In this essay I draw the lessons of 40 years of sustainable transport policy. This was my contribution to the international conference ‘Keep Moving, Towards Sustainable Mobility’ in 2012. What did work and which policies can in hindsight been labelled as illusions? Attempts to curb the growth of car traffic have hardly been effective. The most progress has been achieved by standards and fiscal incentives forcing clean technologies into the vehicles. Enhanced urbanization is a second effective approach, because of its impact on travel behaviour. Only these two policies have proven to be successful.