In September 2016, with the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) at the handlebars, work began on creating the blueprints for a unified EU strategy on cycling. Early in the process, the Cycling Embassy of Denmark was invited to participate by coordinating one of the chapters in this historic document on cycling. The objective of the strategy is to develop a broader and more border crossing approach to cycling policy and initiatives by taking it to the EU level.
In October 2015, all transport ministers in the EU member states signed the Luxembourg declaration on cycling. The declaration is regarded as the first step in creating a collective stance on cycling in the EU. Following this cycling breakthrough, the ECF began the groundwork for a more detailed EU strategy. In the process the ECF is including a broad group of stakeholders within European cycling, transportation, and political communities, e.g. The Cycling Embassy of Denmark (CED), the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC), the German Development Agency (GIZ), and the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER).
A collective strategy will help the EU deliver on objectives
Reports show that around 8% of EU citizens use cycling as their primary mode of travel. However, the national figures vary greatly across Europe, from rates of 1% or less in Cyprus, Malta, and Portugal to 36% in the Netherlands. At a local level, the percentage of citizens perceiving their bicycle as the primary mode of transport is as high as 60% – in the Dutch city of Groningen.
A collective strategy for all member states on cycling can unlock socio economic benefits of cycling worth billions of Euros, e.g. in terms of health, infrastructure, and mobility, to name a few.
The potential for more cycling in the EU is high, especially when it comes to travelling over short distances. It is estimated that approx. 20% of all car rides in the EU are shorter than 2 km and 40% of rides are shorter than 5 km. In addition, 51% of all motorized transport of goods (in cities) could be replaced by cargo bikes.
Joining the forces of the member states on cycling can also enable the EU to address the EU targets in regards to battling climate change. The bicycle is one of the most environmentally friendly modes of transport in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. Besides, cycling is an essential tool for congestion relief within Europe’s many growing urban centers – e.g. limiting the amount of pollution from idling gas in cities.
Cycling can also be a measure of improving overall health in the EU. The health benefits of switching from car commuting to bicycle commuting amply outweigh the safety risks associated with bicycling. Additionally, it is suggested that safety increases with a higher number of cyclists, hence the ´Safety in Numbers´ principle. In regards to life style related illnesses, numbers from the World Health Organization, shows that if every adult in the EU walked or cycled for an additional 15 minutes a day, more than 100.000 premature deaths linked to insufficient physical activity could be avoided annually.
The CED is focusing on changing behavior
The Cycling Embassy Denmark has been invited to contribute to the strategy by coordinating the chapter on Behavior Change. Denmark is a nation full of eager cyclists. In Denmark there is also a tradition for developing and executing campaigns and projects with the objective of changing behavior – also within cycling. The CED is therefore looking forward to contribute to a chapter on behavior change in the proposed EU Cycling Strategy.
The strategy serves as a blueprint for what hopefully becomes official EU policies on cycling. The finished strategy will be handed over to the EU Commissioner for Transport, Violeta Bulc, at the Velo City Conference in June 2017.
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