European Commission Executive Vice-President, Frans Timmermans, who is leading the European Commission’s Green Deal activities, has highlighted the importance of cycling to deliver the ambitious targets of the EU Green Deal during a round table discussion with selected mayors and transport ministers held on 30 October 2020.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has brought hardship to millions of people across the EU, at the same time, it has led to an unprecedented surge in cycling. More than 2,300 km of pop-up bike lanes have been announced by European cities - and bicycle sales continue to boom.
The round table discussion, hosted by the European Cyclists’ Federation and Cycling Industries Europe, focussed on how cities and regions could harness this momentum to achieve a faster and more lasting shift towards more cycling.
Timmermans stated, “Investing in safe cycling infrastructure is a no-regret investment. We want to be climate neutral by 2050 and cycling is by definition a solution to decarbonise transport.”
The discussion highlighted the commitment and desire of EU mayors to invest in cycling within their cities. Cities across the EU have already repurposed vast amounts of public space to create more space for cycling. In addition, lower vehicle speed limits and Urban Vehicle Access Regulations (UVAR) have been introduced in many cities which helps enhance safe cycling conditions.
However, in order to create a more lasting shift towards more cycling, massive investments are still required. More and better infrastructure for safe cycling is seen as a first requirement. Investments are not only required to create networks of bike lanes that are separated from vehicle lanes and have sufficient width but also to create parking facilities, especially near transport hubs. In addition, other measures are required to encourage bike-use, especially when it means a shift away from car use. Cities across the EU have been experimenting with various incentive schemes, ranging from subsidies for the acquisition of (electric) bikes or for bike repairs to the provision of cycle training and tax incentives and other reward schemes for commuters.
In order to support cities and regions across the EU, the European Commission has a budget of several billion euros. In particular, the Recovery and Resilience Facility, which is part of the NextGenerationEU initiative, holds great potential in unlocking funding for cycling.
Member States are encouraged to prepare recovery and resilience plans that set out a coherent package of reforms and public investment projects which help to achieve a sustainable and inclusive recovery that promotes the green and digital transitions.
To benefit from the support of the Facility, these reforms and investments should be implemented by 2026. Cycling proposals can be included in the National Recovery and Resilience Plan as part of various of its reform and investment components. Examples of proposals that can be made within these components have been provided by the European Commission document and a guidance document prepared by ECF and CIE.
Timmermans further noted that in addition to the EU Recovery and Resilience Facility, the upcoming Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy will take the Commission’s cooperation with cities and regions further.
EU regional funds 2021-2027 such as the ERDF and Cohesion Fund will continue to offer huge opportunities to help fund cycling projects. To optimise use of these funds for cycling in the upcoming Multiannual Financial Framework it is regional and local authorities are aware of the possibilities and develop cycling strategies that identify clear investment needs. An Integrated Cycling Planning Guide developed as part of the EU funded project EU Cycle can be supportive of this. It is expected to be accessible online in November 2020.
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