CIVITAS ECCENTRIC colleagues Mr Stefan Synek from Munich and Mr Nikolay Simeonov from Ruse, Bulgaria reflect on how they find Turku and it's work in the field of smart mobility.
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This article has been written as a part of the EU-funded CIVITAS ECCENTRIC -project: www.turku.fi/civitas-eccentric. 

Text by Roope Lipasti

How well do you know Turku? 

Nikolay Simeonov: Actually, prior to ECCENTRIC I had never heard about Turku, probably like our colleagues from Turku had never heard about Ruse in Bulgaria, so I am delighted that through the ECCENTRIC project I discovered this beautiful Finnish city. It was very interesting to learn about the traditions of the city in the maritime industry, the development of the biotech and pharmaceutical industry, and to visit the Science Park in the laboratory area of Kupittaa.

Stefan Synek: I visited Turku for a day when I was on vacation in Finland in 2005. In the meantime, of course, Turku has changed a lot, especially with regard to the new mobility offers.

How do you see Turku from the point of view of traffic and moving – which things work well, which not so well?

NS: I found the public transport in the city very well organised and easy to use, especially with the Föli mobile application app. I didn’t notice any large traffic from personal cars, so I believe this is not a problem in Turku. I was very surprised to see that, although it was winter (February 2017) many people were riding bikes, something that you cannot see in a southern city like Ruse. This of course is possible because of the good work of the municipality to provide good conditions for cycling even in winter times.
In my opinion, Turku is very well organised in terms of traffic and moving and will remain in my mind as a good example for actual implementation of the concept for sustainable urban mobility.

SS: From the perspective of Munich, I can't really say much about this. We are aware of Turku's efforts in the area of MaaS. One advantage of Turku compared to Munich is certainly that it is smaller with regard to the upscaling of successful measures. Upscaling processes are probably more complex and slower for Munich with around 1.5 million inhabitants. 
Furthermore, Turku as the most important city in southwest Finland has to cope with a lot of commuting due to its attractiveness (big employers, university), similar to Munich. Since the west of Turku is bordered by the sea, car traffic is concentrated on a few central axes, which is certainly a challenge for traffic planning.

What are the most important things Turku should do (regarding mobility) for the years to come if we are to be a carbon neutral city?

NS: I believe that it can even further promote the active modes of transport – walking and cycling, and make additional investments for developing a fully electric public transport and the electrification of the municipal fleet - e-bikes, e-cargobikes, e-vans, e-cars.

SS: Turku has already gone in the right direction with the measures taken by ECCENTRIC by promoting active mobility, public transport, clean vehicles and fuels as well as investing in MaaS and shared mobility. The City of Munich has set this goal to be a carbon neutral city by 2035. We all know that this will require more extensive and radical changes than we set now, and that will also be the case for Turku. The understanding and acceptance by the population of Turku is therefore crucial for achieving these goals in order to be able to establish really effective measures in the next years. Therefore, the upstream and parallel communication process with the urban population is a key factor.

How do you see CIVITAS ECCENTRIC has succeeded in Turku? 

NS: From what I know about the implementation of the project measures in Turku one of the main successes is the further development and actual implementation of the MaaS concept in the city. Again, from my perspective, a big success was the introduction of electric public transport vehicles in the city and the measure for providing easy, safe and comfortable cycling and walking year-round. 

SS: I can't really say much about this because I lack the in-depth insights. From the Munich perspective, we are following all sharing mobility and MaaS measures with high interest as well as the winter maintenance of cycling infrastructure.  

Are there some parts of mobility & Turku that you find exceptionally interesting?

NS: Of course, the topic that other cities could learn much about from Turku is the development and implementation of the Mobility as a Service (MaaS) concept. Another topic would be (because of its geographical location and weather conditions) the maintenance of streets, sidewalks and cycling lanes in winter time and ensuring the availability and accessibility of public transport in snowy conditions.

SS: Turku has to deal with significantly colder and snowier winters – and for sure it can handle them! In Munich, when much snow falls suddenly, traffic logistics are stalling and people often do not know how to commute for example. We can certainly learn from Turku here.  Also the City of Turku and above all the Eccentric team from Turku is definitely a driving force in the CIVITAS ECCENTRIC project and very committed. It wasn't just us in Munich that benefited from the engagement of Turku's ECCENTRIC team, but the entire project.

If you compare your city and Turku, what could we learn from you? 

NS: The cities are very different, so I can’t quite give a suggestion here.

SS: In general, the two cities are difficult to compare due to their size and geographical location. Nevertheless, in international comparison, Munich has taken successful measures to promote sustainable transport in recent years. One example is the increase of bicycle share as means of transport. Bicycle traffic share increased from 10 percent in 2002 to 14 percent in 2008 and to 18 percent in 2017. This has gone hand in hand with extensive infrastructure measures for cyclists, but also with large-scale and media-effective communication campaigns for cycling.