How European cities are promoting cycling during COVID-19, and what North America can learn: A conversation with Jill Warren, co-CEO of the European Cyclists’ Federation.
Thanks for taking the time to meet with us today. We were talking earlier about the uptick in active transport due to COVID-19. In your view, should municipalities begin considering readapting transportation infrastructure to accommodate or facilitate these changes and, if yes, how?
The ECF has put out a set of recommendations regarding COVID changes that municipalities, regions, and countries can take inspiration from. We said that to meet the need for social distancing and to ease congestion on public transport and the roads, we require roads to be repurposed for cycling and walking, pop-up bike lanes, car-free zones, and reducing speed limits. We’ve also recommended that cycling be incentivized through fiscal measures, purchase schemes, things like that, and to disincentivize travel by car. So that could mean taking away car parking spaces, imposing congestion charges — anything that discourages car travel.
We also think it’s a good idea to facilitate cycle logistics, as in using bike couriers for business operations. Studies in Europe show that over 50% of motor vehicle trips to move goods in cities could be switched to bikes. Over 90% of the commercial vans and trucks in circulation in Europe are diesel fuelled. I don’t know about Canada, but there are certainly lots of diesel-fuelled trucks here. A single cargo bike replacing a diesel transporter can save over 5 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year. That makes cargo delivery bikes one of the most effective tools for achieving the EU goal of CO2 emission reductions and CO2-free city logistics by 2030.
Is there any different advice you might give to Canadian municipalities, given the differences in our urban landscapes?
I think that the fundamental question, wherever we’re talking about, is, “How do we achieve more and better active mobility, more and better cycling, for more people in this particular context.” It might be a slightly different thing than in a more compact European city, but we still need to ask ourselves first, “What works?” and second, “What might stop people from cycling who would otherwise be open to it?” Is it perceived danger? Do they think it’s not convenient? Is it access to bikes? Is it an issue of affordability? What encourages more people to cycle? Is it good infrastructure, a safe parking space, not worrying about the bike getting stolen, and are there fiscal or purchase incentives that could encourage people to buy a bike and take up biking?Read more...