Erion Veliaj, Mayor of Albania’s capital Tirana, is one of the heroes of sustainable mobility in 21Heroes2021, according to the Transformative Urban Mobility Initiative (TUMI).
21Heroes2021 honors the people who achieved transport success in 2020, despite the historic challenges that they faced, and laid the groundwork for even more successful and sustainable mobility initiatives in 2021.
The 21Heroes2021 list includes Anne Hildalgo, Mayor of Paris (France), Erion Veliaj, Hassan Ali Joho, Governor of Mombasa County (Kenya), Anies Baswedan, Governor of Jakarta (Indonesia), Areli Carreon, Bicycle Mayor of Mexico City, Joe Ma, Deputy General Manager of Shenzhen Bus Group (China), and Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla (United States).
According to TUMI, it is a small, yet powerful selection of many that are actively contributing to making mobility future-oriented, safe, inclusive and sustainable.
Veliaj: Green initiatives are not a ‘one-man show’
“I am so enthusiastic about this award since, in the first place, it promotes our mission to make the world a better place for young generations to grow up healthier and in harmony with nature. Furthermore, it echoes that we are leaning on the right side and inspiring us not to give up; instead, push ahead full steam! Lastly, I want to highlight that such green initiatives are not a ‘one-man show.’ Therefore, this award goes also to our motivated teams that have worked with dedication, day and night, during these challenging times, the many young volunteers who decided to join us, and the citizens entrusting us with these responsibilities,” Erion Veliaj, Mayor of Albania’s capital Tirana, told Balkan Green Energy News.
Erion Veliaj: We put our energy and money where our mouth was
As the people of Tirana sheltered in their homes during a lockdown, Erion Veliaj, mayor of Tirana, looked to a new urban age of sustainability and resilience, setting a clear mission to spur green projects that would alter vehicular dominance in favor of pedestrians and cyclists. He thus oversaw the replacement of side parking spaces with wider sidewalks and an additional 11 km of pop-up bike lanes, the publication reads.
Veliaj was elected Mayor of Tirana in June 2015, leading the vibrant city towards a vision of sustainable urban transport and green city planning. Almost immediately, at the end of the year, the Municipality of Tirana and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) agreed to work together to upgrade the municipal infrastructure and make Albania’s capital more environment-friendly.
Tirana adopted the Green City Action Plan and Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan
The result came in 2018 when the Green City Action Plan of Tirana was adopted.
“Over the past two years, Tirana has undergone a remarkable transformation. We put our energy and money where our mouth was and began work on a series of projects, policies, and measures that have built the foundations of a very different model of development for the city, one that has sustainability and respect for the environment as its guiding principles,” he said.
One of the most important projects in the plan, called the Metropolitan Forest, envisages the planting of 2 million trees.
Tirana is also participating in the European Mobility Week, an annual initiative of the European Commission for sustainable urban mobility.
🎉New Publication! 👇👇#21Heroes2021 honors those who, despite historic challenges made a difference to #sustainable #mobility in 2020 and laid the groundwork for even more successful initiatives in #2021 🚲🚋🔌🌎
— TUMI 🚶♀️🚶♂️🚲🛴🚊🚍🔌📲 (@TUMInitiative) February 4, 2021
A milestone move was the development of the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP). In 2019, together with Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Podgorica, capital of Montenegro, Tirana was part of the regional project “Sustainable Urban Mobility in SEE Countries II” (SUMSEEC II) under the Open Regional Fund for South-East Europe – Energy Efficiency (ORF-EE).
It’s the 10 centimeters between our ears that is the toughest of infrastructures to transform
According to TUMI, Veliaj recognized that the most balanced way to achieve his plans would be to inspire the minds of his people.
“We can’t build sustainable cities without including citizens in the process. I often say that the biggest infrastructure project to change in a city is not a boulevard, nor a big building. We know how to do those. It’s the 10 centimeters between our ears – one’s thinking and mentality – that is the toughest of infrastructures to transform,” he said.