At the end of January our group leader Martin Loidl and doctoral researcher Lucas van der Meer traveled to Liège in Belgium for the official kick-off meeting of the CITWIN project. This brand new project is funded through the European partnership Driving Urban Transitions (DUT). It aims to explore the potential and challenges of urban digital twin technology as a tool for planning 15-minute cities. Urban digital twins are currently a popular term in the world of urban planning. They are meant to be a virtual representation of the built environment in a city and all different kinds of processes taking place in that environment. Through constant exchange of data, information, and insights, the physical and virtual worlds should influence each other. However, there are still many doubts about the maturity of the concept, how it can be implemented in practice, and in which stages of the planning process it can really add value. CITWIN takes an interdisciplinary, innovation-oriented approach in which various stakeholders are involved throughout all stages of the project.

Our role in the project focuses on the development of new assessment models for active transport accessibility. The way accessibility is currently measured stems from a very car-centric view on transport planning, in which the trip towards the destination is considered solely a disutility, and not having any value in itself. For active transport, however, movement can give us many pleasurable experiences because of the way we sense our environment and make small social interactions. These experiences can positively influence how accessible we perceive our destination to be. Given that we design our streets in a way that fosters them, of course. Such friendly human-centered street designs are not incentivized by our current conceptualization of accessibility. Considering ongoing developments in both data availability and data analysis tools, we will try to enhance existing quantitative frameworks for accessibility assessment, and integrate them into the urban digital twin prototypes that are developed within the project.

The CITWIN project is lead by the University of Liège (Department of Urban and Environmental Engineering), alongside the other academic partners Aarhus University (Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering) and the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm (Department of Urban Planning and Environment). The cities or Aarhus in Denmark and Eskilstuna in Sweden are the two “urban living labs”, meaning that together with their citizens we will guide the further direction of the project, and test developed insights. Additionally, the Austrian start-up triply GmbH and the European Cyclists’ Federation are involved. It was great to see everyone in person, bringing along a lot of motivation and ideas! Follow the CITWIN page on LinkedIn if you want to stay up-to-date about the progress of the project.

The CITWIN project team