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Automobile traffic congestion and air pollution in the Lisbon Metropolitan Area (LMA), an area with close to 2.8 million people, has increased dramatically in the last 30 years as a result of suburban sprawl. The sheer size peri-urban areas have reached lends itself to urban politics and subsidized rents, an issue that has not yet been resolved due to lack of political will. This has driven down rental prices of old leases, accompanied by the degradation of buildings located in the city’s historic centre, and has also resulted in very high pricing of current leases inaccessible to most citizens. This is the way in which the peri-urban areas have grown, much like in many Western cities that have absorbed the rural exodus. Peri-urban areas also offer lower rents and housing prices than what historic centres offer. However, this growth has not been accompanied by a plan that accounts for the supply of transportation infrastructure and other public facilities or by relevant policies for the decentralization of employment.

The relocation of various services, in addition to office locations, from the inner city to periurban areas increased inefficiency in regards to transportation and automobile use with serious consequences for public transportation. For example, in 1998 LMA residents completed 4.9 million daily commutes to or from Lisbon of which 24% were on foot and 76% by motorized transportation. Of the motorized commutes, 57% were Individual Transports (IT); 36% were Collective Transports (CT); while 7% were a combination of both (DGTT, 2000).

Of the European Union-15 group members (the number of EU members prior to 2004), Portugal has the fastest-growing greenhouse emissions, with 40.5% in 2002 and 49% in 2010, rather than 27% mandated by the Kyoto Protocol. As a consequence, Portugal is facing a punitive fine in excess of 1.5 thousand million Euros for not complying with the emissions quota (REA, 2005). In October of 2012, the European Union Court of Justice declared that from 2005 to 2007, the Portuguese Republic did not meet the limit values established in Article 13 of Directive 2008/50/CE of the European Parliament and of the Council on the 21st of May, 2008 regarding the quality of ambient air and cleaner air in Europe.

All these factors have resulted in suburbs where individuals are responsible for their own transportation, spending much of their time commuting to and from work and home, in addition to household budgets with a high incident of transportation costs. Europe has already proved that augmenting road and highway infrastructures only leads to more automobile traffic congestion, thereby demonstrating the need to find new models of mobility (Export Group on the Urban Environment, 1996)

Containing clearly demarcated urban areas is one of the processes used to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution, among other benefits. Another process is the development of a multi-modal transportation system in which Soft Mobility plays an important role.

It is implicit that transport actors include all means of transportation, not excluding the pedestrian and the bicyclist. Cycling is the fastest mode of transportation in short distances up to 3 kilometres (Dekoster and Schollaert, 2000), which means greater adjustability when connecting to public transportation interfaces. The current lack of accessibility to transportation interfaces is considered to be a factor in the decision individuals make to use automobiles (Lowe, 1990). Addressing this particular aspect calls for the creation of more cycling paths linked to public transportation systems, in addition to improving the security and comfort of bicycle parking facilities. As much as possible, cycling paths should be integrated with ecological structures, thereby raising the standard of environmental quality. This concept is true at local and municipal levels and on a regional scale.

This article addresses this concept, showing the overall planning of projects with different types of Soft Mobility structures in various situations, from the restoration of old railroad lines to urban cycling networks with the underlying assumption of a mutually advantageous association between both mobility and ecological structures.



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