ECF webinar rethinks mobility for safe Covid-19 recovery

As Executive Vice President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, announced that cycling can be funded as part of a new €20 billion urban mobility package released by the EU, the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) has released a set of recommendations for how that money could be spent.

The ECF announced the set of recommendations in its webinar on rethinking mobility, which as well as outlining how Europe can navigate a safe Covid-19 recovery, invited speakers from different nations to discuss the ways in which cycling can capitalise on the gains made during the pandemic in the long term.

ECF’s joint CEOs Morten Kabell and Jill Warren set out the ECF’s recommendations at the start of the webinar, which included:

-95,000 km roads should be repurposed for cycling, requiring a total €8 spend, and €2 for temporary measures.

-30km per hour or lower traffic speed in cities.

-€5 billion for e-Bike and cargo bike subsidy and purchase schemes.

-Cycle logistics should be used for many more deliveries; 50% of motor vehicle trips moving goods in cities could be switched to bikes.

-Cycle tourism needs economic assistance packages in a bid to boost green tourism.

The webinar also included a discussion between active travel and mobility experts and advocates from across Europe, who each offered their thoughts on how cycling and mobility can play its part in Europe’s recovery from Covid-19, and how temporary gains for active travel seen during the pandemic can become permanent.

Will Haynes, Infrastructure Director, Sustrans UK, spoke on the importance of temporary infrastructure, but was quick to point out it is not the only important factor in increasing cycling numbers:

“It is essential to be providing coherent, high quality networks that join where people want to get to and where they’re coming from. A lot of the temporary pop-up infrastructure in the UK at the moment is not continuous, so I think the key to making this permanent is to join up the gaps in the infrastructure. Implementing other things, such as low traffic neighbourhoods, removing or reducing traffic on residential streets and outside schools will make it easier and safer for people to travel. We also need to look at the old infrastructure and where there are barriers to use, and look at increasing things like cycle parking and cycle training, as well as policies on congestion charging and workplace parking levies.”

Saskia Kluit, Member of Dutch Senate and Fietserbond, The Netherlands, said new values needed to be added to political debates in order to create permanent change:

“I think one of the big opportunities to grow that this crisis offers is that people appreciate things they don’t value normally, such as hearing birds and seeing children playing in the street. We need to change the debate and the underlying values that are appreciated; you are not successful if you drive a fancy car, you are successful if you live in a neighbourhood where people can live good, healthy lives, for example. Also, how do we keep people close to their work so they aren’t forced to travel by car if public transport is unavailable. Let people work from home, invest in ICT, create places people can park their e-Bikes. We have to put these values into the political debate.”

Christophe Najdovski, Deputy Mayor for Transport and Public Space, Paris, France, echoed the importance of fulfilling public demand for cycling as a result of the pandemic:

“The lockdown has affected all our countries and all our societies, three to four billion inhabitants of the world were confined in their homes and living a shared worldwide experience. And what I have seen with cycling, is a worldwide change in the behaviour of people. We have to support this social demand, and when we build temporary bike lanes we have to try to make them permanent and to offer good conditions for people to use this new network permanently. Always try to make efforts to build good, safe bike lanes for all kinds of people and then you will see people use them.”

Miguel Gaspar, Deputy Mayor for Mobility and Safety, Lisbon, Portugal, pressed home the importance of acting quickly to capture the momentum cycling has built throughout the crisis:

“If we want to move fast on funding this demand to cycle, we need faster mechanisms of funding than we currently have. In terms of value, you can reach many more people by funding bicycles than by funding anything else. Especially when we compare cycling to the private car, you can easily find funds in cities to accelerate this change and to move forward faster to finance the system. Cities should commit to this change and to the funding of bicycles and cycle paths. People have been told to stay at home and now they are being told to come back to work, and they will asks themselves do I take public transport, or do I buy a car? We need to show them the third option is to buy a bicycle. This is why we need to act fast and to act now, and then of course in the mid-long term we can look for more strategic and long-term funding.”

Matthew Baldwin, Deputy Director-General, DG Move, European Commission, provided some final words on the themes discussed during the webinar:

“Let’s never forget the external costs of transport, which in the European Union is three trillion euros every year. Breaking this down, 40% is the environmental cost, things like CO2 costs, poor air quality and habitat degradation, 30% is the cost of congestion and the other 30% is the cost of road collisions. Put this all together, and a lot of it is to do with our over-dependence on the private carbon-fuelled car. But, this is a situation we faced before the Covid crisis. Let’s not forget what happened in the US in to 1970s where bike sales tripled in response to the first oil crisis shock in 1973; the infrastructure did not follow and when the price of oil dropped, the cars came back out onto the roads and the bikes went back into the basements. That’s the lesson, so what are we going to do after Covid?

“You in the cycling work need to make sure that the commission, and the parliament, and the member states, hear just how important cycling is as an industry, how important bike lanes are and how cost effective they are, and that the public is demanding them. It’s not just about infrastructure, but it’s a great place to start as it is visible change. I want to stress the importance of using this crisis, and the urgency to act now. Europe is opening up again – are we going to reset to the old normal in terms of urban mobility?”

 

Hayley Everett

Multimedia Reporter

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