiful in the last two decades, aimed at connecting municipalities between themselves, and Kosovo with the region, and while producing impacts on the economy and development, they have also had a negative environmental and social impact directly connected with the quality of life. The increase in the number of cars, the concentration of inhabitants in the central urban areas, the concentration of the main jobs in the central urban areas, has brought to Kosovar cities a serious traffic problem. Overcrowding, air pollution, lack of parking areas, lack of green spaces, lack of sidewalks and bicycle lanes, have made it impossible for our cities to undergo a sustainable transport transition. Therefore, addressing urban transport issues is a priority for Kosovo municipalities and as such should be addressed by an appropriate and sustainable planning process in order to meet the mobility requirements of Kosovo’s new urban contexts.

Although Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMPs) are a common practice in many cities in Europe and around the world, they remain a relatively new concept in Kosovo. Until recently, transport and mobility planning in Kosovo cities has been driven by the traditional planning approach, mainly by motorized transport; however, some cities have already begun to move towards more sustainable mobility policies, including Prishtina (SUMP adopted in 2019), Mitrovica South (2020), Mitrovica North (in the process of approval), and several other municipalities who have developed specific action plans to improve traffic performance in their urban areas.

Unlike traditional transport planning approaches, the sustainable urban mobility planning model is long-term, people-oriented, comprehensive and multi-sectoral. Good policy coordination between actors in the transport sector, land use, environment, economic development, social policy, health, security and energy, and the continued involvement of citizens and stakeholders in all planning processes, are key to the success of this sustainable system of urban mobility.

As Kosovo is new in this area and municipalities do not have the expertise to draft such documents, UN-Habitat Kosovo has used the SUMP drafting process followed by the municipalities of Mitrovica South and Mitrovica North, to develop a contextualized guide that can provide guidelines for other municipalities in Kosovo in terms of preparing their respective SUMPs. Regardless of the approach and methodology followed by both municipalities, this document is also based on international guidelines and best practices (in particular the European Guideline for the Development and Implementation of SUMPs and the UN-Habitat guidelines on Planning and Design of Sustainable Urban Mobility) and has been adjusted to match local contexts.