This paper explores how the European Commission promotes the concept of Sustainable Urban Mobility Planning (SUMP) among European cities. Despite the strong uptake of the SUMP concept, mobility-related problems persist in European municipalities. Linking theoretical approaches to understand the diffusion of policies with empirical findings from working with cities in the SUMP context, this article explores channels of policy diffusion and investigates shortcomings related to the respective approaches. Studies on the diffusion, the transfer and the convergence of policies identify formal hierarchy, coercion, competition, learning and networking, and the diffusion of international norms as channels for policy transfer. The findings which are presented in this paper are twofold: First, the paper finds evidence that the Commission takes different roles and uses all mechanisms in parallel, albeit with different intensity. It concludes that the approaches to explain policy diffusion are not competing or mutually exclusive but are applied by the same actor to address different aspects of a policy field, or to reach out to different actors. Second, the article provides first evidence of factors that limit the mechanisms’ abilities to directly influence urban mobility systems and mobility behaviour.
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