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Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan of the historic city of L’Aquila (Italy)

The Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan of L'Aquila is a long-term plan to promote sustainable urban transportation, reduce emissions and pollution, and enhance liveability in the historic city. The project involves a variety of actions including enhancing cycling networks and infrastructure, improving existing public transport networks and promoting electric transportation options such as electric buses, cars and e-bicycles.

About the city of L’Aquila

L’Aquila is a mid-sized city, capital of the mountainous region of Abruzzo in central Italy. It has a population of 69,941 (ISTAT 2020) and is a popular destination for cultural and religious tourism. The city was founded in the 13th century and became an important administrative and economic centre during the Middle Ages. Its medieval origins are still visible in its historic centre and in notable buildings such as the 14th-century cathedral and the churches of San Bernardino and Santa Maria di Collemaggio. In 2009, an earthquake resulted in damages to the city’s historical buildings and the death of 309 people.

L’Aquila is home to the Celestinian forgiveness celebration, inscribed in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The tradition comprises a set of rituals and celebrations transmitted uninterruptedly since 1294.
The city of L’Aquila is not inscribed in the World Heritage List.

Climate action strategy: Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan

The Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan of L'Aquila is a long-term plan to promote sustainable urban transportation, reduce emissions and pollution, and enhance liveability. The project comprises four areas of action:

    1. Creation of a car-free zone in the historic centre.
    2. Promotion of cycling culture, through:
      • An improved network of cycling paths;
      • New bike-sharing system; and
      • Subsidies for electric bikes, taking into consideration L'Aquila's steep topography.
    3. Promotion of public transportation, through:
      • Purchase of eighteen new electric buses, with reduced emissions and running costs and improved accessibility;
      • Enhanced bus network connecting the city centre with intermodal transportation nodes, such as the railway station and the Amiternun and Collemaggio bus stations;
      • Creation of park-and-ride facilities, with low-cost parking in the periphery connected with the city centre by a regular shuttle service.
Map of the electric bus shuttle service
Plan of the electric bus shuttle © Comune dell'Aquila

4. Promotion of electric mobility, through:
    • Replacement of local police cars with electric ones;
    • Subsidies for businesses and residents to replace their conventional vehicles with electric ones.

Poster for grants and subsidies for electric vehicles © Comune dell'Aquila.

The Sustainable Urban Mobility plan was approved by the city administration (Comune) of L'Aquila and will be implemented by the Municipality and the local public transport company AMA. The project was based on an extensive public consultation campaign which included community meetings, surveys and a dedicated website. As a result of the citizens participation process, new initiatives were implemented. For instance, subsidies for electric bikes were requested by more then 1,100 residents. The project aims to:

  • Protect the historic city's cultural heritage from the effects of pollution and vibration from road traffic;
  • Enhance the liveability of the town;
  • Promote healthy transportation habits amongst the population, such as cycling and walking;
  • Minimise the negative effects of tourism, trade and administration activities in the city centre, which had led to car parking and access-related issues;
  • Enhance the image of L'Aquila as a touristic destination, promoting local economic development.

The city administration used a combination of national, regional and local funds to implement the plan. The funding sources include, among others:

  • National funds for the reconstruction after the 2009 earthquake;
  • National funds for sustainable mobility;
  • Regional funds for the development of sustainable transportation systems;
  • Local funds from the budget of the Municipality.

The project has faced several challenges in its design and implementation. On the one hand, L'Aquila's climatic and geographical characteristics make cycling less accessible than in other cities. The city is located in a steep mountainous area and is significantly colder than other parts of the country. To face these challenges, the Council developed a strong awareness-raising campaign on the benefits of cycling and offered subsidies for electric bicycles. At the same time, the replacement of fuel-powered buses with electric ones meant that bus schedules had to be re-organised to take into account charge levels and availability of charging stations. Additionally, bus drivers needed some time to adapt to the new models. 

Two and a half years into the project, the city administration reports significant benefits. These include cost savings in the ongoing running of electric buses of approximately €7,500 per vehicle, reduced air pollution and noise in the city centre, increased liveability, and better management of tourism and visitor arrivals. 

In conclusion, the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan of L'Aquila is a holistic transportation scheme that takes into consideration the specific characteristics of this historic city, using community consultation to understand the population's priorities and needs. Significantly, the project uses recovery funds to build back better after a natural disaster, enabling the local government to lead by example in investing in sustainable transportation options. Overall, initiatives like the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan can lead to enhanced liveability in cities, while preserving the local cultural heritage and reducing environmental impact. 

Source: Carla Manetti, City Councillor for Urban Mobility, Infrastructure, Transport and Smart City, Comune dell’Aquila, 2021.

Contribution towards global goals

How does this case study contribute to the global commitments of sustainable development, climate change action and heritage conservation?

Ra Boe, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Contribution towards the implementation of the 2011 Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape

The project aims to contribute towards the implementation of the Historic Urban Landscape approach by:

  • Integrating heritage values into wider urban development plans that enhance the liveability the historic centre;
  • Developing community consultation processes to identify priorities and needs within urban development and transportation;
  • Promoting the connection between the historic centre and the wider city.

Historic Urban Landscape Tools

Civic engagement tools Knowledge and Planning tools Regulatory systems

Contribution towards Sustainable Development

If fully implemented in accordance with the described plans, the initiative could contribute towards Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Goal 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

  • Target 3.4: the initiative aims to reduce premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and creation of healthy habits. 

Goal 9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.

  • Target 9.1: the initiative aims to develop quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient transportation infrastructure.
  • Target 9.4: the initiative aims to upgrade transportation infrastructure to make them sustainable, with increased resource-use efficiency, and clean and environmentally sound technologies.

Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

    • Target 11.2: the initiative aims to increase access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all.
    • Target 11.4: the initiative aims to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural heritage by protecting the character of the historic city and reducing the negative impact of road traffic on historic buildings.
    • Target 11.6: the initiative aims to reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities by promoting sustainable transportation options.

Goal 13. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

  • Target 13.3: the initiative aims to improve education and awareness raising on the impact of personal transportation choices on climate change.

Note: the described potential impacts of the projects are only indicative and based on submitted and available information. UNESCO does not endorse the specific initiatives nor ratifies their positive impact.

Learn more

Discover more about the details of the case study and the stakeholders involved.

Lasagnolo9 at Italian Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
To learn more
Visit the website L’Aquila - Urban Plan of Sustainable Mobility (in Italian)

Comune dell’Aquila

comune.laquila.it @comunedellaquila @pumslaquila

© UNESCO, 2021. Project team: Jyoti Hosagrahar, Alba Zamarbide, Carlota Marijuán Rodríguez. 
Cover photo: Dionisio iemma / Shutterstock.com
All other images: © Comune dell'Aquila

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