Evaluating municipal strategic planning processes for sustainable mobility in an era of smart cities
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Nowadays, active transportation and physical activity has become a major issue with respect of health-related problems. According to a number of studies done, lack of physical activity is the leading risk factor for a number of health problems such as diabetes, anxiety and other diseases that are threatening public health. Researches show that Nicosia, the Capital of Cyprus, is unfortunately among the last cities with respect to walking and cycling. Although, Cyprus has such comfortable climate conditions, the population of Cyprus has one of the lowest walkability levels in Europe. The main purpose of the present study is to examine this paradox of a low walkability level in Cyprus. Different countries exhibit vastly different travel behavior therefore the policies applicable in some countries might not be applicable in Cyprus. This is why a study specifically for Cyprus is necessary. There is no universal approach to transport planning that will be applicable everywhere. This study is essential as Cyprus has the right physical conditions for walking and cycling, but for some reason there is lack of effective strategic planning to promote sustainable mobility and also very low investment by local governments towards implementing smart technologies to promoting active traveling. The reasons and factors that create this low level of walkability are revealed based on a survey carried out targeting local municipalities’ decision-making processes and the attitudes of citizens on aspects of walkability and sustainable development. Two questionnaires have been developed to achieve the research objectives of this paper. The first questionnaire was given to the municipalities’ representatives questioning their strategic planning and decision-making processes for promoting walkability and sustainable mobility in Cyprus. The second questionnaire was given to collect data from the population of Cyprus to get an insight on the attitudes of citizens regarding the factors affecting walkability, the current conditions of the walking environment they live in. This study proves that Cyprus has extremely high proportion reliance on cars and thus does not have a proper infrastructure for walking and public transportation. Results reveal that there is an urgent need by the citizens for more walkable areas in Cyprus attractive for recreational activities and active lifestyle, however there are very little resources devoted to fulfill this need. Policy-makers, organizations and municipalities not only lack of investment in promoting active lifestyle and active mobility, but also do not have efficient communication with the citizens with respect to their satisfaction of the municipalities’ service provided and the level of environment as a walkable community. The role of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) was assessed to be crucial. Citizens’ declare their preferences for smartphone applications as modern mean of information on aspect of walkability in their community. These tasks might be challenging for the government but the benefits for urban life will be substantial.