Bike to work schemes are popping up all across Europe. Now the European Commission is also getting on board.
In Europe, bike to work schemes are spreading rapidly. In cycling meccas such as Denmark, more than 100,000 people take part in the “we cycle to work” campaign. In Germany 125,000 people cycled to work in a scheme backed by national bicycle advocates ADFC . Hungary, the United Kingdom, Austria and Switzerland also have bike to work schemes that are growing in size and scope.
“There’s a huge demand for bike to work schemes, and part of this can be explained by technology. A lot of the new bike schemes are online so this reduces man power and admin costs,” says Martti Tulenheimo, ECF’s Urban Mobility Policy Officer.
According to Tulenheimo, for years, Belgium didn’t have any large bike to work schemes. However that changed after funding from the European public health ministry via DG SANCO’s Life Cycle project. With this money, Belgian bicycle advocacy group Fietsersbond was able to kick start their very own program. Now, the scheme has got so big that the European Commission itself has signed up.
“Before the EU gave some money for a Bike-To-Work project in Belgium, there was nothing. It has now grown so dramatically, that after one year, they were reporting 1 million kilometres cycled to work every month,” adds Tulenheimo.
The European Commission is well known across the globe for its pro-environmentally friendly policies. Yet its home in Brussels has for a long time been almost 100% car centric and is located on Europe’s most congested and pollute streets, Rue de la Loi.
The Commission however wants to change. They’re making some bold moves. To begin with, they’ve signed up to Belgium’s bike to work scheme and have also decided to take part in the Car Free Sunday in Brussels. They provide what they call “service bikes” for staff to use during their business day – to travel between the many EC buildings all around Brussels and during roadworks this summer, the Commission even allowed staff to take them home.
Part of the push to get more EU staff cycling to work is thanks to the European Union Cycling Group (EUCG), which groups together cycling friendly professionals working for the EU institutions in Brussels. The group has more than 1300 members.
“The EUCG is thrilled that the commission has joined bike to work. We are convinced that this will help to convince even more colleagues to cycle to work,” says EUCG President Lewis Dijkstra.
As signs of a trend toward more active travel, Dijkstra adds:
“The commission promotes walking, cycling and taking public transport to work. I would argue that bike to work fits in that strategy as does the service bicycles provision, which is very popular.”
As the program kicks off in the Commission, it will be interesting to see how many EU staff take part. With 25,000 staff members, that could be a lot less cars on the road.
Dr. Randy Rzewnicki is ECF’s Health Officer and Project manager for CycleLogistics.