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  • Sustainable Urban Mobility Planning in Small and Medium European cities

    The aim of the project is to create a long term vision for sustainable urban transportation development for European small and medium towns (separate plans with common sections that are related to European mobility perspective).

    Project will be a part of “100 Climate neutral cities by 2030” initiative where Liepaja is a member (NetZeroCities initiative, funding from the HORIZON 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under grant agreement (no.101036519)).

    There is space for sustainable mobility improvement and SUMPs will create preconditions and long term vision for walking, cycling, and public transport development in Project partner territories.

    Possible activities:
    - Development of SUMPs for Liepāja and Dienvidkurzeme county, other cities/counties
    - Updates of SUMP
    - Awareness raising (civil society involvement, education, media, establishment of dialogue, best practices dissemination etc.).
    - Increasing capacity of spatial, urban, mobility planners.

    Aksels Ruperts
    Liepaja city municipality administration
    Are you a candidate Lead Partner looking for partners
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    Strategic Planning Expert
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    Kick-off meeting in July (Birmingham). Transnational meeting in November (Liepaja).
    Transnational meeting in March (Rieti).
    Final event in April (Loule).

    Municipality of Athienou
    2, Archbishop Makarios III Ave.
    7600 Athienou Cyprus


    Municipality of Santiago de Compostela


    Municipality of Udine (Italy)


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    Av. Movimento das Forças Armadas

    2700-595 Amadora



    +351 21 436 9000

    Ext. 1801


    City of Rome

    Department of European Funds and Innovation

    Via Palazzo di Città, 1 - 10121 Turin (Italy)



    Câmara Municipal de Lisboa

    Departamento de Desenvolvimento Local

    Edifício Municipal, Campo Grande nº25, 6ºE | 1749 -099 Lisboa



    Laura González Méndez. Project coordinator.

    Gijón City Council


    Municipality of Piraeus


    City of Ljubljana

    Mestni trg 1

    1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia


    Project Coordinator Martin Neubert

    +49 371 355 7029



    Riga NGO House


    City of Antwarp
    Grote Markt 1 - 2000 Antwarpen

    Manchester City Council
    Manchester M2 5RT

    City of Rotterdam
    Coolsingel 40, 3011 AD Rotterdam

    City Council Bielefeld
    Bürger Service Center
    Phone +49 521 510


    City of Eindhoven
    Stadhuisplein 1, 5611 EM Eindhoven

    City of Loulé
    Praça da República, 8104-001 Loulé
    Phone +351 289 400 600


    Seeking answers on how to combat social exclusion through the redesign of public spaces in deprived residential areas by using the power and common language of sport, this Action Planning network found solutions through innovative urban sport actions, physical equipment and better orchestrated service delivery. Active living positively contributes to social cohesion, wellbeing and economic prosperity in cities. However, currently cities are challenged by the opposite: dramatic increase in the frequency of diseases as a result of sedentary life style and social exclusion. To tackle these challenges, European cities have invested in large scale sports facilities over the past decades. These strategies have a limited success, hence a new approach is needed: instead of ‘bringing’ the inactive citizens to the sports facilities, public space itself should be turned into a low threshold facility inviting all citizens to physical activity.

    Urban sports promotion for social inclusion, healthy and active living
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  • BluAct second wave


    • SEPTEMBER / Kick-off meeting (hybrid event)
    • NOVEMBER 2021 / Ocean Hachathon in Boulogne sur Mer
    • JANUARY 2022 / TNM#2 / Location: Metaverse
    • MARCH 2022 / TNM#3 / Boulogne sur mer, France
    • JUNE 2022 / TNM#4 / Koper, Slovenia

    Lead Partner : Piraeus - Greece
    • Gdańsk - Poland
    • Boulogne sur mer - France
    • Koper - Slovenia

    Following the success of the first generation of the Urbact BluAct Transfer Network - in which 6 European cities were supported to transfer a Good Practice in Blue Growth Entrepreneurship from the city of Piraeus between 2018 and 2020 - a further 4 cities have now also been given the opportunity to learn from the Piraeus Good Practice. The new partners in the BluAct Network will benefit from the rich experience of the city of Piraeus and will work alongside a nominated lead expert who led the original Transfer Network. With much of the hard work already done to break down the Good Practice into understandable blocks, it should be easier second time around to apply the URBACT transfer method.

    BluAct second wave
    Starting up the Blue Economy
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  • Vital Cities under microscope!

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    As more and more people have adopted sedentary lifestyles, and as the associated health and social problems have worsened, governments have become increasingly aware of their role in promoting physical activity. Half a year after the close of the VITAL CITIES URBACT Action Planning Network project, the participating cities are ready to look back and assess the progress they have made and identify further gains that can be made.


    Ten cities came together in VITAL CITIES with the objective of promoting active lifestyles and social inclusion in urban environments. The network was established as part of URBACT, a European exchange and learning programme. During their time in the network, the cities took part in an intensive learning process focused on the issue of turning public spaces into low-threshold sports facilities. This involved, inter alia, redesigning public spaces, promoting these spaces, initiating ICT innovation, introducing non-ICT hardware, and optimising services.

    The result of this process is a set of innovative tools and methods that can be used in urban design and planning to reshape public spaces linked to sports and physical activity. Cities also worked with local stakeholders to each produce an integrated action plan (IAP). In what follows below, we place several concrete examples under the microscope to assess their impact six months beyond the project’s end.

    Progress on implementation so far – challenges faced

    Most of the cities have begun to implement their IAPs using their own means or by calling upon stakeholders. Some have started by picking low-hanging fruit to show commitment, e.g. implementing ICT tools, while others have completed physical interventions.

    Horten Municipality/Vestfold Region: how to involve young people? How to overcome criticism?

    Horten highlighted five key issues:

    1. A lack of knowledge concerning the needs of the inactive
    2. Poor articulation of the needs of the inactive
    3. High organised sports drop-out rates at the age of 14
    4. Lack of financial support for bottom-up activities
    5. Low levels of physical activity among target groups in Horten’s main park

    Horten’s ambition is to use the park to increase physical activity.

    Horten’s main challenge is how to encourage youth participation in the planning of facilities. The city provides guidelines, support, and capacity building for a motivated group of young people. It reached out directly through schools and online tools.

    Instead of buying equipment off the shelf, the city has purchased custom equipment that matches local needs and aesthetics (a key means of reducing vandalism).

    Additionally, the city faced a challenge in that many locals complained about the possibility of increased noise pollution. City officials turned this into a positive by pointing out that increased activity would dissuade vandalism and drug use.

    Gender also became an issue. Boys like to play with balls, etc. but girls like to climb and hide. Thus, during the design process, options for separate and mixed-use were incorporated.

    In the run up to winter, Horten decided to ban cars from parts of the market square and instead use it as an ice ring. A local NGO then arranged for a group of refugee children to have their first ice skating experience. For the summer, the city painted lines and patterns on the ground to inculcate a sense of play.

    Liepaja, the city where wind was born: how to reduce red tape for volunteers and their initiatives?

    While developing their plans Liepaja bumped into one main issue: citizen involvement. The city has a good track record with, e.g., volunteering related to disabled people for which the city pays special attention to in city planning. Everywhere in the city on the pedestrian sidewalks

    there are special white ribbed guiding tiles for the visually impaired. Additionally, special locally developed hearing buoys have been installed in a designated area on the Baltic Sea facilitating independent swimming for this target group. They also provide special wheelchairs for driving into the sea and an NGO run by volunteers provides the services. To tackle the city’s hesitation in reaching out to youths in the deprived Karosta quarters, a special session during the international exchange was planned with the Karosta kids. A rapid co-creating session led to many ideas for reconstruction. These contacts are still thriving today.

    The main complaint expressed by citizens was about the length of time it took to get things done. This prohibits stakeholders from taking the initiative to build or organise things. Therefore, the city has cut red tape by developing a new workflow involving all departments. An app will reduce the wait from 12 to 3 weeks.

    Burgas – European City of Sports 2015 – How to inform better citizens

    Through the Vitalcities project Burgas became aware of its unique character: wedged between the Black Sea and salt lakes, it is a dense city with mixed districts, green public spaces, and good public transport. Urban sprawl is mostly absent and this provides ample opportunities for active transport, an important ’built in’ daily physical activity.

    During the transnational peer reviews, the city was advised against interfering too much with the ’retro’ style of the Rosenetz area. The city became aware of the value of existing public spaces, facilities and initiatives and decided upon stakeholders’ wishes to ’disclose’ information as a first action within the integrated action plan. An online map of the facilities for sports and physical activity on the territory of the municipality has been made available at

    Short-term actions and results are necessary to prevent Burgas from falling back into ‘democratic participation fatigue’.

    Birmingham – How to deliver services differently given a diverse & deprived population

    Birmingham’s overall challenge is to overcome the inactivity of over 80% of its diverse citizenship, given the fact that 408.000 Birmingham citizens live in the top 10% most deprived in England.

    This situation, combined with tight budgets, results in a need for creative solutions to tackling inactivity in a different way: by taking it to the streets and people instead of attracting people to large centralised and expensive facilities.

    In its local action plan the city mainly targets cooperation with citizens and volunteering is at the heart of its approach. Active streets, active parks, and active citizens are the adagio.

    The city looks at those groups that will result in the biggest impact. The strategy is to focus around ‘activity’ bringing forth social cohesion. Therefore, the city strengthens existing approaches like street closure for play, activities in the park like yoga, tai chi etc.

    The VITAL CITIES project helped to bring The Active Wellbeing Society into existence. It is a concept that was thought about before the Vital Cities Programme, however, the programme allowed greater interaction with experts from the programme and colleagues from other cities to emphasise the wider whole system thinking about open spaces, physically active for all and not just the keen sports athletes.

    Loulé – How to activate and involve all citizens and especially those in deprived areas?

    The municipality of Loulé puts four central ambitions in its IAP: promoting an active and healthy lifestyle amongst the general population, doing the same for the older population, fighting sedentary lifestyles, and fostering social cohesion. It does this by using public spaces as active and dynamic areas and by organising activities.

    The city has chosen three small public target areas: the Stuttgart/Hanover streets have been completed even within the Vitalcities project lifespan! A deserted public space between larger blocks has been converted into an ambient public space with play equipment for children and fitness equipment for the elderly while offering room for ball games as well. The green has been balanced with the harder structures and car parking is foreseen at the edge of the quarters.

    The city provides several different programs that have become a big success. Lots of activities are also organized in deprived areas. Tennis club de Loulé is one of the main promoters.

    All in all the city offers activities on all different levels from dancing for elderly to boxing for youngsters. By involving 20 Local Partners more than 200 events/activities are organised reaching over 20.000 participants.

    The five cities portrayed here have embarked on the journey of actually delivering on what they listed in their IAPs. During their journey, they have chosen to start with easy-to-organize actions involving local stakeholders. By aiming for the so-called ‘low-hanging fruit’ they have built trust. Yet they had to rethink things like information functions, the organisation of internal processes, and providing services tailored to local needs. There they had to think of aspects such as gender, social inclusion, demographic spread, diversity, and more down-to-earth things such as vandalism, security or air pollution. The cities seemed to have succeeded by staying close to their local DNA and their citizens.

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  • How to plan for healthy and active communities: learning through ’Deep Dive’

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    Healthy and active communities are integral parts of a smart city – and they must be planned for. Urban planning has a crucial role in facilitating networks and providing spaces which encourage citizens to engage in physical activity. Well-designed public spaces are not only attractive additions to the streetscape, they are also incentives for people to spend time outdoors, mingle and connect.

    The VITALCITIES Action Planning Network explored the possibility of tackling social exclusion through the redesign of public spaces in deprived residential areas. The project seeks to find innovative tools and low threshold infrastructure solutions for creating activity-friendly environments.

    As part of the knowledge sharing & capacity building, participating cities have undergone a so called  ’Deep Dive’ process, a three-tiered approach to transnational learning and sharing best practice. Every participating city was given partners to help them understand their current strength and weaknesses in providing Physical Activity (PA), as well as to explore options for future improvement.

    3 Steps of the Deep-dive approach: from self analysis to peer reviews

    Disadvantaged neighbourhoods

    Deep diving consists for each city to draft a self-analysis and then host a peer review visit by a team of representatives from other partner cities. The hosting city mobilises local stakeholders for a two day collaborative workshop with the visitors about the target area of the project. The scope is to provide the hosting city with a feedback report that includes questions, reflections and suggestions for reviewing, improving, and refining the local Integrated Action plan.

    Step 1: Self analysis

    In the first stage, the host city - together with the stakeholders of the URBACT Local Group - did what we called in the network, a “self assessment process”. Stakeholders were encouraged to ask and answer critical questions about local policy development and implementation. This exercise aims at assessing and reviewing current practices, identifying the existing level of infrastructure supporting physical activity, questioning the knowledge and data about the city. For each city, this analysis related to a specific target area, and focused on three key themes: ‘policy, planning and monitoring’, ‘finance and management’ and ‘socio-spatial aspects’.

    Through the self-assessment, participants gathered all information available, narrowed down the challenges and identified missing data.
    Instead of looking at a single project, the groups looked more at the whole policy cycle behind the project. The place of the self-analysis in this wider policy cycle) can be depicted as follows.

    As depicted in the figure above, part of the Self-Analysis process entails that cities are reviewing whether they have the right information and monitoring processes in place to understand their physical activity infrastructure. Key parts of the process require mapping the existing infrastructure for physical activity, related programmes and plans as well as identifying user behavior and demands.

    Step 2: Peers visits by the Deep Dive teams!

    In the process every city composed a small Deep Dive team recruited from the local stakeholders group, with a coordinator facilitating the whole process of incoming and outgoing visits.

    In the second stage, these Deep Dive teams visited the host cities and looked at the self-analysis and at the process behind it. The Deep Dive teams are composed of city delegations from 2 VITALCITIES partner cities, chosen for their skills in the area in which the visited city needs to learn more. The Deep Dive teams take the position of external ‘experts’. They provide creative suggestions for the problems identified in the area, share inspiring good practices and highlight issues, which the host city should take into account.

    Step 3: Visit reports to inform Integrated Action Plans

    The deep dive teams summarise the results and recommendations from the visits in a report. The report highlights the key areas cities should focus on in order to resolve their specific issues. The recommendations are then used as building block to form the basis of the Integrated Action Plans (IAPs), next to the city profile, the place making analysis done by the local stakeholder group, a SWOT etc…

    The Deep Dive process helps cities to improve

    Better collection and analysis of data

    Thanks to the self- assessment cities discovered that a large part of the necessary data for analysis often existed in cities, but it was held by different stakeholders. Data often needs to be updated and further analysed. One of the main outcomes was to collect new information on user activities, joining up existing datasets from Council and other public bodies.

    Coordination of stakeholders

    Despite a growing culture of collaboration, and co-planning in public administrations, the process showed that participation is still a challenge.

    Professional roles related to sports and physical activities are often dispersed across departments, who keep the habit of tackling issues within their own team rather than engaging into dialogues with various stakeholders.

    Coordinating the various fields related to physical activity requires collaboration between a number of stakeholders who may currently be working in a disjointed manner. Strategic decision making requites to go beyond the neighborhood level, sometimes even up to the regional and national levels.

    Thanks to the deep dive approach, Vital cities network were encouraged to reflect on their way of working while improving the missing link between stakeholders and decision making processes.

    Better communication with residents

    The Deep Dive process also highlighted that there should be more efficient communication with the public, naming public as other people potentially interested in the issues covered but not in place to actually participate to meetings. The most diligent participants showed in several cases a form of distress for the process and some saturation because of the energy required to attend the meetings on a regular basis.

    The Deep Dive process suggested that instead of lengthy and numerous consultation events, communication should be kept simple and emphasis should be on feedback and implementation. Citizens should be encouraged to take ownership of their environment and could be involved in more into small actions using different participatory techniques.

    Professionals should learn how to reach out to communities more efficiently - including young and elderly people - through existing connections, clubs, schools, universities and social media. Once the connection is made, physical activity can be promoted as a form of social activity and incentivized through different rewards (e.g. free access, bonus points for other public services like in the cultural field etc.). The city of Birmingham offers such an incentive scheme to its citizens.

    Start with small scale interventions

    Small scale interventions can start immediately and have a positive impact, since they need little money. As to overcome vandalism it is worth considering using recycled and locally sourced materials, which are more sustainable and can easily be replaced. For instance, in Liepaja, Latvia, in Karosta neighbourhood, girls expressed their need to have a facility that they can use, next to the football pitch, which is most commonly used by boys. Therefore a simple volleyball court was installed out in the open. It only includes a net and some lines on the floor, in public space.

    Share responsibilities

    While focusing on implementation, sharing responsibilities appears as one of the main challenges. Facilitating physical activity involves significant efforts and those organizing sports activities – private and public - need to engage in creating strategies, raise funds, work with communities and take responsibility for maintenance involving public, private, voluntary and academic sectors

    Deep Dive: A very useful learning process

    The Deep Dive process round conclusions are that area-based action plans need to be embedded in a city-wide strategy and to be supported by a wide range of stakeholders. Disadvantaged neighbourhoods and their citizens should be part of these strategies and form an integral part of the healthy cities movement.
    City officials and politicians very much appreciated the process, as they stated in the preliminary feedback session, which concluded each Deep Dive visit.

    It is amazing how you as a visiting delegation found out so much detailed info during 2 days, while we ourselves spent 5 months with external help to come to even less thorough findings” commended a City Official in Budapest XIII District

    We seem to be hitting our target, but missing the point” said a city official in Birmingham.

    From urbact
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