Personal mobility is a fundamental right for every citizen.
We all need and want to have access to work, to learning, to healthcare, to food shops, to social, cultural and sporting activities. These produces traffic: walking, cycling, public transport, and car traffic. The type of traffic we get is very much influenced by the way our cities are built and the type of infrastructure provided.
Cars give us the promise of personal freedom. The promise of convenient mobility and the capacity to get anywhere, at anytime in total comfort… However, the growth of cars as the dominant mode of transport comes at huge social, economic and environmental costs: climate change, air pollution and noise exposure; congestion; road crashes and physical inactivity; urban areas with a low quality of life.
The challenge is to break this vicious cycle - embracing mobility without cars
Aside from creating new urban planning, cities are discovering that promoting more walking and cycling can be part of the solution.
Successful strategies include:
- market mechanisms to discourage car use, e.g. by introducing congestion charges (London, Stockholm, Milan) or parking fees
- Traffic calming practices
- Earmarking public funding for cycling-infrastructure
- Bike-sharing schemes
- Effective intermodality planning
Combining these strategies will be a key in offering a real alternative to individual car use.
What does the EU do on (cycling) mobility?
Traditionally, European transport policy is meant to foster cross-border long-distance mobility. For example, the EU co-funds the development of a TransEuropean Network on Transport (TEN-T) for highways, railways and waterways. Cycling is excluded from the TEN-T. Additionally, the EU provides transport infrastructure funding (from its Regional and Cohesion Funds. Within the Financial Perspective 2007 – 2013, € 600 million have been earmarked for cycling infrastructure (out of a total of € 82 billion on transport infrastructure).
Competence on urban mobility is limited by the subsidiarity issue and much considered as a local competence. Nonetheless, as transport and mobility problems are common to most European cities and negative externalities trans-boundary, the European Commission has come up with an Urban Mobility Action Plan in 2009. Cycling has so far received little attention in it.
The recent White Paper on Transport (2011) identifies climate change as the fundamental challenge of the transport sector. Transport needs to de-carbonise. The Commission wants to achieve these goals primarily by technological means. The paper also has some notions on demand management and modal shift, but fails to set any targets as regards passenger transport. Consequently, the proposed measures to achieve a behavioural change are rather weak.
Nevertheless the policy on Urban Mobility Plans is moving into the right direction. It wants to “Examine the possibility of a mandatory approach for cities of a certain size” and “Link regional development and cohesion funds to cities and regions that have submitted a current, and independently validated Urban Mobility Performance and Sustainability Audit certificate.”
As regards road safety, the Commission envisages for the first time “Vision Zero” by 2050. The White Paper reiterates the priority of last years’ Policy Orientations on Road Safety 2011 – 2020 on “Vulnerable road users” by “encouraging the establishment of adequate infrastructures”.
What is ECF position on cycling mobility?
Investing in cycling is a win-win-win situation: The Charter of Seville summarises in a nutshell all the benefits of cycling. ECF presented the Charter during the International Transport Forum (ITF) 2011 in Leipzig to the transport ministers of the OECD countries.
ECF’s main target is more and safer cycling in Europe. According to Eurobarometer, 7.4 % of European citizen used the bicycle as their primary means of transport in 2010. By 2020, we want to see the level of cycling at 15% of the modal split. At the same time, the risk of a serious or fatal accident should decrease by 50 %: There is ample evidence to suggest the theory that cycling gets safer the more people do it (Safety in Numbers). More than 50 European cities support officially these targets by having signed up to the Charter of Brussels, among them capital cities like Madrid, Athens, Helsinki and Copenhagen.
Achieving these goals will need a multitude of actions by all government levels: European, national, regional and local. The key is to civilize our roads by reducing demand for individual motorized transport and effective speed management: 30 km/h should be the standard speed limit in built-up areas, allowing largely for a shared use of the road infrastructure by motorized transport users and cyclists. It speaks for itself that traffic codes need to be enforced by the police, and infrastructure should be adapted accordingly in order to steer behaviour.
Therefore, the EU must provide more funding for cycling infrastructure than it currently does. ECF’s demand is to invest 10% of all transport infrastructure funds on cycling. As EU Members States need to co-finance EU investments, the EU needs to set incentives favouring infrastructure projects e.g. by setting higher co-funding rates for cycling infrastructure than for highways. Improving infrastructure is key in making cycling an enjoyable and safe activity to do. The Netherlands, with arguable the best cycling infrastructure worldwide, has a cycling modal share of 27 %. With 50 % of all car trips being shorter than 5 km, there is a lot of potential across Europe to achieve similar modal shares as well.
ECF believes that EU needs to do much more on cycling. As it misses an overall strategy, most of its activities remain patchwork. Several EU Member States have adopted Cycling Master Plans, giving a major push to cycling. The EU should follow suit.
1 VIVER (Visionen für einen nachhaltigen Verkehr in Deutschland/ Vision for a sustainable transport in Germany), a long-term study by the Fraunhofer research institute predicts a decrease from 570 cars per 1000 inhabitants today to 250 cars per 1000 inhabitants by 2050 in Germany.