A policy brief published in August 2023 by the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) provides a new insight into investment in cycling using the EU's Structural Funds. Approximately €3.21 billion has so far been committed to cycling projects across Europe during the current 2021-2027 EU structural funding period, representing a 30% increase when viewed alongside figures from the 2014-2020’s financial period. This will allow for the financing of 12,000 km of cycling infrastructure. Further, the ECF has calculated, based on trends in the 2014-2020 period, that as much as €4-4.8 billion in Structural Funds could become available for such cycling projects over the entire funding period. The analysis was based on data available via the Commission's Cohesion Open Data Platform.
However, beneath the overarching positive trend of increasing investment in cycling, there are considerable disparities between EU Member States. While some nations, for example, Czechia, Estonia, and Lithuania are demonstrating a commitment to substantial investments in cycling, others, most notably Spain and Portugal, have exhibited less ambition when using EU Structural Funds for this purpose.
It is worth bearing in mind that in the preceding financial period, spanning from 2014 to 2020, there was a consistent upward trajectory in investment. However, using the allocated resources was a challenge. Out of the €2.43 billion earmarked for cycling projects from EU Structural Funds, only €1.64 billion, equivalent to 67%, was spent as of the end of 2022. This rate of expenditure is relatively similar to that observed for urban transport infrastructure projects, but remains relatively low when contrasted with other spending categories, such as road infrastructure investment, which consistently achieve expenditure rates of between 84% and 111% of the initial commitments.
Overall, in different countries, the most significant investments per capita in cycling have been made by Lithuania and Estonia, with both allocating €46.6 per person. Czechia closely follows this at €38.8, with Slovenia at €35.4 and Hungary at €30.9. While in absolute monetary terms, Poland leads with a substantial €780 million in investments, followed by Czechia with €409 million, Italy with €376 million, and Hungary with €300 million. In total, these four nations collectively account for a significant 60% of the total "planned" investments.
The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) is the most substantial structural fund that can be used for cycling investments within the European context, which includes projects funded under the Interreg programme. It is followed in significance by the Cohesion Fund and the Just Transition Fund (JTF). While the JTF is available to all EU Member States, only two countries, namely Poland and Czechia, have made use of this to invest in cycling.
For further information, see ECF's website.
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