Study on Sustainable Mobility in Berlin and 18 Other Cities
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Study on Sustainable Mobility in Berlin and 18 Other Cities

Published in:
Transportation Research Part D: Transport and
Environment, Volume 128, March 2024


Comparing Urban Form Influences on Travel Distance, Car Ownership, and Mode Choice

Peter Berrill, Florian Nachtigall, Aneeque Javaid, Nikola Milojevic-Dupont, Felix Wagner, Felix Creutzig

Technische Universität Berlin, Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis


Understanding the complex relationships between urban planning and mobility behavior is a crucial endeavor in the pursuit of sustainable urban living. A recent study published in Transportation Research Part D by Dr. Peter Berrill et al. sheds light on this topic by examining the intricate relationships between settlements, car ownership, and mobility behavior in Berlin and 18 other European cities.


The findings show that the distance from a city resident’s home to the city center has a decisive influence on climate-friendly transport behavior. The study confirmed that someone who lives close to the city center is significantly less likely to own a car, travels shorter distances, and is less likely to prefer traveling by car over other modes of transport. This decrease in likelihood can be non-linear in some cases, such as the exponential increase in car ownership beyond 6 km from the city center in Berlin.

The research also identifies demographic groups that show different mobility patterns. Factors such as household income and household size are important for car ownership, while age and gender can influence the choice of the mode of transportation. Trips made with children are far more likely to be taken by car, showing that certain demographic groups may need additional support to make the transition to climate-neutral, non-motorized mobility.

Significant differences can also be observed from a geographical point of view: In German cities, the share of bicycles in traffic is significantly higher than in Vienna, Madrid, and cities in France. The level of car ownership and car use tends to be lower in larger cities. By recognizing the decisive role of the urban form in mobility decisions, cities can take targeted measures to promote sustainable mobility. Policies that encourage residential development close to city centers, combined with the expansion of public transit and active transportation infrastructure, can significantly reduce car dependency and its associated environmental impacts.


The research was funded by the EU Horizon program and the Climate Change Center Berlin Brandenburg.

Read the study

Picture: Philipp Arnoldt


Dr. Peter Berrill


Dr. Peter Berrill
Technische Universität Berlin