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Non-motorised mobility and land-use resources: an inter-disciplinary comparison and design experimentation

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Complete with results
Geo-spatial type
Network corridors
STRIA Roadmaps
Smart mobility and services (SMO)
Transport mode
Road icon
Transport sectors
Passenger transport,
Freight transport


Background & Policy context

In several European cultural meetings (Lille, September 2000; Barcelona, October 2000), many debates focused on the opportunity of planning and implementing non-motorised mobility networks, also in relation to the promotion of different integrated transport modes (for example: Rail + Cycle projects).

This subject in Europe and, in particular, in Italy is recognised as a new planning discipline; in the USA the Rail to Trail Conservancy, with more than 73,000 associated people, is promoting the Federal Trail programme that aims at developing non-motorised trails, covering all the country, from the Atlantic to the Pacific region and from Canada to Mexico.

In the USA, multi-objective trails and greenways are seen as a way to protect and to preserve the environment and probably, above all, they are considered as infrastructures with a great significance for non-motorised mobility (pedestrians and cyclists), including at a territorial level.

In the last few years several EU Member Countries have planned and built a significant number of paths for non-motorised mobility. In particular EUROVELO programme, on cycling mobility, identified 12 cross border itineraries that should promote the developing of a European cycle network. This programme gives an idea of the growing EU interest for non-systematic non-motorised mobility, focusing the attention on developing cycle-tourist networks at a continental level.

If well integrated with urban non-motorised mobility planning, at a territorial level, the implementation of the infrastructure could have a strategic role as it shifts the modal split in favour of non-motorised mobility modes and promotes new forms of tourism enhancing the importance of the existing natural and cultural resources.

In Europe the following experiences of non-motorised mobility itineraries seem to be of interest:

  • the VIAS VERDES programme in Spain, promoted by the Foundacion de los Ferrocarriles Espanoles, after the railway dismissing phenomena
  • the RAVEL project in Belgium, that is both a 'rail with trail' and a 'rail to trail' project
  • the CULEE VERTE project in France, that is based on the restoration of the waterway system
  • the UK experience on SUSTRANS project, that promotes sustainable transports at a territorial level
  • the REVER project, co-funded by the EU that is carried on by five North European Countries.

Italy requires


This research aimed at developing an interdisciplinary methodological project-oriented approach to evaluate and use linear morphologies and natural/anthropological lines as the skeleton of a non-motorised mobility territorial network also with recreational and tourist purposes.

The general objective of the research is to offer an interdisciplinary approach to the planning by analysing not only specific sites, weak areas, natural and anthropological resources, but also the different components of the territory and the synergies induced by morphological lines used as non-motorised mobility networks.

Starting from specialised knowledge of the specific disciplines involved in the research, analysis and techniques for the evaluation of the existing natural, historical and cultural resources will be deepened and finalised for non-motorised mobility integrated network planning and development, also in relation to tourist equipment.

The strategic objective was to deepen (by an interdisciplinary approach) the potentialities connected to the promotion and the implementation of non-motorised mobility as natural and anthropological territorial resources renewal, also finalised for the restoration of rural and mountain sites and the promotion of small historical urban centres as cultural tourist sites.

Furthermore, the research programme has also specific objectives synthesised as follows:

  1. Evaluation and analysis of existing territorial resources for non-motorised mobility in terms of:

    • infrastructures (i.e. trails and paths development along rivers, waterways, dismissed railways, sheep tracks, military roads, ancient historical roads);
    • environments and landscapes to be crossed (i.e. rural, natural and urban traces in the territorial system).
  2. Analysis of the opportunities of new laws and guidelines in territorial policies in particular deepening territorial and environmental competencies of Regions, Provinces and Local areas.
  3. Deepening of non-motorised mobility network system planning criteria in particular in relation to:
    • territorial resources (see point 1);
    • ownership and right of way;
    • accessibility to public transport system.
  4. Deepening of designing and dimensioning criteria for:
    • non-motorised modes infrastructures;
    • facilities, also for touri

The project was organised in three phases and it involves four research working groups (Research Units or RU) on specific topics, the idea is to have a real interdisciplinary approach on non-motorised mobility and land resources. The research group consists of the following members:

Phase 1

The phase 1 of the research foresees the definition of theoretical and methodological elements common to the different RUs to analyse and evaluate non-motorised mobility territorial resources and in particular:

  • analysis and evaluation of urban and transport problems linked to the improvement of natural and anthropological lines (natural and urbanised areas, historical centres) by non-motorised mobility network system development at a territorial level;
  • analysis and evaluation of the potentialities and the problems created by new forms of tourism based on land and related resources improvement (natural, cultural, historical/artistic, etc.) by non-motorised mobility network system development at a territorial level;
  • analysis and evaluation of the opportunities created by existing and recent laws and guidelines in particular related to private ownership and territorial and environmental competencies at a Regional, Provincial and Local level;
  • identification of the case study site along the Adda river area between Lecco and its confluence with the Po.

Expected results: development of and illustrated and annotated synthesis of territorial resources for non-motorised mobility, as well as of the problems induced by their use as mobility networks, particularly focusing on the impact created by the increasing human presence in weak natural areas and/or in archaeological sites.

Phase 2

Starting from the results of Phase I, this Phase addresses the definition of theoretical and methodological elements common to the different RUs to develop an approach for planning and managing the non-motorised mobility network system as a whole, and in particular:

  • identification of planning, design, dimensioning and managing criteria for natural and anthropological lines as non-motorised mobility network system at an urban and territorial level;
  • identification of tourist facilities as well as of existing networks and those to be made (both in rural areas along the paths and in urban areas) needed for an effective management of tourist&#8


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Public institution
Institution Name
MIUR, Ministero Istruzione, Università e Ricerca (Ministry of Education University and Research)
Type of funding
Public (national/regional/local)


The interdisciplinary analysis carried out has highlighted how the motivations, logic and consequently the political choices which lead to the realisation of a network for non-motorised mobility at the territorial level may be profoundly different if viewed from planning/transportation or economic viewpoints.

From the first viewpoint the motivation is predominantly social in nature, for example:

  • Improvement of the spaces available for leisure and sport
  • Improvement of the quality of non-systematic (and systematic) mobility in any given area
  • Enhancement of natural and/or lesser anthropic morphological linearity (minor hydrographic systems, canals, dirt tracks, headlands, paths, etc.)
  • Improvement of the connections between green-spaces of territories (with a partial ecological function).

The infrastructure in this case should allow 'roving' i.e. the leisure time moving around on foot, by bicycle, on horseback, possibly entering into liaisons with other individuals. This means routes within green spaces in the order of tens of kilometres predominantly used by the inhabitants of the urban centres nearby.
From the second viewpoint the motivation is above all economic, for example:

  • The sale of typical products along the itinerary
  • Access to certain resources identified within the tourism 'package' being sold.

Hence, the infrastructure should meet the needs for moving around in order to see/visit archaeological sites, churches, parish churches, wineries, etc. offer opportunities for refreshment and overnight stays in suitable structures (for example agrotourism structures) and would thus necessitate the networking of a complete and articulated series of individuals in order to meet the various needs of the tourist. Currently, the themed routes (wine cheese routes, etc.) are not intended as infrastructures (for motorised mobility or otherwise), but are simply signposted itineraries, created following the networking of some individuals (for example wineries, towns, etc.).

The sound interest in helping with the creation of an infrastructure for non-motorised mobility at the territorial level (greenway, i.e. 'a system of routes dedicated to non-motorised circulation able to connect populations with the natural, agricultural, landscape and historic-cultural resources of the territory and with the "life c

Policy implications

In the first phase, the research group debate has highlighted two fundamental aspects:

  1. The lexicon used has different meanings in the various disciplines even with reference to elementary terms such as 'route', and so the construction of a shared language is fundamental.
  2. Public right is placed as a fundamental and transversal matter with respect to the various themes, and so the presence of a lawyer specialised in such matters is indispensable for the identification of the problems and the legislative voids which may prejudice the realisation of an itinerary a priori.

    Other recommendations are:

  3. Even when talking about informed and sustainable tourism, the risk involved is a generalised degradation of the existing resources, primarily along the layout, with the consequent loss of their peculiarities and qualities. As a consequence, any network for non-motorised mobility should be devised and planned in order to regulate the number of users (a study of the geometry of the infrastructure with adequately variable sections, segregation of the types of users, limitations in the numbers having access to fragile areas, a reduced number of 'hotel' in the individual urban centres, concentration of the impacting activities, etc.) in some cases favouring the preservation of the ecosystem over the exploitability of the resources.
  4. In planning matters, entering into the virtue of the problem, the planning of networks for non-motorised mobility should take place at the territorial level (regional, provincial) in order to obtain as much as possible real continuity of the infrastructure and provide appropriate solutions – route changes, the use of suitable equipped lightly trafficked secondary roads – wherever that was not possible. The creation and management of the network will then have to follow the principle of subsidiarity. 


Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


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