Figure 1 Combined influence of all urban form features on trip distances in Berlin

In the quest for sustainable urban living, understanding the complex relationships between urban form and mobility behaviour is crucial. A recent study in Transportation Research Part D by Berrill et al. sheds light on this issue by examining the intricate associations between urban form, car ownership, and travel behavior across nineteen diverse European cities.  

At the heart of their findings is the importance of residential proximity to the city center. The study illustrates that living closer to the city center is associated with significant reduction of car ownership, trip distances, and the preference for car use over other modes of transportation. Such reductions can in some cases be non-linear, such as the exponential decrease in car ownership beyond 6km from the city center in Berlin. 

The research also identifies demographic groups that exhibit different mobility patterns. Factors such as household income, household size are important for car ownership, while age and gender can be influential on mode choice. Trips accompanying children are far more likely to be by car than trips with other purposes, demonstrating that certain demographic groups may require additional support to transition towards more sustainable mobility options, and emphasizing the need for targeted policy interventions. 

By recognizing the critical role of urban form in influencing mobility choices, cities can implement targeted interventions promoting sustainable mobility. Policies that encourage residential development closer to city centers, coupled with enhancements in public transportation and active travel infrastructure, can significantly reduce reliance on personal vehicles. 

By adopting data-driven and evidence-based urban planning practices informed by such research, cities can make significant strides toward sustainability, improved public health, and higher quality of life for their residents. 

Figure 2 Modelled influence of distance to center on car ownership in Berlin

Figure 2 Modelled influence of distance to center on car ownership in Berlin


This research received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 101027476 (SUFFICCS project) and grant agreement No 101056810 (CircEUlar project).