A Tale of Two Cities

04 July 2018 - Published by Deirdre Buist
A delegation of five people from Borås, Sweden travelled to Mechelen in Belgium on June 18th to see firsthand how the City of Mechelen is working with a number of mobility issues. The purpose of this bilateral meeting was to exchange experience and knowledge on such topics as mobility policy and the implementation of car free zones, for example.

What works in one city is not always possible in another. Sophia Strandberg Jonsson of Borås Municipality shares: “It was extremely interesting to learn that Mechelen has placed over 530 cameras in their city centre. In Sweden, the laws protecting the privacy of individuals and the Swedish Data Protection Authority (DPA) prohibit the use of cameras to monitor vehicles in the city centre in this way.”

Common ideas and new inspiration

Both cities recognized they also have a lot in common. During a walk and talk on day two, the group focused on urban planning and the use of public space. The Swedish delegates were inspired during their tour of Mechelen by examples of how to make public areas attractive by adding green and blue areas, while also providing enough parking space.

To relieve ‘delivery congestion’ Mechelen has installed a locker system and the project partners took a look at ‘Bring me’ to discuss the pros and cons. According to Sophia, this was very useful because there are plans to implement a similar locker system at a big shopping mall in Borås.

Following a 10-minute cycle and a visit to a cargo-bike hub just outside the city centre, partner Veerle Meyer from the City of Mechelen introduced some of the innovative plans and projects currently being worked on, particularly in relation to autonomous vehicles.

Structures and policies

On the final day of this Surflogh bilateral exchange, Stijn Anthoons and Evelien Morreel explained how Mechelen works with trade and shop owners. In comparison, this is structured differently in Borås, where an organization called Borås City, with a City Manager (delegate Lisa Statham), is owned by property owners (50%) and local business operators (50 %). However, both cities are struggling with similar issues in terms of parking lots, shop trading hours, accessibility and the regulation of car free zones etc.

In conclusion, a final remark from Ms.Jonsson: “The strong political agenda regarding mobility in the City of Mechelen has taken them very far and we hope we can inspire our own politicians to take some steps in the same direction.”

All in all this was a valuable exchange for both parties!