The transport system is often spared scrutiny regarding its need for change despite its undeniable impact on climate change, air pollution, land-use and accidents. However, the movement of people and goods is also possible in a different way to the current norm: fewer trips (especially fewer by car), more efficient means of transport, intelligent public transport systems, user-friendly cycling and pedestrian infrastructure along with environmentally friendly and low-carbon fuels. 


Transport in and of itself is not a fundamental need or absolute prerequisite for survival, but rather facilitates people's activities. People walk, ride or drive between specific locations in order to work, shop, attend school or other educational institutions, run errands or to relax, among a wide range of examples. 

Inner-city cycling
Regarding pollution, land use and accident risks, there is considerable design freedom in traffic. Instead of taking the car, the infrastructure in cities – like here in Copenhagen – can also be designed to be attractive for cyclists. But also routes driven less by car, frugal and efficient means of transport, climate and environmentally friendly fuels, as well as intelligent public transport can be a bonus.
Mobility and Utility

While for transport/traffic the movement itself is the focus, mobility focuses on people's need to complete activities. The Wuppertal Institute places the completion of activities in the forefront in its work on urban mobility, asking the question if and how they can be completed without unduly burdening the environment. 

Population growth and improving living conditions are significant drivers of increased travel demand. While the key challenge in developing countries will be to facilitate increased mobility in a sustainable way to enable economic and social development, the challenge in industrialised countries is to reduce motorised travel, while maintaining high standards on living. But how? Here are two examples: 

Priority for Cyclists and Pedestrians

The focus here is on giving more legitimacy to the environmentally-friendly modes, firstly cyclists and pedestrians, followed by public transport. A further strategy is avoiding trips, personal and freight alike. This can be achieved through improved spatial planning in which necessary trip numbers and length are reduced, and improved vehicle loading rates. In addition, users' habits and needs/wishes should be scrutinised in order for trip-reduction measures to bear fruit. 

Smaller vehicles and fuel substitution

How to proceed with the greatest current source of traffic-related problems, meaning cars? To improve their efficiency requires not only improved technology, but also more appropriately dimensioned (physical size and weight, and motor output) vehicles. Furthermore, environmentally friendly and renewable fuels also have a role to play.

The Wuppertal Institute is working to ensure this paradigm shift happens without attendant trade-offs (e.g. table vs. tank for biofuel production), by working with municipalities and other institutions which have taken it upon themselves to rethink transport and mobility, fostering local, national and international exchange of best-practices. 

Oliver Lah

There are many great examples for sustainable mobility solutions around the world from which others can learn from, such as the bike sharing system in Hangzhou with over 66,000 bicycles, the Bus Rapid Transit System in Curitiba that started a public transport revolution or the approach of many cities in Europe to create people centred cities.

Oliver Lah
Head of Research Unit


You find more projects and activities of the Wuppertal Institute in the field of transport/mobility here:


Here you find up-to-date information on research findings and activities in the field of transport systems / mobility.


The focus of research projects on transport systems lies on alternative technologies as well as on the shift towards a low-emission and sustainable mobility. In the following you find selected sample projects. A complete list is available here.

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