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Monday, September 25, 2023

Five city innovations to remember from before the pandemic

Once the coronavirus pandemic hit the European continent at the end of February, it remained ever-present, high on the list of priorities of its governments. With the focus shifting to healthcare and safety and in the context of shrinking local budgets, many interesting and potentially life-changing projects had to be postponed or abandoned.

However, we decided not to let COVID-19 wipe out the cool things that happened in 2020 in the cities of the EU. In these final days of December, we will remind you about some of the most inspiring initiatives implemented during the first months of the year.

Slovak city makes public transport free for all
At the start of the year, Komarno became the first city in Slovakia with entirely free public transport. The measure encompasses both residents and visitors and follows a study in which locals showed strong preference for personal cars or taxis over the existing public transportation.

This resulted in a significant drop in ticket sales and the accumulation of huge losses for the public transport company. The solution: waive transport fees entirely and thereby make it a more attractive alternative, for a healthier and greener city.

Budapest makes transport free for jobseekers
At the end of 2019 the city council of the Hungarian capital made a unanimous decision – starting in 2020, the public transport system of Budapest will be free of charge for the unemployed. The measure aims to facilitate the mobility of jobseekers, without interfering with their budgets and falls within the objective of then newly elected Mayor Gergely Karacsony to turn Budapest into a socially just city.

Stella Artois shares its solar roof with residents
Most of you are probably familiar with the qualities of the Stella Artois beer, but only few know about the sustainability qualities of the Leuven based building where it is produced. In a project supported by local and provincial authorities, the roof of the brewery was turned into a financially profitable and energy-efficient solution.

In particular, it was decided that the building will be covered by ​​3,800 m2 of solar panels, expected to produce 576,000 kWh of green energy annually – enough to produce 8 million beers or to cover the energy needs of 150 families for one year.

An additional advantage stems from the fact that each resident of Leuven can also invest in the installation of these solar panels and earn money from them on a yearly basis.

Lampposts in Ireland remind you to clean after your dog
Is someone watching, do I have to clean it or can I simply walk away? These thoughts must have crossed the mind of almost every dog owner. Likewise, most of us have seen people pretending to forget to clean up after their dog in public spaces. Luckily, it is no longer needed to make remarks or start a confrontation; at least not in the Ireland’s Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown county.

As part of their the Green Dog Walker environmental awareness programme, the authorities provided the most popular walking areas with “talking” lampposts. The latter will simply remind dog walkers of the proper way to deal with dog litter through a pre-recorded message about responsible dog ownership.

Authorities in DLR county express their optimism that this measure could reduce incidents of dog littering by over 80%.

Green stops to reduce heat and improve biodiversity in big cities
This one comes from Amsterdam, but it has already proven to be popular in other cities in The Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe – the green stops, or also called “bee stops.” At the beginning of the year Amsterdam started covering its first public transport stops with greenery.

Apart from their peculiar design, which some find quite attractive, the green stops have an environmental purpose. In periods of heavy rain, they collect excess water and store it to irrigate the green layers of the stop.

As for the greenery, it cools the waiting passengers during hot days while providing a safe refuge for insects like butterflies and bees. The city will be evaluating the experiment until the end of the year to decide if more green shelters like this are needed.

Those were just five of the hundreds of great ideas that EU cities have come up with before the pandemic and that continue to be implemented, despite the significantly worsened circumstances. They certainly give us plenty of good reasons to look forward to 2021.

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