EU Transport Ministers sign declaration acknowledging benefits of cycling

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October 9, 2015 at 13:10  •  Posted in Infrastructure by  •  5 Comments

(All images copyright eu2015lu.eu unless otherwise noted)

Yesterday, October 7th, transport ministers from European Union (EU) and European Free Trade Agreement (EFTA) member states came together in Luxembourg to exclusively discuss cycling as a mode of transport for the first time. This informal meeting resulted in the ‘Declaration of Luxembourg’, which identifies cycling as a climate-friendly mode of transport and calls for an EU-level strategic document. What does this mean for everyday cyclists?

A bit about the meeting…

Minister Bausch arriving by bike

Minister Bausch arriving at the meeting by bike

First, some background: The initiative to hold this meeting, part of Luxembourg’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union, came from Luxembourgish Minister of Sustainable Development and Infrastructure, François Bausch, a member of the Green Party who also happens to be an everyday cyclist. With the strong support of EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc, herself a “devoted cyclist” who regularly rides to work, plans for the meeting were off to a good start.

The agenda included two working sessions punctuated by cycling activities and talks by two well-known and inspiring Danish urban designers  – Jan Gehl, who focuses on making cities livable with the emphasis on pedestrians and cyclists, and Mikael Colville-Andersen, a vocal advocate for cycling. At the end of the day, a big group ride from Kirchberg to the city centre was organized.

The ‘Declaration of Luxembourg’

“Cycling: not just a recreational activity but an important form of urban transport.”

The key output of the day, the ‘Declaration of Luxembourg’ (access full PDF document), was drafted at the meeting’s working sessions. The culmination of years of lobbying by the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF), which works at European level to change attitudes and policies towards cycling, and associated national organizations, the document begins by putting forward a number of arguments for increasing cycling in Europe (including its positive impact on innovation, the environment and health). Significantly, it then outlines an action plan towards the creation of an EU-wide policy on cycling that recognizes it as not just a recreational activity but also an important form of urban transport.

The document proposes three main actions for the European Commission to carry out:

  • integrating cycling into multimodal transport policy
  • developing an EU-level strategic document on cycling
  • setting up a European focal point for cycling

Additionally, it suggests that EU member states contribute at national level by:

  • designating a national focal point for cycling
  • ensuring that national transport infrastructure projects aim to strengthen cycling networks

And that cities and regions contribute by:

  • including cycling, as a means of transport and recreation, in local projects
  • working with national and EU focal points for cycling to ensure best practices

What is the significance of the document?

These are all only suggestions to the different levels of government, but as they are coming from national and EU-level transport ministers rather than grassroots organizations, there is a much better chance that they will be implemented.

“A clear declaration in favour of cycling from transport ministers across the EU.”

Family photo - meeting of EU and EFTA transport ministers

Family photo – meeting of EU and EFTA transport ministers

The final sentence declares that “the Ministers and State Secretaries gathered in Luxembourg today are committed to promoting cycling as a climate friendly and efficient transport mode”. While not binding them to any specific action, this clear declaration in favour of cycling from transport ministers across the EU seems to promise positive changes in EU and national transport policy, resulting in new policies and infrastructure implemented in cities and regions in the coming years.

The ECF themselves see it as a significant step, with Secretary General Bernhard Ensink saying at the summit, “We can see the impact that will be achieved when 15 directorates of the EU Commission work together with 28 member states and 4 EFTA countries. The ECF is eager to support this collaboration and coordination of policy and resources to double cycling in Europe.”

Another perspective: Mikael Colville-Andersen

colville-andersen-EU-meeting

From left to right: Mikael Colville-Anderson, urban planning consultant and CEO, Copenhagenize Design Company ; Christophe Reuter, project leader, Soft Mobility, Ministry of Sustainable Development and Infrastructure (Luxembourg) ; François Bausch, Minister for Sustainable Development and Infrastructure (Luxembourg) ; Jan Gehl, architect and author

Mikael Colville-Andersen, creator of the popular Copenhagenize cycling blog and CEO of the urban design company of the same name, shared his thoughts on the event. He regularly gives presentations in different EU countries promoting the creation of infrastructure for everyday cycling (including several in Luxembourg in recent years). So does he think that this one will make a difference?

“Cycling is high on the agenda and here to stay.”

He noted that the last such meeting of EU leaders that he attended was in 2004, when cycling wasn’t yet on the radar. Now, in 2015, it’s high on the agenda and here to stay. However, although his presentation to the ministers advocated integrating cycling within national transport infrastructure, he still sees cities as the drivers of cycling – with national laws mostly acting as helpful backup. Cities have the immediate problems to solve: traffic congestion, carbon emissions, particulate matter concentrations, etc., and thus stronger motivation to implement changes. And without this will at city-level, national initiatives won’t go far.

However, he hoped that the meeting would result in leadership from larger EU countries, concluding that the ultimate goal is to have cycling recognized as equal with car transport and perhaps even that creation of a Ministry of Cycling in each member state.

How will the ‘Declaration of Luxembourg’ affect Luxembourg itself?

EU Transport Ministers cycling through Luxembourg City

EU Transport Ministers cycling through Luxembourg City

What does the declaration mean for the cycling summit’s host country Luxembourg? Dany Frank, communication manager for Minister Bausch, believes it will provide strong motivation to Luxembourgish politicians to further develop local and national cycling infrastructure. Sharing Bausch’s plans for the coming years, which have already been approved by Parliament, she stressed that the Luxembourg government was working hard to expand the national network to make cycling a possible means of everyday transport, not only within cities and communes, but between them as well.

“To come: Safe and efficient travel from Esch to Luxembourg City.”

Asked whether the new plans would make it be possible to travel safely and efficiently between Esch and Luxembourg City, for example, Ms. Frank said yes, but that it would take some time before the infrastructure would be ready.

pont_adolphe_suspended_bridge

Suspended cycling bridge under Pont Adolphe, that will open in November 2016 (Source: Paperjam)

One of the developments already made public is the spectacular cycling path that will be suspended below the capital city’s Adolphe Bridge, which is currently undergoing renovation. This novel bike path, while not uncontroversial due to the fact that it effectively ‘removes’ cyclists from the traffic mix, is nevertheless going to provide cyclists with a dedicated, secure and segregated bi-directional lane across the Petrusse valley. And this is only one result of the approximately €40 million that will be invested into cycling infrastructure over a period of 3 years, according to Minister Bausch.

Despite the potentially long deadlines, this all sounds promising for cycling in Luxembourg – but what are the exact plans? What are the timelines? Will there be public consultation before the new cycle paths are built? What will the infrastructure look like? Will the City of Luxembourg get the connected network of paths it desperately needs? We’re eagerly waiting to find out!

(Thank you to Michael Tomaszewski for his contributions.)

5 Comments

  1. Cyrille / October 10, 2015 at 23:25 / Reply

    Thanks for the write up.

    The big question for me is “Is this all just showmanship?”. Cycling infrastructure in Luxembourg is getting (slooowly) better but is still lagging far behind larger cities that have much greater challenges. This is the third time Mikael Colville-Andersen visits Luxembourg in the last two years. For the amount of talk and championing of cycling, there is very little getting done. Providing the new under bridge cycling path is smart – it looks fancy, is highly visible, keeps cyclists out of the way of cars and makes cyclists’ complaints appear childish “You have this new fancy bridge, what more do you want?”.

    This conference is exciting and I hope it’s effective, but I suspect cities and people in other countries may benefit more from it than those in Luxembourg.

    Cheers,
    Cyrille

  2. Morpheus (not) / October 11, 2015 at 10:30 / Reply

    The Twitter feed @luxembourgize is dedicated to all those who actually cycle the City (or even the country) in an everyday way (not the Andy Schleck lookalikes, which have slightly other concerns). It is dedicated to the upcoming generation that should again be able, like their ancestors, to naturally use a bike in town without severe safety concerns.Fully sharing the views of Cyrille, it has nevertheless to be acknowledged that a lot has happened for cycling in the town of Luxembourg since the millenium! This is clearly positive.But we have to remember that on September 20th, 2013, the famous danish urban cycling advocate M. Colville-Andersen ‏tweeted “Luxembourg is fantastic. Their bicycle infrastructure is not.” As there has not been major changes since then, it is clear that there is still work ahead in @CityLuxembourg.Those really interested in having a look at the infrastructure (the good, the bad & the ugly), can lookup the following hashtags on Twitter for information and discussion (there will be more added in the future):#PontBüchler#LePontBleuLux #LuxAvenueLibertéVelo #NoCountry4OldBikingPeople in #Foetz#LeftTurnBldJosephIILet us go on in the process to “luxembourgize” this town, and not ignore the details in the infrastructure that can make everyday cycling uncomfortable or even sometimes dangerous! If it is not possible for a 12 year old to cycle around town, we all failed!

    • Cycle Luxembourg / October 11, 2015 at 11:05 / Reply

      I completely agree that cycling infrastructure can’t be considered safe and usable unless you would let your 12 year old cycle to school on their own using it. At the moment, how much of the urban infrastructure in Luxembourg actually meets this measure? A very, very small percentage, and certainly not in any connected way.
      -Kasia

  3. Mike T / October 11, 2015 at 15:11 / Reply

    Hi,

    I’m happy to see activity ticking up again on this site and on, what I always perceived to be the key issue, ignored by so many parties interested in cycling in Luxembourg (incl. LVI): the huge gulf between the promises of the current Government and city admin and the current landscape of the infrastructure.

    I remember Sam Tamson laughing at me, when at a presentation by Colville-Andersen I recalled how cycling in Luxembourg a few years ago could take you down bike paths, which suddenly – dishearteningly – ended and gave way to potato field. Since that time, it would be factually incorrect to assume that nothing has happened, but there is still so much work to be done in terms of coherent infrastructure to be put into place. My chief gripes with the work of Messrs Tamson, the MDDI and Francois Bausch are the following:

    1) We still have no cycling infrastructure worthy of the name. For me, bike paths should be a) segregated from other traffic, wherever possible, b) bee line between the key places cyclists would like to go to (look for #a2bism on Twitter or google Copenhagenize’s “desire lines” concept) and finally c) interconnecting Luxembourg City with the surrounding communes, where many people live that need to get in an out of town during the day, be it for work or pleasure.

    Up until now, we have, what Cyrille once called “Bird Shit Infrastructure”: it is piecemeal, unconnected, frequently interrupted by unsafe stretches (where fast-moving car traffic is a real danger to even experienced riders) and in fact it amounts to being little more than a fig leaf or alibi affair, so that MDDI, Tamson and Bausch can sell something to the press and the electorate as “bike-friendly” and “alternative”. It’s one thing to sing your Credo aloud, another to live by your creed. My gripe is that the above-mentioned people are not doing enough to live by what they preach.

    Cycling between parts of the city and its surroundings is often little more than a scenic ride in the countryside, where you clock up extra kilometres in detours, because the authorities are unable to put bike paths next to the main “N” roads (which, unsurprisingly, usually are as straight as anyone could possibly desire). In that regard, I see that the DICI syndicate is trying to improve things. So is MDDI. So is the VdL. All this is nice and fine, but I have a suspicion that they´re not even talking at each other. Utilitarian cycling doesn´t begin or end at the city limits, it transcends it. The philosophy and rules of my daily car commute do not change, because I leave “DICIland” to enter “LuxembourgCityland”.

    I don´t need a piste cyclable to pretend I´m Fränk Schleck (not that _anyone_ would buy that, anyway). I just want to have a coherent workable and alternative mode of transport to get around the country without being stuck in the traffic jam, without having to go an extra 5 kms in detours, without having to fear about my safety as I get squashed between an unruly VdL bus driver and a SUV-driving mother at the end of her tether, because she was stuck in traffic for 20 minutes and now is late for work. Which brings me to my next point:

    2) There is _no_ *one* driving style in Luxembourg, but the level of frustration in automobile traffic is steadily rising for all car drivers. I’m able to observe that every morning and evening. We are a hodgepodge of different driving styles, often acquired in the widest possible range of countries, higher or lower on the scale of bike-friendliness. Yet, there is no effort to educate Luxembourg´s inhabitants that have perhaps never thought that cyclists, as per the Code de la Route, have the absolute same rights and responsibilities as cars, trucks and busses; that overtaking a cyclist almost at touching distance and yelling at him that he’s using the whole width of the lane (as _IS HIS/HER RIGHT_ as per CdlR) is actually illegal and shows blatant disregard of the law?
    Where therefore is the educational effort for Luxembourg´s car, truck and bus drivers to create awareness for the other users of road infrastructure? Isn’t that precisely part of the ministry’s portfolio? Who protects the rights of the cyclists and pedestrians in Luxembourg?

    3) Last, but not least: I haven’t seen a single consultation, invitation or other means, by which I can voice my (un-)happiness at certain parts of the infrastructure. How about a virtual suggestion box that has a real human being sitting behind it – who would, for once, show some interest in what the users (also: taxpayers; also: electorate) say about the authorities’ efforts to make marginal cycling easier in Luxembourg ?
    Moreover, this would send a signal about the authorities´ proactivity, dedication and innovativeness by fostering the input of the early adopters of the infrastructure. Therein lies the way to reducing the “barriers to entry” for the next 1% of potential cyclists and thereby increasing the modal share of cycling in Luxembourg. This, the authorities have declared to be the political goal. So, far, they are concocting plans on cycling, which the users get to see, when everything is done and dusted, but never at a time, where they could contribute creatively. How very frustrating.
    There are hundreds of people willing to support VdL and the Government in their attempts to change the face of this country, which has so much fallen prey to the monoculture of the car. Yet, if they decide that those people are not worthy of being listened to, they will create a growing pool of road users caught between the morning & evening deadlocks and an inability of the people in charge to provide alternatives. I know, for one, whom I will blame for that.

  4. Pingback: Ministri saobraćaja zemalja Evropske Unije, potpisali su deklaraciju kojom ukazuju na prednosti bicikliranja | Vozi Ulice

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