The city of Hasselt is the trading and service centre of a region with 800.000 inhabitants. An increasing amount of traffic is causing environmental problems: traffic hazards, air pollution and noise nuisance. Hasselt intends to convince its population and visitors, by means of targeted marketing campaigns and an ongoing dialogue, that to travel in an eco-friendly way is better and more convenient than by car.
In the city of Hasselt, it is estimated that at least 27 million kilometres were driven by cars in 1996. The objective of the project was to reduce the number of kilometres driven by changing the mobility behaviour of the population and visitors in a sustainable way. Campaigns to reach this goal would be launched and conducted in association with the population, trade and industry, government agencies, schools, etc. The project would consist in internalising a change in the mobility behaviour through informing, instructing and involving all the local actors. The project intended to reduce the number of kilometres by 10% (2,7 Mio Km). Consequently, the pollution due to traffic emissions would be reduced. In the past, the city of Hasselt has developed several initiatives around the theme of mobility: development of adequate infrastructure, introduction and improvement of the free bus network and the promotion of alternative facilities for mobility.
The expected results of the project were:
- to reduce by 10% the number of kilometres driven by car in the city, leading to
- cleaner air above the centre (the city would appeal to the Institute for Hygiene and Epidemiology of the Ministry of Public Health and Environment for pollution measurements)and;
- a sustainable change in the mobility behaviour of the inhabitants.
Unfortunately, the beneficiary did not monitor the achievement of these objectives. Nevertheless, most of the tasks planned under the project were achieved within the timescale of the LIFE project.
The results varied from action to action. Some actions have achieved significant results, such as:
- Bicycle pooling for schools: groups of children accompanied by an adult went to school by bicycle. 7 schools participated and this activity has continued after the LIFE project
- More accommodation for cyclists: more bike-parks (sheds) were installed next to commercial centres, schools and enterprises. A municipality edict has integrated this obligation for each construction permit.
- Going shopping with bells ringing: people who go shopping by bicycle receive a card to be stamped by the shopkeepers. When fully stamped these cards are deposited in a box and are entered in a monthly raffle for a bicycle.
- Compensation for commuter cyclists: as a result of amendments to the law, it is now possible for local authorities to grant commuter cyclists compensation per kilometre.
This action was mainly successful with the personnel (civil servants) of the city of Hasselt. During the LIFE project, 120 of them participated and the number is increasing. It is also worth noting the positive involvement/commitment of the inhabitants, public services staff, schools and politicians. However on the other hand, the involvement of private companies in several actions was very low as they had other priorities. Hasselt contributed to the promotion of some actions, such as bicycle pooling, in other cities. The Samen Anders Mobiel LIFE project also led the municipality of Hasselt to submit an application to the European Most project (5th Framework Programme – management strategies for sustainable mobility – DG Energy and Transport), enabling the concept to be tested in Great Britain. One of the lessons learnt from the project is that whereas some actions must become permanent actions, requiring permanent efforts, others can be selective actions, repeated every year.