When he picked up the phone, we could hear the street noise, a dog barking in the distance, cars honking and people indistinctly chattering.
- Hi, Danilo! Congratulations! Where are you?
Danilo burst into laughter and said:
- I am walking. Thank you!
After having agreed to make the interview once he reaches the office, we hung up the phone with the feeling the CityWalk is around us, it’s a lifestyle.
Let’s walk to the interview!
DTP: The public has chosen! You won the Regiostar Public Choice award for 2019. It’s a huge recognition. What does it mean for your project?
Danilo: Yes, indeed, it is a huge recognition for the project, the Danube programme and especially for all the institutions involved in the project. This stands as a proof that we managed to get closer to the citizens by acknowledging the problems they face every morning from the moment they leave the house. We proposed sustainable and durable solutions. For the initiators of the project (I together with Bela Kézi and Miklos Lukovics) it is an obligation to disseminate and capitalise the results. It is also a big motivation for the future to prepare new project proposals which will have the same impact as Citywalk, which will be close to the citizens and have an impact on local, regional and transnational level. And now, I must also thank all our supporters from the DANUBE Transnational Programme who voted for us and gave us support. Thank you!
Photo credit: CityWalk project
DTP: The project focuses on the simplest and oldest mode of mobility – walking. But is it like that in modern times? Nowadays walking in cities is somewhat mission impossible. Your project did its best to bring in the change, both at the level of urban mobility planning and in citizens’ way of understanding the benefits of walking. Tell us more about it.
Danilo: The beauty in this project was that it was always close to the citizens. And it was focused on the simplest form of urban mobility - walking. We also had a special slogan »CityWalk is much more than just a project. CityWalk is a lifestyle.«
The emphasis of the project was on improving conditions for pedestrians to make cities more liveable, safer and healthier places. We have done a lot of things and we didn’t try to solve the challenges of urban transport in a traditional way, we focused on integrating the most environmentally friendly transport forms, with emphasis on walking, thus offering a human-centered solution (the main contribution here was from Bela Kézi-main technical expert).
Walkability Plans of partner cities (previously not present in the region) identify steps to improve walkability. Most interventions have every prospect of implementation, thus significantly improving walkability in the concerned cities already in the medium term. Partner cities even implemented low-cost pilot interventions, resulting in immediate improvement of walkability. A detailed guide and training course on walkability planning together with a practical walkability toolkit (including a walkability guide, a good practice catalogue, a walkability index) enable interested cities in the Danube Region and beyond to improve walkability.
A unique achievement is the innovative smartphone application Walk'n'Smile (Android and iOS) that promotes healthy lifestyle and walking to people, using the principle of gamification. It makes walking more appealing and it is crucial in reaching the younger population through the use of advanced digital solutions like an AR supported photo function. The app has been already downloaded by nearly 1,000 users and the user base is steadily growing. Our local, national and transnational policy proposals will also significantly improve the policy environment of developing walkability.
Photo credit: CityWalk project
DTP: During the lifetime of the project you organised many campaigns to inform and mobilise the citizens from the Danube region. Name us some campaigns with the biggest echo among the target groups?
Danilo: We involved the civil society through different innovative actions, disseminated the results of the project and emphasized the importance of sustainable mobility for more livable cities. Same campaign has been implemented simultaneously and of course I can give some good examples. For instance The Photo Competition for citizens to make/shoot a photo in their cities as Beatles Ambery road stile or the organization, in each city, of Jane's Walk-which is a citizen-led walking experience. Jane’s Walk is an annual festival of free, community-led walking conversations and it is a global movement. Jane’s Walks encourages people to share stories about their neighbourhoods, discover unseen aspects of their communities and use walking as a way to connect with each other.
We have promoted both the project's results as well as walking as such with help of social influencers, through social media. Young people follow the influencers and once they set a trend, it can be easily copied by other categories of people.
Photo credit: CityWalk project
DTP: Why was it important to do the project in the Danube region context? What is the added value of carring it in this framework with the cooperation of cities / institutions coming from the Danube region?
Danilo: Here I always have two major points why transnational cooperation is so important:
First - instead of using the experience and knowledge from just one country, we can rely on a wide range of practical experiences from various cities that are located in different countries - this is a major advantage that each transnational project can benefit from.
Second- the the transnational component ensures a wider and more efficient dissemination of the project results, allowing many other urban areas to directly benefit from them.
The cities from the Danube region have more or less similar problems and deal with them in more or less similar ways. However, the solutions implemented by each of them are only bits of the bigger puzzle and coming together offers a transboundary solution. The unique feature of the DTP, that is the involvement of the non EU countries brings in a distinctive added value since both EU and non EU partner cities and institutions coming from those cities are cooperating with each other, thus offering suistainable solutions to be spread over Europe.
To finish --you know the song YOU'll never walk alone (it is the anthem of Liverpool football club)-- indeed, we never had to walk alone. I have to thank all partners in project for the great work. You have always searched for the added value in this project and contributed to its achievement. THANK YOU!