“Strong policy and regulatory framework to scale up cycling needed,” says UN Task Force

The UN Task Force has urged countries of the Pan-European region to use the Covid-19 recovery as a turning point for greener, healthier modes of transport such as walking and cycling.

Bringing together over 50 experts from member States, international institutions, academia, public transport operators and industry experts, the Task Force set up in April 2020 by UNECE under the Transport, Health and Environment Pan-European Programme (THE PEP) has developed a set of key recommendations that member States can implement to support these efforts.

The recommendations are part of a policy document that discuss the immediate effects of the covid-19 pandemic and highlight examples of how countries have dealt with the crisis by introducing green and healthy mobility solutions.

The recommendations were developed along seven key themes:

Public space allocation for transport and spatial planning 

Mobility systems need to be designed in a manner that encourages walking, cycling and other forms of non-motorised transport, with an emphasis on connectivity at the start and end of journeys and interchange along the route. The document claims that this is key in tackling issues surrounding urban congestion.

An example highlighted in the recommendations is the Mayor of London’s Transport Strategy which aims by 2041 for 80 per cent of journeys to be made by walking, cycling and public transport.

Increasing investment in public transport   

According to data from the International Association of Public Transport (UITP), 60 billion passenger journeys were made per year on public transport in Europe before the pandemic. This contributed between €130 billion and €150 billion per year to the economy of the European Union alone. A UNECE/ILO study under THE PEP showed that doubling investment in public transport in the UNECE region would create almost 5 million new jobs worldwide by 2030, including 2.5 million jobs in the UNECE region.

Encouraging the adoption of e-Mobility solutions   

The electrification of public transport is a key tool for increasing the sustainability of urban mobility. The switch away from diesel-powered buses can have a strong direct impact on emissions in cities as well as making the use of public transport more desirable.

The use of electric private cars and electric micromobility solutions such as e-bikes and e-scooters is also growing across the region. The recommendations also point to the need for regulation and clear rules for some new forms of micromobility, to ensure they are used safely and work in harmony with conventional transport.

Introducing mobility management solutions

Designing and implementing Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMPs) can vastly improve the overall quality of life by addressing challenges such as congestion, air and noise pollution, climate change, road accidents, unsightly on-street parking and the integration of new mobility services.

Facilitating the adoption of innovation and technology  

Innovation and smart mobility solutions, utilizing technologies including GPS, radio frequency identification, Artificial Intelligence and Big Data analysis, will be the cornerstone of a swift move towards sustainable transport solutions and the public and private sectors need to be in a position to embrace these developments, the recommendation states. At the same time these new technologies need to be introduced in a manner that makes take-up by the consumer easy and inclusive.

Supporting active mobility as a sustainable and healthy mode of transport 

Active mobility in the form of walking and cycling, as the healthiest and most affordable travel modes, can help to mitigate the adverse effects of current transport trends, especially in urban areas.

During the pandemic, the role of cycling and walking has grown as they emerged as viable mobility options for essential trips, while supporting physical distancing and relieving the burden on public transport. Despite fewer people travelling overall during the crisis, the United Kingdom has seen an approximate doubling in weekday cycling. After the initial lockdown in 2020, Germans were cycling twice as much as they did before COVID-19; in the USA, sales of bicycles, related equipment and repair services almost doubled in March 2020 compared with the same period in 2019.

Recognising the need for a strong policy and regulatory framework to scale up cycling in the long run, ministers of transport, health and environment decided to initiate the development of a pan-European Master Plan for Cycling Promotion, which should be adopted at THE PEP High Level Meeting in May.

Rebuilding the transport system in a fair and inclusive way 

To avoid exacerbating inequalities, efforts to rebuild transport systems after the pandemic must consider the needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, such as older populations, youth, persons with reduced mobility and those living in informal settlements.

The Recommendations have been developed as part of the preparations for the Fifth High-Level Ministerial Meeting of THE PEP to be held on 17-18 May 2021 and hosted by Austria, where the main recommendations will be included as part of the Vienna Declaration.

A dedicated Partnership will be created within THE PEP to assist member States in the implementation of these Recommendations.