Groningen wins POLIS Award 2023

This year’s POLIS Award goes to the City of Groningen, in recognition of their innovative and forward-thinking approach to sustainable mobility as presented at the Annual POLIS Conference, as well as their long-term dedication to a cleaner, fairer and smarter city.

With over 200,000 inhabitants, Groningen is the largest city in the Northern Netherlands and a forerunner in the transition towards more sustainable mobility. It is a vibrant university city, with students, workers and many tourists. While this has placed growing pressure on the city — by 2035, the city of Groningen is expected to have a population of 250,000 — Groningen has also turned this into an opportunity, expanding active travel, public transport, shared mobility, and cleaner freight vehicles.

A 'bakfiets' (cargo bike) in Groningen — the bike has the logo of Groningen Fietsstad (bicycle city) on its side - Credit: Donald Trung Quoc Don (Chữ Hán: 徵國單) © CC BY-SA 4.0 International via Wikimedia Commons

A perhaps little-known fact, Groningen developed one of the first traffic circulation plans, when in 1977 the city made daring and drastic changes that reduced the dominance of cars in the city centre streetscape. This legacy continues today, and for those who have not yet witnessed Groningen’s rush hour, the sight of thousands of cyclists weaving through the city gives a flavour of how our cities can, and must, change.

In Groningen, this change starts from the ground up, where innovative technologies and services are piloted across the city. Indeed, those who visit are often met by e-cargo bikes and small electric vehicles, delivering goods across the city, all providing critical learnings for others seeking to develop similar services.

However, this award is not just a reflection of Groningen’s own achievements, but also of the support and encouragement the city has given to others across POLIS’ network. Groningen is a clear example of how cooperation and collaboration can propel us forward as we come up against significant barriers and challenges. From its cooperation with other Dutch cities, to its collaboration with local universities and businesses, as well as of course its work on an international stage through its active role in the POLIS network- Groningen continually encourages and supports those it works with. Groningen’s policymakers and practitioners approach sustainable mobility with energy, vigour and determination, as we have seen throughout this conference and the entire year.

More space for pedestrians and cyclists in the Brugstraat in Groningen -  Credit: Terry Albronda

Across our many activities and working group meetings this year, they have been ready to engage, listen and share. For example, this year’s Just Transition Webinar series heard from cutting-edge research they have conducted on gender mobility patterns, and how European funding can support further work on this topic, while their urban logistics team have provided substantial input into recent policy work in POLIS’ urban freight group. Deputy Mayor Philip Broeksma has been a leading figure in our Political Group for several years, clear and consistent in his belief that we must achieve the goals we have set for ourselves, while not shying away from making bold but necessary decisions with the health and well-being of citizens in mind.

A well-deserved award: congratulations to the whole team at Groningen!




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