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Policy & Global Development

Seven Cities Share their Experiences and Projects for a More Sustainable Urban Planning

The event “The Cities We Want” brought together municipal representatives to discuss the urban agenda and the SDGs


Seven cities came together on March 6 at the Palau Macaya to debate and share experiences of their respective urban planning models. The meeting, organized by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health and the “la Caixa” Foundation, was entitled “The #CitiesWeWant: How to build a local SDG agenda to achieve healthier and more sustainable cities”.

Mayors and representatives of Barcelona, Bilbao, L’Hospitalet, Madrid, Sant Joan Despí, Seville, Viladecáns, and the Metropolitan Region of Barcelona participated in the one day meeting. During the closed morning session, the participants explained actions implemented and future plans, and identified major challenges.  Some of the issues raised were shared with the citizenship during a round table, open to the public, which took place later in the day.

Regarding the main topic of the event, the Sustainable Development Goals, Seville’s mayor Juan Espadas pointed out that “they can become a roadmap for helping cities achieve their sustainable goals”. Espadas suggested giving priority to “qualitative aspects that contribute the most to improving citizens’ lives” and in this sense he highlighted one area above the rest: air quality.

Other central issues to the debate were mobility and urban development plans. Cities like Bilbao, Seville and Barcelona explained their policies to promote cycling. “We wanted to convey the idea that the bicycle is another mode of public transport”, stated Alfonso Gil, deputy mayor of Bilbao.

Adrià Gomila, director of mobility in the Barcelona city council, acknowledged the need to change the current model: “In a city as dense as ours, moving as we did 15 or 20 years ago not only generates health problems but is also a matter of efficiency”.

One of the strategies mentioned as giving support to changes in mobility patterns was the promotion of electric vehicles. Specifically, Bilbao has invested 10,000 € in helping taxi drivers change their vehicle for an electric one. The Metropolitan area of Barcelona explained that it offers financial aid to people who decide to buy an electric bicycle.

Other strategies that were discussed were the use of big data and participatory processes to identify citizens' needs, low-emission zones, superblocks, or smart parking meters that distinguish vehicles according to their emission levels.

In turn, Alfonso Gil made special mention to noise-related problems: “It is one of the main problems in big cities; it leads to heart disease and a whole series of health problems that deserve a profound analysis”.