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Interview European Cyclists Federation - not having a clear plan is like cycling with a flat tire

Julian Ferguson from the European Cyclists Federation (ECF) is very clear: ‘We have one goal and that is that we want more people cycling in Europe ( 15% of all trips by bicycle by 2020). We therefore lobby at the European institutions, stimulate the sharing of knowledge between the academic world and policy makers.‘

The roots of ECF lie in Europe, but the challenges they face are global. That’s also one of the reasons why these were presented at the International Transport Forum in Vancouver at the beginning of May. During this Forum 53 countries shared knowledge on how to develop bicycle friendly cities.

What solutions can cycling offer the economy and the climate?

Ferguson: ‘Nowadays you see that a lot of cities cut their spending on cycling due to the difficult economic circumstances. ECF provides a voice for cycling and is convinced that cycling has a very high return on investment. For the cost of 1km of urban freeway, you could build 150km of bicycle paths, 10,000 km of bicycle lanes or 100 well  designed 30km/h zones.’ For more information please read this French study.

What is so difficult about promoting cycling in cities when the perceived positive effects are so clear?

Ferguson: ‘One of the difficulties is that cycling as a policy subject is spread out over so many different departments within city councils. Cycling can find itself in health, planning and even tourism departments. The consequence is that nobody is solely responsible for cycling and sees it as a priority. In some cities, like Copenhagen, where cycling is a priority, you see that they have dedicated cycling officers and even have machines that monitor the quality of bike lanes.‘


What is it that ECF does to bridge the gap between research and practice?

Ferguson: ‘We launched the initiative Scientists for Cycling network with the aim to communicate and connect research, research plans and scientific-based publications on cycling in a more effective way to other researchers and practitioners.‘ A new book will soon be published on research related to cycling called “City Cycling”.

What are new trends in cycling?

  • E-bikes (Peddle X) are becoming more popular in cities. These are bikes with an electronic motor which make peddling in hilly communities a lot easier. There has been done an interesting study on how e-bikes can reduce the carbon footprint in cities.
  • To stimulate cycling, ECF initiated a pilot project in which 6 cities will participate. In this project biking gets a gaming element when applying electronic chips on bikes and distributing virtual checkpoints throughout the city at, for example, grocery stores, cinemas and playgrounds. When youngsters pass by a checkpoint with their bike that has an electronic chip they gain points which they can exchange for example for free cinema tickets.


What advice do you have for cities that want to seriously promote cycling in their city?

Ferguson: ‘It is very important for cities to have a clear and well-funded plan and dedicate people to implement that plan. Safety is essential if you want to promote cycling in a city. If people feel unsafe while biking through the city, the plan will never be successful.  And to make cycling in a city safe, you need to invest in infrastructure. Calm all traffic to 30km an hour in urban areas and on busy high speed roads, put in place segregated bike lanes. In some cities you see they are truly dedicated and the cycling policies are successful (Munester Modal Share: 38% Copenhagen over 50% (inner city)  Strasbourg 8% and Amsterdam 37% ). That’s what a city needs: to love bikes.’


For more information on ECF, please visit their website and follow them on Twitter.


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