Steps towards a cycling revolution: Jill Warren on the future of pedal power for all

By Isobel Duxfield / Updated: 31 Jul 2023

Urban cycling has seen an incredible revolution over the last decade. While these developments are indeed to be celebrated, there is also much ground yet to cover. Urban Mobility Days - this year held in Seville from 4-6 October - will bring together leading voices from across cycling to explore how to accelerate progress.

At Urban Mobility Days, the panel, 'Cycling into the Future' will address fundamental questions including:

  • What measures are the most effective to boost cycling in our cities?
  • What are the infrastructure needs?
  • How do we convince car drivers in cities that increasing the number of cyclists on the streets means less congestion and better road safety for all?
  • What are the next steps?

Therefore, who better to kick start the conversation than Jill Warren, CEO of European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF), who will join the panel in Seville. The ECF is a civil society non-governmental organisation (NGO) dedicated to achieving more and better cycling for all in Europe. With over 70 member organisations in 40 countries, the federation harnesses the power of the European cycling movements to advocate for the policies, funding and approaches that enable more and safer cycling. They also engage in global cycling advocacy, for example at the UN/COP level.

Jill Warren shares why securing a brighter future for cycling is critical and how the sector needs to change to achieve this:

What are the ECF’s main objectives?

Our high level objectives for 2030 include:

  • More cycling: We want to see double the number of kilometres cycled in Europe by 2030.
  • Safer cycling: We want at least 50% more progress towards Vision Zero, which aims for no more cyclists to be killed or seriously injured in road collisions.
  • Stronger political support: We want cycling to be treated as a fully-fledged mode of transport by policy and decision makers at all levels, and we want it to be prioritised in the mobility mix.
  • Higher investment: Cycling should get 10% of national transport spend, and the EU should invest at least €20bn more in cycling by 2030.
  • More and better infrastructure: At least 100,000 km of new cycling infrastructure should be built in Europe by 2030.

This year, the Parliament published an EU Cycling Resolution, which called on the Commission to treat cycling as a fully-fledged mode of transport. Why do you think that cycling has NOT received such a status until now?

Conventional policy frameworks and mindsets for transport have focused mainly on modes like automotive, aviation, maritime, freight, rail and public transport. Active transport modes such as cycling and walking have not been given the same consideration, priority, or levels of investment, not least because they have not been linked to the same kinds of major economic interests or backed by hugely powerful industrial lobbies.

The result of this is cities that are built primarily for cars, and cities that do not have enough safe, comfortable and connected infrastructure for people to cycle where they want to go.

However, the ECF and Cycling Industries Europe (CIE) released a call for a more ambitious policy on cycling. Why is this necessary? What key changes do you want to see?

The EU will not be able to fulfil the ambitious aims of the European Green Deal, decarbonise transport or achieve climate neutral cities without an equally ambitious plan to significantly grow cycling. Without a determined plan it will also not be possible to unlock the massive adjacent benefits of more cycling, such as improved health and well-being, less congestion and noise, cleaner air, more liveable cities, and greater equity and inclusion. Let’s not also forget the potential for a million more green jobs and a stronger cycling industry.

The European Cycling Declaration needs to reflect the ambitions and momentum of the European Parliament cycling resolution, the declaration signed by 16 Member States to date, and the ambitions expressed by Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans in his March keynote speech announcing the Declaration. We believe the first principle of the declaration “must recognise cycling as a full transport mode in its own right” – as stated by Timmermans – in all EU laws, policies and funding programmes, putting it on the same level as other modes. We also want the declaration to contain clear targets and commitments to grow cycling, in line with the ambitions of the Parliament resolution and the Member State declaration.

This includes a target to double the kilometres cycled by people in the EU by 2030, as well as targets for at least 100,000 km of new cycling infrastructure and cycling networks in cities that are part of the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T). Targets should also include greatly increased EU and national investments in cycling. ECF and CIE estimate that EU investments of at least EUR 20 billion are needed by 2030 to unlock cycling’s potential to deliver on the EU’s climate, economic and health aims.

There are many developments which are dramatically changing cycling and the bike industry – like e-bikes. What do you feel are some of the other key infrastructure, technologies and services which are – or will be – critical to expanding and enhancing active travel?

More space for active travel would have to be number one on my list: High quality, safe cycling infrastructure. The number one reason people in Europe give for not cycling or not cycling more is that they do not feel safe enough. So making it safe is the single most important thing we can do.

Disincentives to private car travel will remain important as well in engineering a shift to more active travel. With the majority of urban trips being under five kilometres, discouraging the use of cars for such short trips through less parking, more expensive parking, congestion charging, and other measures can shift many of those trips to cycling and walking.

Increased integration between cycling and public transport and rail is also important for expanding active travel – for example with integrated ticketing, safe and secure bicycle parking facilities at public transport and railway stations, convenient bike sharing schemes and so on. 

Last but not least, I would highlight the cargo bike. Especially in cities, the cargo bike is playing an increasingly important role in the transition to active mobility by enabling a shift from motorised transport by private individuals and families, as well as by companies and other entities for logistics and deliveries. Of course, cargo bikes are often electric, so there is a certain overlap with e-bikes as a game changer. ECF’s recently launched dashboard tracks and analyses a range of cargo bike friendly developments in 125 cities across Europe, from cargo bike sharing schemes to subsidies and other indicators that stimulate the use of cargo bikes.

Cycle tourism is also more widely available than ever before and is proving lucrative for many cities and regions. The EuroVelo Cycle Route Network has proved an incredible inspiration for many – which ECF has championed widely. What is the status of EuroVelo so far? Which routes would you recommend?

The EuroVelo Cycle Route Network, which just celebrated 25 years since its conception, is a network of 17 long-distance cycle routes spanning over 90,000 km and 42 countries. It is currently about two-thirds complete. ECF centrally coordinates the development and overall management of EuroVelo, working closely with our network of National EuroVelo Coordination Centres and Contact Points.

I would highly encourage everyone to try one of the EuroVelo routes out – or try a new one you haven’t cycled before - for a weekend ride or a cycling holiday. (Readers can get their very own EuroVelo Overview Map here.)

My personal favourites include the Danube Cycle Route on part of the EuroVelo 6 and the Rhine Cycle Route, which is the EuroVelo 15. These routes are well developed, mostly flat and suitable for all ages, abilities and fitness levels. But there are many other great routes as well – check them out at!

One of the critical discussions we have seen over the last few years is the lack of diversity in the cycling sector – in fact, a central theme at ECF’s Velo-city Conference in Lisbon in 2021. There have been many incredible initiatives to try to tackle this. Are there any which you would pinpoint as successful, and that has lessons for others?

Change does not happen overnight, but I think that initiatives like Women in Cycling are already leading to greater awareness and impact in helping to achieve greater gender diversity. Launched in 2021, the initiative seeks to boost equality and diversity in the cycling sector. It shines a spotlight on women in the sector and provides networking, mentoring and training opportunities, which helps them to raise their profile and access more speaking and job opportunities and leadership roles. Its LinkedIn group has grown to over 2,000 members and its sessions and networking events at Velo-city and Eurobike have been very well attended.

To give just one example, last year ECF successfully tapped into the Women in Cycling community to find additional well-qualified (and ultimately successful) female candidates for its own board and EuroVelo advisory board, which helped achieve our goal of gender parity. We’ve also banned “manels” at all our events.

What are the next key steps you feel need to be taken to boost diversity in cycling, and indeed the wider transport sector?

Gender is often the first stepping stone to having necessary and important discussions about diversity, but by no means should it end there. It is important to bring as many different viewpoints to the table as possible. This means that our understanding of diversity should extend far beyond gender to include race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, ability, and backgrounds (for example, as regards class or education). The cycling and wider transport sector can only benefit from more diverse perspectives.

You will speak at the UMD panel on “cycling into the future”. Why do you think UMD is an important space for holding such conversations and dialogue?

The Urban Mobility Days are organised by the European Commission and are billed as a forum “to connect, share and discuss the path forward for a sustainable, innovative, and equitable future for Europe’s urban mobility”. Cycling ticks all of these boxes perfectly, and it has so much more potential that the Commission can help unlock with ambitious policies and support. I look forward to the UMD and discussing how cycling can play a much bigger role in urban mobility and climate neutral cities.


For more information on the Urban Mobility Days, view the programme here: urbanmobilitydays (


Photo Credit: © trattieritratti- no permission to re-use image(s) without separate licence from Shutterstock.


Mobility management
Walking and cycling