ECF in the press

Cycling is the Cinderella service of transport policy

  • News,
  • 16.11.2012


Source: Public Service Europe

At the moment, 7 per cent of European citizens use bicycles as their main mode of transport but cycling receives only 0.7 per cent of EU funding available for transport – writes campaigner

By Julian Ferguson

The European Union’s recently released Cars 2020 strategy may be a step backwards if it wants to achieve any of its stated transport goals. Policy should look at changing the way people move, and cycling could have a big role to play. The EU white paper on transport demands a “transition from a primarily car based personal mobility in cities to a mobility based on walking and cycling” and no more conventionally-fuelled cars in cities by 2050. Yet recent actions would suggest that this may still be a pipe-dream.

The European Commission unveiled a Cars 2020 Strategy last week, which gave the automotive industry access to a share of more than €80bn in EU funding. It fell short of any binding environmental legislation. Planned proposals to reduce air pollution emissions from cars is being delayed and a long-awaited communication on setting fuel economy targets for cars and vans for after 2020 is also being held back.

Understandably, their actions received wide-spread criticism from environmental campaigners such as Greenpeace and Transport & Environment too name but a few. So why is it that European policy and funding streams still gives priority to cars? In fact, the time is ripe to focus on changing the way people move. Younger generations no longer see owning a car as a necessity. Some 80 per cent young German adults think people don’t need a private car anymore because public transport is sufficiently developed.

That is very of much in line with a Fraunhofer study on a “vision for a sustainable transport in Germany”. Car ownership is expected to plummet by more than half from 570 per 1,000 people today to 250 per 1,000 people by 2050. In urban areas most people will not have a private car anymore but use car sharing, public transport, walking and cycling. European legislation should make the most of this change.

But do not underestimate cycling. It is perhaps one of the most forgotten areas in transport policy at the EU level. And it could go a long way to helping Europe achieve its transport goals when it comes to emissions reduction. A study produced by the European Cyclists’ Federation found that if levels of cycling in the EU-27 were equivalent to those found in Denmark in 2000, bicycle use would achieve 26 per cent of the 2050 greenhouse gas emissions target set for the transport sector. What is more, bicycle infrastructure is cost effective. For the cost of one kilometre of urban freeway you could build 150km of bicycle paths, 10,000km of bicycle lanes or 100 well designed 30kmph zones.

But if the EU is to have any hope of getting more people cycling, then they will have to invest time and money. At the moment, 7 per cent of EU citizens use bicycles as their main mode of transport but cycling receives only 0.7 per cent of EU funding available for transport. During the 2007-2013 financial period, the union spent 67 times more money on car and lorry road infrastructure than on cycling infrastructure. If we want to see more people cycling, then 10 per cent of the EU funding available for transport should be given to cycling and walking. So as the EU gets ready to debate budgets at the end of the month, they should remember that EU citizens are moving differently and solutions such as cycling should be given a higher priority, and greater investment.

Julian Ferguson is a communications officer at the European Cyclists’ Federation campaign group

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Last Updated November 19, 2012