Urban development improves residents’ well-being

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Over the past 70 years, cars have had a major impact on the development and design of our cities. However, initiatives to promote walking and cycling have not only reduced the negative impact of cars on the environment, but also improved the wellbeing of road users themselves.

Cars have changed the way we live by offering the ability to move freely. However, with increasing urbanization – 75% of EU residents now live in cities – we are focusing more on air pollution and traffic noise.

75% of EU residents now live in cities

In Urban Insight’s report, “Wholesome Air, Serene, and Safe. “Wholesome Air, Serene Cities – Reduced Noise and Air Pollution in Urban Areas,” found that road noise causes the premature deaths of about 10,000 people in the EU each year, and air pollution causes half a million premature deaths each year.

One way to address these problems is to improve walking, cycling and public transport infrastructure. Studies show that pedestrians and cyclists not only contribute to reducing the environmental impact of air and noise pollution, but also have a better sense of well-being than drivers. Yet 50% of Europeans travel by car every day, while only 12% use bicycles as a means of transportation.

According to Rika Houthaeve, urban development expert at Sweco, the main task of urban planners is to create attractive public spaces where people can meet and move freely. “To develop sustainable places, we need to focus on people. This requires more dialogue between urban citizens and a greater focus on how people move and use urban spaces, how we create social gathering places, and how we facilitate sustainable transport choices.”

The new Urban Insights report highlights several successful examples of sustainable urban planning, including Stenpiren Travel Center in Gothenburg, Israel Plads in Copenhagen, Groeenplatz in Antwerp, Potzdamer Plats in Berlin and Kings Cross in London. You can find more interesting examples here.

75% of EU residents now live in cities

The book “Investments in sustainable urban development” shows the inevitability of the process of urbanization, taking place through investments, creating threats that are associated with the dynamic development of the human population, cities and meeting in an unlimited way the ever new human needs, and above all, the impact of these processes on the quality of the environment.

The whole issue of sustainable development raised in the book refers to urbanised areas, whose size is systematically growing, in the aspect of implemented urban investments. Urban areas constitute and will constitute an increasing part of our planet, effectively displacing other ecosystems, including the reduction of arable land, forests, etc., which will also indirectly contribute to the deterioration of the quality of life on Earth. It should be emphasized that this book is original in nature.


Modern technological solutions that can be used in cities are developing rapidly. Also in the field of management, organisation or financing, cities have more and more methods and opportunities at their disposal. But do Polish cities (regardless of their size) effectively and fully use solutions which can be generally classified as “smart”?

An irresistible impression is that unfortunately not as much as they could, and especially not as much as they should. Why is this the case? What prevents our cities from using the best available methods to better manage their development, support the implementation of strategic objectives or improve the quality of services? Below, probably incomplete, a key list of barriers to the development of smart cities in Poland.


One of the goals of a city’s transformation into a smart city is to oppose the silo approach to city management. Unfortunately, one can get the impression that under the guise of implementing smart city solutions this silo approach is still maintained. Cities concentrate on easy to implement individual “smart” or “pseudo-smart” initiatives, implemented by particular administrative units, which often takes place in isolation from the strategic goals of the city or its key needs.

There is a lack of coordination and cooperation or a cross-sectional and interdisciplinary view of the city as a whole.

Cities need to coordinate their smart city activities, including in the area of implemented technologies, data use, models of task execution and service provision as well as cooperation and involvement of various stakeholders in making changes in the city). The implemented solutions must be a response to specific, identified problems or challenges and bring the city closer to the set vision.


The basic tool that will enable such an approach to changes in the spirit of smart city is the Smart City Strategy that will define the key priorities, objectives and tasks to be implemented. The strategy should be created and implemented with the involvement of the local community and a wide range of stakeholders.


Effective implementation of the smart city strategy, and consequently of individual solutions, requires coordination and support by an appropriate organisational structure. It sounds a bit threatening and bureaucratic, but it is nothing more than a well-organised team of motivated people who will have adequate competences to implement non-standard (for the office), cross-sectional and interdisciplinary activities with an emphasis on improving communication and cooperation between various organisational units. Practice shows that it is one of the main internal problems of Polish cities which often closes chances for development.